How to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher

August 4, 2021

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.

Clean the Drain Filter and Drain

The drain filter usually sits on the bottom of the dishwasher’s interior. Make sure there’s no debris stuck in the filter, as this can lead to terrible odors. This filter is removable in most dishwashers, so you can pull it out and give it a thorough cleaning.

You can also pour a solution of one tablespoon of baking soda and two tablespoons of vinegar down the dishwasher drain while your at it. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Then, run a rinse cycle. This will help clear out the drain pipe, reducing odors.

If that doesn’t do the trick, you may want to do a more thorough cleaning of the entire unit.

Scrub Out The Interior

Food particles can build up in a dishwasher over time. As water heats the leftover food, the smell can become very unpleasant. Check your owners manual for special cleaning instructions before cleaning.

The first step to cleaning a dishwasher is to get rid of all of those food particles. Grab a rag and a sponge or hard-bristle kitchen brush and scrub the interior surfaces and racks of the dishwasher.

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 cleaned.

Then look in all the nooks and crannies of the unit to make sure you have scrubbed out all residue.

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.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Start by putting a mug on the top rack of the dishwasher. Place it 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 regularly.

Keeping up with preventative maintenance helps make sure you won’t get any funky smells in the future.