How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

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Whoa... You open the dishwasher door and... “why does my dishwasher smell?” It happens. Bits of food get trapped in crevices, greasy grime accumulates, mildew grows, hard water deposits, um, deposit. Even the weird fish dish that ruined the microwave is now taking aim at your dishwasher. This musty smell isn’t just an assault on your senses—it can also be dulling your dishwasher’s performance.

Thankfully, dishwasher smells don’t have to linger. Here are a few tips to take your dishwasher odor from foul to fresh. However, before we get started, please review your owner’s manual. These tips you’re about to read will work for almost all dishwashers, but in the rare case that you should happen to find a discrepancy, follow your owner’s manual. Now, let’s deodorize that dishwasher!

1. Check for Food

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Believe us when we tell you that the biggest culprit when it comes to generating bad dishwasher odors is old food. By far. Check for any food or grime that may have fallen to the bottom of the machine and remove it. Remove the old food, remove the stench. Sometimes when your dishwasher stinks, the fix really is that simple. Hopefully that’s the case for you. Sometime the smell of rotten eggs is just rotten eggs.

Cleaning dishwasher arm and soils at bottom of dishwasher

2. Clean the Filter

Here’s another simple, yet often overlooked trick. Clean the filter. Not every dishwasher has one, but if your dishwasher has a filter, remove it and throw away anything trapped inside. Old food and caked grease will hide in there, and before you know it, your dishwasher smells bad. So, if your dishwasher does have a filter, clean it out. And you might try some other simple maintenance steps to minimize odoriferous threats. Just be sure to consult your owner’s manual for help before attempting to service anything on your own.

3. Air Dry

Here’s the thing: Your dishwasher has a great seal. If it didn’t, you’d end up with water all over the floor. Unfortunately, residual water that’s been left over after a wash cycle can sometimes cause your dishwasher to smell, and that seal will keep pungent odors trapped inside. Your best defense? Open the door and let the dishwasher air dry. Think of it as letting your dishwasher breathe, so you can breathe better the next time you have to use your dishwasher.

Using dishwashing pod into empty dishwasher

Now that you’ve un-funked your dishwasher, maybe you’re inspired to show it some TLC with a thorough and proper cleaning. Or maybe you’re ready to take the relationship to the next level and get even deeper with our dishwashing guide.

On the other hand, maybe you just want the easy way to clean your machine, and that would be once a month with Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Cleaner. Using just one pac in an empty wash cycle, you get a fresh, clean, odor-free machine.

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