Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Bad?

Jul 22, 2023, 11:32am

If your dishwasher smells bad, you will need to identify what type of smell it is:

  • for a burnt smell, identify the burnt component and replace it.
  • for a smell of stagnant water, you will have to clean your dishwasher with white vinegar.

If the smell persists:

  • start washing programs at high temperature,
  • clean the tank filter
  • clean the door seal
  • check salt and rinse aid
  • use air freshener

A foul odor emanating from your dishwasher can be both unpleasant and concerning. A dishwasher is meant to clean and sanitize your dishes, so any bad smell can be perplexing. Several factors can contribute to a smelly dishwasher, but identifying and addressing the root cause can help eliminate the odor and restore the appliance’s functionality. In this article, we will explore some common reasons behind a bad-smelling dishwasher and provide guidance on how to troubleshoot and resolve the issue.

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Bad?

1. Food Residue and Debris

One of the most common causes of a bad-smelling dishwasher is leftover food residue and debris. As dishes are loaded into the dishwasher, bits of food can get trapped in the corners, filters, and crevices of the appliance, leading to odor buildup. Follow these steps:

  1. Clean the Filter: Most dishwashers have a removable filter at the bottom. Remove the filter and wash it thoroughly with warm soapy water to remove any trapped food particles.
  2. Inspect the Interior: Examine the dishwasher’s interior for any visible food debris or residue. Use a damp cloth to clean the walls, door, and other surfaces inside the dishwasher.
  3. Scrape Dishes Before Loading: Before loading dishes into the dishwasher, make sure to scrape off excess food residues and rinse the dishes to prevent food particles from accumulating in the dishwasher.

2. Clogged Drain

A clogged dishwasher drain can lead to stagnant water and unpleasant odors. To address this issue:

  1. Clear the Drain: Check the dishwasher’s drain for any clogs or blockages. Remove any debris or buildup from the drain to ensure proper water flow.
  2. Run Hot Water: Run the hot water faucet at your sink before starting the dishwasher. This helps ensure that hot water enters the dishwasher during the wash cycle, which can aid in breaking down and flushing out any potential clogs.

3. Mold and Mildew Growth

Mold and mildew can thrive in the warm and moist environment of a dishwasher, causing unpleasant odors. Follow these steps to combat mold and mildew:

  1. Inspect the Gasket: Check the rubber gasket or door seal around the edge of the dishwasher door for mold or mildew growth. Clean the gasket with a mixture of water and vinegar to remove any buildup.
  2. Use Vinegar or Baking Soda: Place a cup of white vinegar or baking soda in a dishwasher-safe container on the top rack of the dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle to help eliminate mold and mildew odors.
  3. Regular Maintenance: Clean the dishwasher’s interior regularly to prevent mold and mildew growth. Leave the door slightly open when the dishwasher is not in use to allow air circulation and reduce moisture.

4. Blocked Vents

Blocked dishwasher vents can trap odors inside the appliance. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Locate the Vents: Find the dishwasher vents, usually located on the door or at the top of the dishwasher. Ensure that they are not obstructed by dishes or other objects.
  2. Ventilate: Avoid overloading the dishwasher, as overcrowding can block the vents. Leave enough space between dishes to allow proper air circulation.


Dishwasher standing water odor problems are often the result of general clogging.

  • Remove the baskets then choose the hottest programme.
  • At the end of the drain, open the dishwasher and pour 2 L of white vinegar. Then close the door for the program to restart.
  • Wait about 20 minutes for the vinegar to remove the impurities. At the end of the program, open the machine and leave the vinegar to act overnight.
  • Also remember to wash your wash arms.

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Bad?

5. Old or Dirty Dishwasher

An older dishwasher or one that hasn’t been cleaned regularly may develop persistent odors. Consider these steps:

  1. Run a Cleaning Cycle: Some dishwashers have a dedicated cleaning cycle. Run this cycle using a dishwasher cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to refresh the dishwasher.
  2. Regular Maintenance: Clean the dishwasher’s interior, filter, and gasket regularly to prevent odors from building up.

In conclusion, a bad-smelling dishwasher can be caused by leftover food residue, a clogged drain, mold and mildew growth, blocked vents, or poor dishwasher maintenance. By following the troubleshooting steps outlined in this article, you can identify and address many of these issues. Regular cleaning and proper dishwasher use will help eliminate odors and maintain a fresh-smelling appliance. However, if the problem persists or you are uncertain about performing any cleaning or repairs yourself, it is best to consult a professional technician for further assistance. They will have the expertise to diagnose the underlying cause of the odor and provide the appropriate solution, ensuring your dishwasher operates efficiently and odor-free.