How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

Last update: 2021-08-02

How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

There’s something wrong.

You emptied the dishwasher, found all the dishes were clean BUT they and even the appliance itself had a fishy smell. You check the dishwashing product you are using, it’s still good.

Everything is good, so why? Okay, let me help you!

Why Does My Dishwasher Have A Bad Odor?

There are many reasons leading to the foul odors on your dishwasher:

  • Hard water
  • Dishwashing products
  • Your dishwasher is dirty

It’s easy if that is either of the two first reasons but if the reason is in your dishwasher and you – a newbie who has no idea of how to clean this application, here is a brief guide:

How To Clean A Dishwasher?

Dishwashers basically come in different types – compact, slim-line, full-sized, integrated, and freestanding, but rest the heart that it has a general cleaning process.

Check The Drain Hose

How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

More often than not, though, “fishy’ dishwasher is a by-product of a dirty drain hose, especially when you find standing water at its bottom after each completed cycle.

So don’t regret one minute to check this component.

As the hose is located on the back, before checking it, pull your dishwasher out from under the counter and ensure the drain hose isn’t restricted or bent as this might limit the result in standing water.

You might find wastewater from your kitchen sink start to back up into the appliance, calm down, slightly raising the hose loop a bit higher will help avoid it.

Clean The Spray Arm

How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

This component is prone to get clogged with food and debris to have a fishy smell.

To clean it, remove the lower and upper spray arms and use a cotton swab to clean all gunk and food particles one by one then rinse through running water until all holes are clean.

Clean The Drain Filter

How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

All types of dishwashers feature a drain filter to avoid clogged food leftover, which is the most common reason making your appliance smell bad after using it for a while.

So your first task is cleaning it.

Remove the filter from the floor of your dishwasher and wash it thoroughly with warm, soapy water. For stiff stains, use a stiff bottle brush to scrub them.

If necessary, use a sponge to wipe away all gunk, food debris, and particles before reinserting it to the dishwasher. For those who have no idea of how to open the machine to remove its filter, find on its manual or check it online.

Wipe Down The Dishwasher’s Interior

How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

A quick wipe down on the inside of your appliance just takes around 3 or 4 minutes but can do wonders for getting rid of that unpleasant odor.

Don’t think that your dishwasher doesn’t get dirty from time to time just because its sole role is washing, a such humid environment is a good place for grime to accumulate easily. Especially on the inner walls of your dishwasher.

To clean them optimally, remember to remove all lower and upper racks before getting started. Start with a wash with hot water. Then, gently scrub its interior using a dampened sponge or rag.

Fishing with wiping down its door gasket.

What If The Fishy Smell Still Exists In Your Dishwasher?

Don’t worry, here are some extra greenery tips to help you completely get rid of that frustrating thing (rest assured, all the ingredients are very easy to find and eco-friendly!)


How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

Not only remove the bad smell but vinegar can also break down and disinfect that powdery build-up caused by harsh dishwasher detergents.


2 cups of vinegar + 2-3 drops of essential oils

It’d better if you choose the oils that are antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial. Place this mixture on the top empty rack of your machine, run it on the hottest cycle and repeat this process monthly to make sure the best functioning.

Note: Don’t use vinegar with any dishwashing detergent products which contain chlorine bleach as that can release deadly fumes.

Citric Acid

How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

This is arguably the most popular green cleaning commonly found in lemons.

Like vinegar, it can break down mineral build-up caused by hard water and cut through the stinky odors. Here is how to use it:

3 or 4 tablespoons of lemon juice + 2 or 3 drops of essential oils

Add this mixture to the detergent cup and run your machine a cycle to clean it as a quick fix. If you have time, pour the mixture in a cup placed on the top rack of the dishwasher, run it on the hottest cycle and pause before the water drains to let the liquid sit for several hours.

Then, resume the process.


If you use citric acid, remember to:

  • Not use it with dish detergent products containing chlorine bleach because of the toxic fumes released
  • Not breathe while pouring citric acid as it might cause irritation to your lungs and eyes.

Baking Soda

How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher?

Use baking soda instead of soapy water when you’re wiping down its interior.

After scrubbing all inner walls, let it sit for a couple of minutes to one hour before cleaning off with a dampened vinegar-soaked cloth.

To remove any residues, run the machine for a short cycle but don’t choose the sanitizer settings or the hottest water option.

If you want to optimize this cleaning process, sprinkle some baking soda in the bottom of your appliance sometimes between loads and crack the door to let air movement.


According to Bob Vila – a house-maintenance expert, you should keep the habit of cleaning your dishwasher or at least it’ filter and drain hose one a month

And that’s all for this article. Thanks for reading!

Jane Orta
Jane Orta

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