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dishwasher smells

How to Get Rid of Dishwasher Smells in 5 Steps

There’s nothing worse than opening your dishwasher and being greeted by unpleasant smells. Whether it is a musty, mildew-like scent or something more pungent and foul, a smelly dishwasher can become a nuisance in your home due to ineffective dishwasher cleaning

These odors often arise from food residue, clogged drain, mildew, grease, limescale, bacteria, etc., within the dishwasher. But fear not; no matter how much the dishwasher automates the job, some old-fashioned elbow grease and Finish Dishwasher Cleaner can effectively eliminate dishwasher smells and restore freshness to your appliance.

This guide will explore the practical solutions to tackle this common kitchen dilemma head-on. So get ready to say goodbye to dishwasher smells and deodorize them!

Why does my dishwasher smell 

A smelly dishwasher can have multiple reasons, including: 

  • Food residue buildup
  • Clogged filter
  • Uncleaned drain
  • Mold and/or mildew growth,
  • Hard water deposits

How to remove dishwasher smells

We have broken down the dishwasher cleaning process into 5 easy steps. 

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.

Step 2: Remove and clean the filter.

One of the primary culprits behind the dishwasher smells is a clogged or dirty filter. Over time, food particles and debris can accumulate in the filter, leading to foul odors emanating from the dishwasher.

To tackle this issue, start by locating and removing the dishwasher filter. Not every dishwasher has one, but if your dishwasher has one, remove it and rinse it thoroughly under running water to remove any trapped residue. 

For stubborn buildup, soak the filter in warm, soapy water before scrubbing gently with a brush. Once clean, reinstall the filter in the dishwasher, ensuring a snug fit.

Learn everything there is to know about dishwasher filters and how to clean them to minimize odoriferous threats.

Step 3: Clean the dishwasher interior 

Remove the bottom rack and thoroughly wipe down the dishwasher interior, including walls, door, bottom, edges, handle, and dishwasher controls with a soapy sponge or microfiber cloth, paying particular attention to any areas where sneaky food bits and crud may linger unnoticed.

Additionally, inspect the dishwasher dispenser for debris or undissolved detergent and wipe it clean using a damp cloth or paper towel.

Ensure peace of mind by investing in high-quality, soluble dishwasher detergents that effectively dissolve upon contact with water, eliminating concerns about undissolved residue.

Step 4: Run a cleaning cycle with dishwasher cleaner

Finish dishwasher cleaner deep cleans the part of the dishwasher you can’t see and remove grease and limescale buildup in the pipes.

First, use your Finish dishwasher cleaner, ensure the dishwasher is empty, and clear the filter of any leftover food or debris. Then, follow the steps below.

  1. Remove the sticker from the cap of your dishwasher cleaner bottle. Do not remove the cap.
  2. Place the bottle upside down inside your silverware basket or any bottom dish rack.
  3. Close the dishwasher and run it on a high-temperature cycle of at least 60⁰C. Do not add any other detergent or cleaning agent to the wash.
  4. After the full cycle, open the dishwasher, remove the bottle, and recycle.
  5. For heavy buildup, you may need to repeat the process.

Step 5: Let it air dry

The residual water left over after a wash cycle can sometimes cause unpleasant odors, and the dishwasher’s tight seal often traps it inside. 

Solution? After a cycle, open the door and let the dishwasher air dry. This simple act helps release trapped odors, ensuring a fresh-smelling dishwasher for your next load.


Depending on how frequently you use your dishwasher, you should clean your filter anywhere from once a week to once a month to prevent odor buildup and maintain optimal performance.

To prevent a smelly dishwasher in the future, clean the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, run hot water in the sink before starting a cycle, and avoid using too much detergent, which can lead to residue buildup. 

Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the filter and running cleaning cycles with vinegar or baking soda, can also help keep odors at bay.

A slight odor immediately after a cycle can be normal due to residual moisture. However, persistent or foul odors indicate underlying issues that need attention.