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How to get rid of dishwasher smells in 5 steps

Your dishwasher helps make after-dinner clean-up a simple task, which is why regular cleaning and maintenance of your appliance is recommended. If you have started to notice odors coming from your dishwasher, use this guide to troubleshoot the problem and get your dishwasher back to its optimal performance.

Why does my dishwasher smell?

Smelly dishwashers can have a few possible causes, including:

  • A dirty or clogged filter 

  • Food residue on the interior walls 

  • Mold and/or mildew growth on the gasket seal

  • A clogged drain

Fortunately, most of these causes have simple solutions that you can try yourself with the help of the proper tools and a little elbow grease.

Empty dishwasher top rack Empty dishwasher top rack

How to deodorize a dishwasher

Dishwasher odor is not only an annoyance to your senses, but it can also reduce your appliance’s performing power and lead to improperly cleaned dishes. Read the following troubleshooting tips to clean your smelly dishwasher.

  • White vinegar

  • Dish soap

  • Dishwasher-safe bowl

  • Sponge

  • Soft-bristled brush

  • Clean, dry towel

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Step 1: Empty the dishwasher

Before you begin, empty your dishwasher of any remaining dishes, glassware and utensils for easier access to your dishwasher’s interior.

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Step 2: Remove and clean the filter

Pull out the bottom dish rack and remove your dishwasher’s filter. Specific instructions for removing the filter can vary depending on the model, so be sure to consult your product manual before proceeding. Then, empty the filter of any debris and clean the filter by soaking it in warm, soapy water. For stuck-on particles, you can gently scrub the filter with a soft-bristled brush. Return the freshly cleaned filter to your dishwasher.

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Step 3: Clean the dishwasher interior

Pour 2 cups of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe bowl and place the bowl on the bottom rack of your empty dishwasher. Select a dishwasher cycle with an air-dry or energy-saving dry option and press start. During the cycle, the vinegar will mix with the wash water to help neutralize odors and clean your dishwasher. Once the wash cycle is complete, you can use your dishwasher as normal.

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Step 4: Clean the gasket seals

Without regular maintenance, mold and mildew can grow in the crevices of your dishwasher’s gasket seals and can create a musty odor. Use a sponge and warm, soapy water to wipe away any buildup on the gasket seals, then wipe dry with a clean towel.

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Step 5: Schedule a service with a licensed technician.

If your dishwasher still smells bad after following the previous troubleshooting tips, you may have a clog in the drain hose. This is a more complicated problem that should be diagnosed and repaired by a professional. If you own a Whirlpool® dishwasher, you can visit the Whirlpool® service center to schedule a repair service for your Whirlpool® appliances.

Full dishwasher with a third rack Full dishwasher with a third rack

How to avoid a smelly dishwasher

In most cases, you can help save your kitchen from a smelly dishwasher by following these simple maintenance tips:

  • Clean the filter to avoid food particle buildup at least once a month

  • Avoid overstuffing the racks so that water and soap can easily pass through dishes and break down debris

  • Use dishwasher cleaners, like this option from affresh®1, once a month to reduce odor-causing residues

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Discover Whirlpool® dishwashers that fit your home

You can stay on top of dish duty with the help of a Whirlpool® dishwasher. Browse top control and front control options from Whirlpool brand with features like the Sensor Cycle and 1-Hour Wash Cycle to get your dishes clean in time for your next meal.

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1. affresh® brand products and the recommending brands’ products are all owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.