How to Remove Odor From a Dishwasher

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Things You'll Need

  • Mild dish soap

  • Large pan or bucket

  • Sponge

  • Towel

  • Paper towels

  • Old toothbrush or small scrub brush

  • Baking soda

  • Medium-size container

  • Dishwasher-safe container

  • Distilled white vinegar

  • Lemon-scented rinse agent


Scrape food particles from plates, bowls, pots and pans before you load the dishes into your dishwasher. This reduces the risk of food particles building up and decaying inside the appliance. If it will be a while before you have enough dirty dishes to run a load, sprinkle a cup of baking soda over the bottom of your dishwasher to absorb odors.
Using a lemon-scented rinse agent will keep your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean.


Avoid using chlorine bleach in your dishwasher. Chlorine is a harsh chemical that can degrade the rubber gasket, which can eventually lead to a water leak.

Periodically cleaning your dishwasher can prevent odors.
Image Credit: LanaDjuric/iStock/Getty Images

Dishwasher odors are primarily caused by little bits of food and grease that collect in hidden or hard-to-reach crevices and corners. As the organic matter starts decaying, it releases an unpleasant odor that can make just-cleaned dishes and even your entire kitchen smell a bit sour. Fortunately, removing dishwasher odors requires just a simple cleaning process.

Step 1

Mix 1 tablespoon of mild dish soap into a large pan or bucket filled with warm water. Remove the racks and utensil holders and examine them for stuck-on food. Wipe off any you find with a sponge dipped into the soapy water.

Step 2

Remove soapy residue by rinsing the sponge and wiping off the racks and holders using clear water. Set those pieces aside on a clean towel.

Step 3

Press a handful of paper towels onto the bottom of the washer. This should pick up any loose food bits, bone pieces or tiny glass shards.

Step 4

Scrub the dishwasher door with an old toothbrush or a small scrub brush dipped into the soap solution. Food particles often build up around the rubber gasket, the hinges and the bottom of the door, and that debris can release an unpleasant odor as it decays. Wipe the treated area clean with a damp sponge.

Step 5

Pour a cup of baking soda into a medium-size container. Mix in just enough water to create a thick paste.

Step 6

Dip your toothbrush or scrub brush into the paste and scour stubborn grime from the interior of the dishwasher, including around the gasket and the bottom of the door. Wipe the cleaned area with a wet sponge to remove the paste and loosened debris.

Step 7

Inspect the drain at the bottom of your dishwasher. Food particles often get stuck in the area and start rotting, which can quickly cause unpleasant odors. Use paper towels to remove any solids, then wipe the area with a sponge dipped in the soapy water. Rinse the cleaned drain area with a damp sponge.

Step 8

Place the utensil holders and racks back into their proper spots in the dishwasher. Fill a medium-size, dishwasher-safe container with distilled white vinegar.

Step 9

Set the container on the top rack and run the dishwasher through a normal cycle with no other dishes in it. Use the hottest water setting possible to sanitize your dishwasher while removing musty odors. When the cycle is finished, wipe the interior dry with a clean towel.

references & resources

Amber Kelsey

Growing up in a family full of landscapers and carpenters, Amber Kelsey learned all about home and garden topics through osmosis. Her articles in The Green Girl's Guide and Altar demonstrate her eco-friendly nature, and she uses organic practices in her various gardens. Kelsey holds master's degrees in English writing and cultural anthropology.