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How to Get Rid of Bad Odors Coming from Your Dishwasher

Updated on November 18, 2018

When a bad stench started coming from my dishwasher, I had no idea what to do. I had called a repair person about another issue and he recommended the dishwasher cleaning product Dishwasher Magic which comes in a pack of two. According to him, that would solve the problem. After I used the first one the bad odor was still there. So I used the second. There was still no noticeable reduction in the smell. Some dishes also had either a white film or dried in grime after being washed. In fact, some actually came out dirtier than they went in. I did finally figure out how to resolve these problems. This is an explanation of how I did it. All I needed was a bucket, dishwashing liquid, a toothbrush, a cleaning sponge, a utility cloth, and a dishwasher cleaning product.

There are multiple brands and models of dishwashers. Mine is a GE and it's only a few years old. So, I can't tell you exactly where to look for problems with your dishwasher, but hopefully I can give you a good idea. With my dishwasher the smell was caused by a sticky gunk building up over time. I always rinse off dishes before putting them into the dishwasher, but between what's left behind and soap scum gunk builds up and it needs to be cleaned out every so often.

Look inside your dishwasher, especially at the bottom. Check to see if there's a filter that needs to be cleaned. Be careful taking parts out. Take note of where they go for when you have to put them back. If there's a removable cover at the bottom of the dishwasher, see if you can take it out. The picture below may give you an idea of what you can remove. These are the four item I can remove from mine.

The filter, cover and two plastic screws I can remove from my dishwasher. I clean the sticky gunk off them using dishwashing liquid.
The filter, cover and two plastic screws I can remove from my dishwasher. I clean the sticky gunk off them using dishwashing liquid.

To clean the parts I can remove, I fill a bucket with hot water and dishwashing liquid. The pieces are covered in a very sticky gunk that creates a big mess. It's easier to clean the bucket than cleaning the sink. The large round piece in the picture above is the filter. This is actually pretty hard to clean because there are a lot of tight spaces. I have to use a toothbrush to get as much gunk off as possible.

The silver cover is kept in place using two plastic screws. My dishwasher was filthy and I didn't know it because that cover was hiding the mess. When I removed it I was shocked to see a bunch of gunk sandwiched between that cover and the bottom of the dishwasher. I used a sponge and a utility towel to thoroughly clean the inside, then put the washed parts back in place.

To make sure the dishwasher was as clean as possible, I ran an empty cycle using Dishwasher Magic. I recommend doing this because it will help to clean out any gunk that's left behind but it also cleans parts you can't take out like the spray arms. It kills bacteria and removes limescale and detergent build up. It's disinfecting properties kills germs like E Coli and Salmonella Choleraesus that can live in your dishwasher.

Some dishwashing products use a wax plug that's supposed to melt from the high heat in the dishwasher. That plug never melts in mine so I poke a small hole in it. It isn't ideal but it gets the job done.

To help keep your dishwasher clean, consider using Finish Dishwasher Cleaner. This is a cleaning tab you can use on a regular basis. Unlike some other products, which requires an empty cycle, you can use this product when you're washing dishes. According to the description, it cleans hidden grease and grime, hidden parts, the spray arms and the filter. It also removes hard water stains and limescale build up.

This is the sticky gunk in the filter of the dishwasher that has to be scrubbed off. If too much builds up, the dishwasher will start to smell
This is the sticky gunk in the filter of the dishwasher that has to be scrubbed off. If too much builds up, the dishwasher will start to smell

How to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher

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