Home Improvement

Why Does My Dishwasher Stink So Bad

Having a dishwasher in your house is a blessing, especially if you have a big family. Your dishwasher should not smell like rotten food or anything unusual. You would expect it to smell fresh when you open it after running a cycle. However, if the dishes are clean but there is a bad odor, it means something is wrong and you should inspect it and carry out dishwasher repair if needed. Let’s discuss!

Dirty Dishwasher Filter

One of the most common reasons for a dishwasher smelling so bad is the filter being dirty or clogged. Dishwashers consist of air filters to catch food items and other items that may harm the unit. That said, the filter is supposed to turn dirty sooner or later.

Therefore, regularly check the dishwasher filter and make sure it is clean. You should check the user manual as every manufacturer provides recommendations regarding cleaning and replacement of the filters.

Clogged Drain

Another reason your dishwasher might be smelling so bad is if there is a clogged drain. If the drain is clogged, the odor will become overwhelming to the point where you and your family members won’t be able to breathe. Plus, a clogged drain could also lead to a leak. In fact, most newer models feature an alarm system that goes off if the drain is clogged.

If you are familiar with the basics of a dishwasher, you can try cleaning the drain. Follow the user manual and get rid of the odor on your own if you can. And if you do not succeed, consult an expert.

Soap Scum or Other Buildup

You might have observed that showers tend to develop soap scum with time. The same is the case with dishwashers as well. This layer of soap scum acts as glue for food particles and if the dishwasher is not maintained, it could cause it to smell bad.

The food particles instead of being flushed down the drain are stuck to the buildup and create a bad odor. However, the good news is that you can easily clean the buildup using distilled white vinegar. To do that:

  • Take a dishwasher-safe bowl
  • Fill it with two cups of white vinegar and place it on the dishwasher’s bottom rack. Do not add detergent.
  • Run the dishwasher empty on a normal cycle and select air dry.

Burnt Plastic Smell

In some cases, people have complained that their dishwasher smells like burnt plastic. Most dishwashers come with a heating element that helps heat up water and remove moisture from the dishes. That said, if you come across a burnt plastic smell while using the dishwasher, you should know that the plastic has come into contact with the dishwasher’s heating element.

This usually happens when plastic silverware or a loose food container fall through the rack and lands onto the heating element during the drying process. So, if you come across the burnt plastic smell. Make sure to turn off the unit and let the element cool off before removing the plastic object.

How Often Should I Clean The Dishwasher?

Maintaining the dishwasher is not only important to reduce the chances of bad odor but also to prolong the lifespan of the unit. As dishwashers age, they tend to become less effective. However, if maintained properly, you can expect them to run for a good period of time before needing a replacement.

Therefore, the frequency of maintenance depends on the usage. If you use the dishwasher on a regular basis, then you should opt for monthly maintenance. If not, hire an expert to do it for you. This will also help prevent expensive replacements and repairs down the road as the expert will thoroughly inspect it and fix issues before they turn serious, saving you money.


Your dishwasher smelling bad should not make you panic. Follow the tips mentioned above and try to determine the source of the problem. Problems as such tend to be slightly complicated to find out but if you do or don’t do, in either case, consult an appliance repair Fairfax expert to solve the issue. Dishwashers are complicated machines and can easily be damaged if you play around with them having no knowledge or experience.

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