Dishwasher smells? You might need more than a dishwasher cleaner to sort it

If your dishwasher smells, it's important to identify the cause of the problem before tackling it with a dishwasher cleaner

Dishwasher smells: lady packing Beko AutoDose dishwasher
(Image credit: Beko)

If your dishwasher smells, hold off dousing it in dishwasher cleaner just yet. While cleaning your dishwasher regularly is a way to keep your dishwasher smelling nice and fresh, it won't work if there is an underlying problem with your dishwasher or water supply that's causing the smell. 

Moreover, some problems can make your dishwasher unhygienic to use, so you'll want to get to the root cause before popping those dishwasher cleaning tablets in. These are the most common problems causing dishwasher smells, and ways to solve them.  

1. Your dishwasher smells because the filter is clogged

This is by far the most common reason for a stinky, poorly performing dishwasher. The filter is at the bottom of the dishwasher and should be removed and cleaned with hot water and soap at least every week (more often if you can remember to do it). To prevent your filter from clogging up all the time, try to scrape off large chunks of food into your food waste bin, making the dishwasher's job easier. 

2. You live in a very hard water area

Hard water is bad news for all household appliances: over time, the mineral deposits form limescale on internal parts of the appliance, including the draining system. The most obvious solution is to regularly descale your dishwasher (most dishwasher cleaning tablets contain a descaling agent), but you may also consider installing a professional water softening system in your home. 

3. The dishwasher drain hose is bent 

This can easily happen when the dishwasher is pushed into place, and over time this creates drainage problems. Try puling out the appliance and inspecting the drain pipe for kinks or bends. If there is one, you may want to not push the dishwasher back fully to let the draining work properly. 

4. There's a problem with drainage in your home

If the kitchen drainpipe is blocked, then food waste may end coming back up and into your dishwasher (yuck). If you've tried everything else and suspect there's a problem with your drainage, it's best to call a plumber. The telltale sign of blocked drains is a foul, 'wafting' smell in the kitchen that's difficult to locate. 

Read more about common plumbing problems and how to resolve them. 

5. Now try a dishwasher cleaner

Once you've dismissed all these problems – or dealt with them – use a dishwasher cleaner to freshen up your machine. You could use a cup of white vinegar, placed upright on the dishwasher's top shelf to get the interior sparkling. Or try a proprietary cleaner, such as Finish Dishwasher Cleaner, which cuts through limescale and grease to keep your dishwasher functioning well.

For more cleaning hacks, visit our cleaning hub page.