Why Your Dishwasher Smells Bad & How to Clean It

While certainly unpleasant, dishwasher odor can also indicate a functional problem, like a clogged drain or filter. What can you do when your dishwasher smells bad? Cleaning the tub and filter eliminates odor at these common sources and ensures they operate properly. Learn how to clean a smelly dishwasher and address odor-causing clogs with the right supplies and techniques.

Obliterate Odor When Your Dishwasher Smells Bad

Wiping down the interior or washing more dishes won’t do the trick for persistent smells. Targeted cleaning of specific components is the best way to eliminate odor when your dishwasher smells bad. But before we discuss the most effective cleaning methods, here’s how dishwasher odor originates and quickly overwhelms.

What Causes Dishwasher Odor?

Though knowing how to load a dishwasher can ensure that food particles and grime are drained away, some can still be left behind. Most collect in the dishwasher’s filter and on the interior walls, while others accumulate in the drain, causing clogs. As these particles linger and break down, they develop smelly mold and mildew that quickly multiplies in the dishwasher’s warm environment. 

Here’s how to clean dishwasher components to banish bad smells and keep them at bay.

How to Clean the Dishwasher Tub

What is the best way to clean the inside of a dishwasher? Basic household staples like vinegar and baking soda can remove dirt and grime that cause bad smells.

Follow these steps to clean the dishwasher tub with vinegar and baking soda:

  1. Place a small, dishwasher-safe bowl of white vinegar in the top rack of the empty dishwasher.
  2. Run a regular wash cycle with hot water.
  3. Remove the bowl of vinegar and sprinkle a handful of baking soda in the base of the empty dishwasher.
  4. Run a second wash cycle with hot water.
  5. For persistent mildew, pour 1 cup of bleach in the dishwasher’s base and run another wash cycle. Skip this step if your dishwasher’s interior is stainless steel, as it can be permanently stained by bleach.
how to clean a dishwasher filter

How to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

When your dishwasher smells bad, a clogged filter is often responsible. This filter screens out larger food particles to prevent them from clogging the drain. Without regular cleanings, these particles will accumulate and break down, causing odor and risking drain clogs. 

Here’s how to clean a dishwasher filter to eliminate bad smells:

  1. Take out the bottom rack and locate the filter in the dishwasher’s base.
  2. Rotate the filter to unlock and remove it from its compartment.
  3. Wash the filter with warm, soapy water, scrubbing it gently with an old toothbrush to remove stubborn particles. Rinse under running water.
  4. Replace the filter in its compartment and twist to lock in place.

What to do if Your Dishwasher is Clogged

Dishwasher clogs are a common source of bad odor, as most consist of accumulated food particles or one large remnant. Water that doesn’t drain and backs up into the dishwasher can also leave behind smelly mold and mildew.

These tips can dispel clogs in the disposal, air gap and drain and eliminate odor:

  • Clear the disposal: The dishwasher and disposal often share a common drain. Always run the disposal before starting the dishwasher to clear it of any food remnants that can cause clogs.
  • Clean the air gap: An air gap prevents sink water from backing up into the dishwasher. Clean the air gap regularly by taking off the cap and removing any visible blockages.
  • Break up drain clogs: Food particles that are trapped in the dishwasher drain can cause odor and backups. Here’s how to clean a dishwasher drain trap to break up clogs:
  1. Mix a solution of baking soda and vinegar and pour it down the drain.
  2. Let the solution sit for 10-15 minutes to dispel the clog.
  3. Flush the solution and any lingering food remnants with boiling water.

While these cleaning tips can do the trick when your dishwasher smells bad, lingering odor may require a professional service. For the best in dishwasher repair Columbus, call Capital City Appliance Service.

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