How to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher

When your dishwasher starts to smell a little off, follow these steps to freshen it up.

White dishes in Dishwashing machine
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It’s always a bit of a mystery how a machine that is used to clean can end up dirty and sort of smelly—we’re shooting you side eye, dishwashing machine—but they can and they do. Your dishwasher can be a dumping ground for old food and gross build-up if you don’t take a minute to give it a deep clean every now and again. You’ll really notice that smell if you’re not running your dishwasher every day, too. To figure out a solution, we spoke with Debra Johnson, a home cleaning expert for Merry Maids, about how to deodorize our dishwashers for good.

Load Dishes the Right Way

“Preventive maintenance is important!" says Johnson. "A lot of people think dishwashers will just remove all that extra food, but it’s much smarter to thoroughly rinse your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. Those solid pieces of food have to go somewhere, and if they rinse off, they can end up in the filter or the bottom of the dishwasher, causing a smell,” she explains. Before you load the dishes, be sure to scrap any pieces of food into the trash can or garbage disposal first.

Try the Citrus Cleanse

Worst case scenario? If you’ve already been neglecting your machine or you’ve been a little lax when you’re loading it, here’s how to fix it: “Place a bowl with two lemons (cut in half) and a cup of water on the bottom rack of the dishwasher and run it. The lemons will heat up and help to deodorize," says Johnson.

Give It a Vinegar Bath

"The same thing can be done with vinegar in the bowl instead of the water and lemons,” advises Johnson. You probably already have a bottle of vinegar stashed somewhere in your pantry, so there's no need to run out to the store.

Clean Out Trapped Food Particles

“Check the filter and the bottom of the dishwasher for food and debris, too. If needed, you can wipe down the surfaces inside with a wet microfiber cloth with a little dishwashing liquid on it," says Johnson. Even though this machine is used for cleaning, giving it a wipe-down every now and then will help keep your dishes sparkling.

Ta-da! Don’t neglect this household helper and it should keep working day after day to make your life a little easier.

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