How to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher

May 9, 2016

Does your stinky dishwasher make you recoil in horror when you open it? No problem! Getting it back to its clean, sparkling state is simple. All you need is a little elbow grease and a few common household ingredients.

Scrub It Out

Food can build up in a dishwasher over time. As water heats the leftover food particles, the smell can become very unpleasant. The first step to a clean dishwasher is to get all that crud out. Grab a rag and a hard-bristle brush and scrub the edges and bottom of the dishwasher, and anywhere else you see food building up.

Next, take out the drain filter and scrub it in hot, soapy water. If you’re unsure how to take it out, consult your owner’s manual. Put it back in the dishwasher when it’s been thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned. Look in all the nooks and crannies to make sure you have scrubbed out any food residue. Now you are ready to freshen it up.

Woman Smelling Dishwasher Odor

Freshen It Up

There are several ways you can neutralize any lingering odors in your dishwasher. Here some items you can use to freshen the smell and eliminate odors in the future.

Vinegar/Baking Soda

Start with a mug on the top rack, face up and fill it with 8 ounces of vinegar. Run the dishwasher empty, except for the vinegar mug, for a full cycle. Take the mug out, then sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run again.

Commercial Products

There are a variety of commercial products you can use to freshen up your dishwasher, such as Dishwasher Magic and affresh among others. Buy one at your local store or online and follow the instructions on the packaging.


Save some lemon peels and put them in a bowl on the top rack of the dishwasher. Run the dishwasher empty, except the lemon bowl, for a full cycle. Smell the lemony freshness!

Prevent Future Odors

In the future, you can prevent the funk by cleaning any food debris off the bottom of the dishwasher regularly and as soon as you notice it. Take out the drain filter often and wipe it down. Keeping up with preventative maintenance helps make sure you won’t get any funky smells in the future.