How to get rid of a smell in the dishwasher — freshen up your appliance in a jiffy

Curious how to get rid of a smell in the dishwasher? Our expert-approved hacks will freshen up your kitchen in no time

Once you know how to get rid of a smell in the dishwasher, yours will be gleaming too like this open dishwasher in a neutral colored kitchen with an oven beside it
(Image credit: Canva)

If you're wondering how to get rid of a smell in the dishwasher, our cleaning experts have just the ticket. Dishwashers go through the mill on the daily, cleaning away our food debris, so we can forgive them for being whiffy. Though, we don't have to live with the stench.

Our expert-approved six-step cleaning guide will help you shift the nasty smell in your dishwasher and bid farewell to those bad odors.  

Whilst a simple wipe won't do the job, these recommendations for how to clean a dishwasher certainly will.

How to get rid of a smell in the dishwasher 

To get to the bottom of why your dishwasher smells bad and fix the problem, our experts recommend taking a few key steps. 

1. Do an internal deep clean

When dealing with a smelly dishwasher, first do an internal internal deep clean. 

Cleaning expert, Sabrina  Tretyakova says, “Clean the dishwasher interiors. The best homemade solution is a mixture of two cups of white vinegar (we always like to recommend this Heinz white vinegar from Amazon) and one cup of baking soda (this Arm & Hammer baking soda from Target should do the trick). 

“Place the bowl containing this solution on the bottom rack of your dishwasher. Start the dishwasher cycle with an air-dry, or energy-saving dry option. The acetic acid content in the vinegar will mix with the water, help neutralize foul odors, and clean the appliance.”

Using a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda is one of the best dishwasher cleaning hacks for a quicker and easier clean. 

Sabrina Tretyakova
Sabrina Tretyakova

Sabrina Tretyakova is an ISSA-certified cleaning technician helping more than 1,200 clients including private homeowners and large corporate offices. 

2. Wipe the rubber seals

One area of your dishwasher that can really cause a bad odor to occur is the rubber seals inside the washer. 

Leslie Kilgour, professional organizer and cleaning expert, says, “Generally speaking, it's important to regularly wipe down the rubber seals and edges of the dishwasher with a damp cloth. These areas can trap food residue and moisture, creating a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Keeping them clean ensures a hygienic dishwasher."

Sabrina adds, “Clean the gasket seals using a sponge dipped in warm soapy water (this Dawn dish soap from Amazon is ideal for this). It helps disinfect the seals and wipe away any buildup. Finally, wipe the seals dry with a clean towel.”

Tip: If the seals are removable you can leave them to soak in a bowl of hot soapy water for 15 minutes before drying them off and popping them back in the dishwasher.

Leslie Kilgour
Leslie Kilgour

Leslie Kilgour is a professional organizer and cleaning expert. She works with clients to organize, refresh, and clean their spaces. She also teaches teenagers and young adults cleaning hacks. She is the founder of Get It Straight on Long Island. 

3. Clean the filter

The next step is to remove and clean your dishwasher's filter. 

Leslie says, “I suggest consulting your dishwasher's manual to locate and clean the filter periodically. This ensures optimal water flow and prevents clogs, leading to more efficient cleaning”

Sabrina adds, “ Pull out the bottom rack and remove the dishwasher filter. The filter could be clogged with debris. Empty the filter of all food particles and clean it by soaking it in warm, soapy water. You can scrub the filter gently with a soft-bristled brush (like these soft-bristled brushes from Amazon) to remove stubborn debris.

Tip: If the filter still smells after cleaning it, place it in a bowl with one part white vinegar to three parts water and soak for up to 30 minutes. 

4. Don’t forget the crumb catcher

Not all dishwashers have a crumb catcher but, if yours does, keeping it clean is vital for reducing bad odors. 

Leslie says, “Make it a habit to check and empty it regularly. Removing any food particles helps prevent them from circulating during wash cycles and sticking to your dishes.” 

Once you've removed any debris, use fresh running water to cleanse the crumb catcher. If you notice an odor, soak the catcher in a solution of one part white vinegar and three parts warm water for 15 minutes. 

5. Wipe the exterior

It might seem unlikely that bad odors will be coming from the exterior of the dishwasher but if you have accidentally spilled food onto the outer shell, it could well give off an odor. 

Sabrina says, “Wipe down the dishwasher exteriors using a cleaning cloth (these microfiber cleaning cloths from Amazon are useful) soaked in hot, soapy water. I recommend using a spray bottle to spray the cleaning solution if you have a stainless-steel dishwasher. You can use a diluted solution of one part of vinegar and three parts of water to avoid smearing.”

Alternatively, for a quicker and easier clean, use multi-purpose cleaning wipes (like these Lysol cleaning wipes from Amazon ). 

6. Reguarly clean your dishwasher

To prevent debris and bacteria building up in the first place, pop your dishwasher on a cleaning schedule. Of course, knowing how often to clean your dishwasher is helpful. 

Leslie Kilgour, cleaning expert, says, “Once a month, pour a cup of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe container and place it on the top rack. Run an empty cycle with hot water. This helps remove any built-up grease and soap scum, leaving your dishwasher fresh and odor-free.”

If you find your dishwasher is becoming smelly more frequently, cleaning it more regularly will be fine too, as will scraping and rinsing your dishes before loading them in will reduce food debris, too.


What can I do if the smell in the dishwasher doesn’t go?

Sabrina advises, “There could be a clog in the drain if the smell persists. Under such circumstances, you must proceed with removing the debris. A professional cleaner or plumber can help you in this regard.”

Can you clean a dishwasher with baking soda?

Yes, you can use baking soda to clean a dishwasher.

Leslie says, “An easy cleaning tip is to sprinkle a handful of baking soda on the bottom of your dishwasher between cycles. This not only helps neutralize any lingering odors but also acts as a gentle abrasive to keep the interior clean.” 

What are the best products to clean a dishwasher with to remove an odor?

Knowing how to remove a bad smell from a dishwasher can be a more challenging task than you might assume. 

Leslie says, “When I work with clients, especially younger people, they get very overwhelmed at the idea of cleaning a dishwasher. I mean, who wants to do that? However, keeping your dishwasher clean and smelling good (which helps it work more efficiently) does not have to be an overwhelming task.” 

And once you get these steps down pat, it really won't be.

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.