How to Clean or Replace a Stinky Dishwasher

inside the bottom of a dishwasher

It’s not uncommon to smell something musty and a bit putrid while unloading your dishwasher. But just because smells are common doesn't mean you should live with a stinky dishwasher. A good deep clean and deodorizing treatment should bring back the fresh smell to your machine. Sound complicated? Don’t worry, we've broken down the process of how to clean a smelly dishwasher. It’s not as hard as you might think.

How to Clean a Moldy Dishwasher

The smells emanating from your dishwasher could be bacteria breaking down old food or standing water encouraging mold growth. Both are unappealing and make it hard to trust that your dishes are really clean. You can save time and effort by learning how to deep clean a dishwasher effectively. Follow these steps.

  1. Clear the filter of grime. The first step in how to clean a dishwasher filter is pulling the filter out of the bottom of the washer and letting it sit in hot sudsy water for 10 minutes. After the bath, the grime will slide off from the filter more easily. However, you will still need a scrub brush to clean off particles that continue to cling. Rinse again in hot water before replacing.
  2. Flush the food debris out of the drain. Particles, grease, and minerals from hard water can all build up in the drain, causing foul smells and potentially slowing the drainage flow. Wondering how to clean a dishwasher drain? Start by pouring in equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Next, allow the bubbles from the mixture to work for 15 minutes before following with a few cups of hot water.
  3. Scrub the buildup on the spray arms. The arms that spray steamy water over your dishes are always cleaning. But they can’t clean themselves. To start, detach each arm to wash in your sink. As you scrub with hot water, check that the nozzles aren’t blocked. Food particles, debris, and hard water can get in the jets and significantly reduce your washer’s cleaning quality. Use a toothpick or sewing needle to clear the holes and rinse again before replacing the arms.
  4. Wash the racks and walls. The interior of the washer can develop a coating of oils and soap scum. A simple tip on how to clean the inside of a dishwasher is to use a cloth with hot soapy water to cut through the grease, clean the walls, and wipe down the racks.
  5. Don’t forget the seal. Often ignored, but the seal around the dishwasher door is an ideal place with nooks and crevices for mold and mildew to form. To lift the mold out of the rubber, apply a paste of baking soda and water all over the seal. Work it deep in the corners and let it rest for 10 minutes. Next, take a toothbrush to scrub off the paste, and then wipe the entire seal down with a damp cloth.

Related Content: Signs Your Drains Need a Quick Cleaning

How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Smells can linger even after you deep clean the dishwasher. Thankfully vinegar and baking soda are natural cleaners that sterilize and neutralize odors. They chemically react with one another, so we don’t recommend running them in a load together. Here's how to use these simple ingredients to deodorize your machine.

  • Use white vinegar to sterilize and slow germ growth in your washer. Place a bowl of vinegar on the upper rack of the empty dishwasher and run it on the hottest setting. Open the door after the wash has finished to let the machine dry.
  • Baking soda absorbs odors and brightens the interior of your dishwasher. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda in the bottom of the machine and give it 15 minutes to soak in the off-putting smell. Next, start a hot wash cycle. Open the door afterward to let the dishwasher dry out.

When to Replace Your Dishwasher

While a smelly dishwasher doesn’t normally mean the machine needs a replacement, a few causes of smells might. These are a few reasons your dishwasher might develop odors easier than it should. They also indicate possible damage that may require a new dishwasher.

  • The hot cycle never reaches temperature. To effectively kill bacteria and sterilize dishes, a dishwasher should reach at least 165° F. If your dishes are hardly warm when you pull them out of a recent wash, the machine did not reach that temperature, which means the heating coil could be damaged. You can replace the pricey part, but you may find it better to replace the machine.
  • Standing water after the wash. When the load ends and you open the door, all the water should have drained out of the bottom. If there is still a pool, make sure there isn’t food or other debris clogging the drain. If there is nothing to clear, the drain may have other damage that needs attention. Depending on the repair costs, you may decide a new dishwasher is more effective.

Trust FAST of Florida for Dishwasher Repair in Clearwater FL

Deep cleaning your dishwasher every three or four months can minimize the buildup of food particles and unpleasant smells. And when you know how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar you can keep your machine disinfected and reduce germ growth.

But even a clean machine breaks down at some point and needs repair or replacement. Our team of professionals at FAST of Florida® is here to help if your dishwasher needs service. Simply request service online or call 727-273-7810 for expert kitchen plumbing repair in Pinellas County FL.