What Causes a Chemical Smell in a Dishwasher?

Odors coming from your dishwasher can be cause for alarm. Chemical odors are appealing. That's why many cleaning products are scented to smell like fruit and flowers. If you notice a chemical odor coming from your dishwasher, determine what is causing the smell to make sure that you are not washing your dishes in a potential health hazard.

Sister telling brother to load dishwasher
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Chemical odors in your dishwasher can be a symptom of serious problems.

Manufacturing

Some chemical odors may simply be a byproduct of how your dishwasher was manufactured. It is common for the materials used to construct household appliances to be manufactured and treated with chemical agents that prevent staining, mold growth and various other problems. If your dishwasher is new or has always smelled of chemicals, it may be the manufacturing process and is no cause for alarm.

Water Quality

Poor quality water is often treated with chemicals, including chlorine. Chemical treatments are commonly added to city or municipal water supplies correcting mineral or sulfur problems and killing bacteria. Chemical pumps and filters are added to well water systems as treatment for water quality issues. If the chemical treatment is too strong, or if you have a sensitive nose, you may notice a chemical odor coming from your water when you run your dishwasher. It is also possible that the pipes add to the smell or cause a vaguely metallic smell in the water.

Dish Detergents

Depending on the product you are using, your dish detergent may still have a chemical odor to it. If the chemical smell has just started, try switching dish detergents and seeing if it helps.

Problems

In some instances, the chemical smell you are noticing may be caused by a problem with the dishwasher. This can occur if a part of the appliance is getting too hot or not functioning properly. Hot plastic often begins smelling before it actually starts burning or melting. If you cannot determine a reasonable cause for the odor, call a repairman to inspect your unit for problems.