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Get Rid of Dishwasher Odors and Smells

  • Published: 2014-04-26 (Rev. 2015-01-23) - Contact: Ian Langtree at Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Handy home remedies and tips for cleaning and getting rid of smelly dishwasher odors.

Main Document

"Run the dishwasher with no dishes in it by adding a cup of baking soda to the washer and let it run through a cycle."

It might seem strange to have to clean a machine that cleans things itself, but every time you run your dishwasher grease, soap scum, and pieces of food are left behind. The first thing you should try is clean out the filter and wash the inside of the dishwasher with a mixture of 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons liquid dish washing detergent, and 1/4 cup chlorine bleach, making sure you wash all the the rubber gaskets including the door seals, the walls, and all shelves. Be sure to inspect the drain hose to make sure it is not blocked or kinked. The drain hose should make an upside down "U" shape between the dishwasher and the disposal drain with the upper arc hitting as far up as it can - right under the kitchen counter. At the same time while you have the dishwasher pulled out from under the counter, have a good look around for leaks from hoses etc. and inspect the floor for water stains.

Eliminate Dishwasher Smell Tips:

  • Try adding lemon peels to the dishwasher cycle. It will take away any odd odors and leave your dishes smelling fresh, lemony clean. Also try cutting a lemon in half and leave it in the dishwasher during the cycle.
  • To get rid of the new dishwasher plastic smell try leaving the dish racks and trays outside on a nice sunny day as the sun's heat will release the gases from the plastic coatings. Next add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to the dishwasher each time you do a load. Baking soda absorbs odors as the plastic gets hot in the wash.
  • Check the temperature of the water at the sink and make sure you are using hot enough water. You may have to raise the temp on your water heater.
  • Empty all dishes, etc. out of your dishwasher. Pour 2 cups of vinegar into your dishwasher and let it sit for around 30 minutes, then run the dishwasher. If you do not have vinegar, you can use a packet of unsweetened lemonade.
  • Use biological powder that is designed for washing clothes. Place 2 cupfuls of this in your dishwasher and run it at its hottest setting for ten minutes. Turn it off and let the hot soapy water stand in the dishwasher for about 2 hours, then allow the dishwasher to finish the cycle.
  • If your water source is from a lake or a river the water level sometimes gets low which creates excess vegetation which can lead to the water having a bit of a fishy odor. In the closed dishwasher it becomes magnified.
  • Run the dishwasher with no dishes in it by adding a cup of baking soda to the washer and let it run through a cycle. If that doesn't help, it may take a second run through with baking soda.
  • Citric acid powder can help remove hard-water buildup in dishwashers, just add a 1/2 cup of powder and run the dishwasher.
  • When not in use be sure to leave the dishwasher door slightly open, so fresh air can get inside it. Don't keep the door closed when not using the dishwasher as that only creates a damp dark place for nasty stuff to grow and cause a bad smell.
  • Get rid of any odor that may be coming from the plumbing pipes your dishwasher shares with the sink. Pour a half a cup of baking soda down each sink drain. Pour cups of vinegar down each drain until all the baking soda is washed away. After 5 minutes, run very, very hot water down each of the drains.

Commercial Dishwasher Cleaning Products:

  • Jet Dry - Open and place upside down in the silverware basket, then run through a cycle without dishes to get water stains out of the inside and leave it smelling like lemon.
  • Lemi Shine - Keeps your dishes and glassware shining while increasing the performance and life of automatic dishwashers. Combined with your auto dish detergent, Lemi Shine removes tough hard water spots, stains, and film during the main wash cycle.


  1. Get Rid of Refrigerator and Freezer Odors - Ian Langtree - (Feb 25, 2014)
  2. Getting Rid of Stubborn Odors in Clothes and Fabrics - Ian Langtree - (Mar 29, 2014)
  3. How to Eliminate Smelly Kitty Litter Box Odor - Ian Langtree - (Apr 17, 2014)


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