Why Does My Dishwasher Smell? and How to Fix It. Solving the Mystery

Why does my dishwasher smell? Why does my dishwasher have a bad odor? Why does my dishwasher smell like a wet dog?

These are common questions asked by dishwasher owners when they bring this appliance up for repair.

Even when you search online, you find a lot of related and specific questions about this topic. Dishwashers don’t just start smelling.

When you empty the dishwasher after a nice long load, you expect it to smell fresh and clean and HOT. Instead, you’re confronted with a foul or fishy odor, causing you to question if the dishes are clean and the appliance is even doing its job!

why does my dishwasher smell

But guess what? it is not uncommon. You’ll naturally want to place blame on the automatic dishwasher soap product you’re using, or the caked-on food on the dishes the night before. However, neither of these are the culprit.

Smelly dishes are the by-product of either foul dishwasher or hard water.

There are reasons dishwashers can produce those fishy smells. First, check for poor dishwasher drainage or an improper dishwasher drainage connection. Once you observe rotten smells in the kitchen, there might be contaminated water.

Also, the filter might have accumulated a lot of dirt. Small pieces of leftover food may have also gulped in the machine filter.

The machine may also have been left for a long time without proper cleaning.

When some sulfur-like smells ooze out from your dishwasher, it is most likely you have used contaminated water on the machine.

These and many other reasons your dishwashing machine is giving out a bad smell.

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Let us walk you through some of the common causes of “Why does my dishwasher smell”:

Contaminated water

How often do you ask this question: why does my dishwasher smell like rotten eggs?

Perhaps, you’ve not been paying much attention to the kind of water that gets into it.

Usually, this happens when dirty water coming from the sink or garbage disposal.

Once infected water finds its way into a dishwashing machine, a sulfur-like or rotten egg odor is produced.

Each time you perceive a smell like one from hydrogen sulfide in the kitchen, be sure that the anaerobic bacteria that produce the smell live inside the sewer.

It may also be due to improper dishwasher drainage connection.

Dirty filter  

Does your dishwasher smell like sewage?

A dirty dishwasher filter could cause a bad smell coming out from your dishwashing machine.

Over time, what you observe is that little particles of food have accumulated in the filter or crevices of the machine and begin to smell.

This will obstruct the free flow of water. The resultant effect is that a filter channel that is blocked has your dishwater smells like pond water.

Presence of Limescale from hard water

The presence of hard water can cause the buildup of limescale in many compartments of your dishwasher.

The water supply in your area has a lot of cumulative effect on the amount of limescale that can build up in your dishwasher.

Hard water contains a high content of mineral, usually calcium and magnesium carbonates from limestone.

These mineral contents are harmless in themselves but have a damaging effect on your machine.

Once accumulated over time, limescale could clump together on various parts of the dishwasher.

It targets the heating element and the water jets which are meant to scare away bacteria.

Improperly installed Drain Hose

It is important to make sure that when installing your dishwasher, every part of the machine is properly installed.

If your dishwasher’s drain hose is not properly installed as a result of a wrong connection it can lead to a sulfur-like smell.

Below are improper steps of installing the dishwater drain hose:

  • Connecting the hose to the kitchen drain pipe after the P-trap, instead, the pipe should be connected before the trap. This incorrect configuration does not provide protection against sewer gases. To solve this, make sure you disconnect the drain hose and connect it properly to the sink tailpiece.
  • A wrong overlap of units. There is a chance that the installer may have neglected to make a high loop on the hose. The loops are in place to prevent backwash from the sink drain collecting inside the hose and putrefying. To solve this, make sure the hose is looped appropriately. However, it is important to first check with technical support.

Why does my Bosch dishwasher smell like a wet dog?

Whenever you perceive some smell like a wet dog coming out from your dishwasher, just note that the likely cause is mildly contaminated water, which may have entered your dishwasher.

The longer the infected water stays in the machine, the lingering the bacteria dries and produces a strange, faint “wet dog” odor.

You cannot also rule out food leftovers, recycled and stagnant water left in the machine as a major cause of this kind of odor.

Although the odor may not constitute any health hazard to humans, its lingering smell may prevent you from using your plates, forks, and cups.

How you can get rid of wet dog odor

  • Mix a small amount of bleach to the tub below the dish rack after a full cycle.
  • Cover the dishwasher and wait for at least an hour before removing the dishes.

How to stop/ prevent the dishwasher from smelling 

The dishwasher can send out odor to dishes during the drying cycle.

Unless the machine is properly cleaned out, the smell persists. And that is dangerous to healthy living.

Having identified the causes of a smelly dishwasher, the logical thing to look out for is the solution. Here are things you can do to return your dishwasher to a good taste and state quickly.

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1. Thorough cleaning of filter

Proper and regular cleaning of the filter is one way to keep smells away from your dishwasher. To clean the filter, follow these steps:

  • Get a stiff scrub brush, soap, and hot water
  • Carefully remove the filter from the dishwasher (check and follow the manual of your dishwasher model to get the instructions on how to remove filter from the dishwasher)
  • Properly and thoroughly clean the filter.

2. Clean the machine

There is a chance that even after you have cleaned the filter, the inside of the dishwasher still smells fishy. There are steps to take to get rid of that unpleasant odor:

  • Make a simple paste of baking soda, dish soap and mix with water
  • Use the mixture to scrub the interior of the dishwashing machine thoroughly. The cleaning should be done on the machine’s gaskets, shelves, and walls.
  • Rinse the dishwasher properly to get rid of the mixture. This is best done by running an empty cycle at the hottest temperature available.

3. Practice prevention

Prevention, it is often said, is better than cure. Always make sure you rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Do not allow small particles of food left on the plate you’re putting inside the dishwasher.

Scrape off any large or small pieces of food so they won’t block the dishwasher’s drainage system.

4. Periodic Cleaning 

Do not wait until you start smelling the dishwashing machine before you clean it.

Make a routine to clean the filter and the inside of the machine periodically.

This will ensure that no food particles are left inside that could build up to cause odors in the future.

Dishwasher cleaning tabs are available near the dish soap in your local store. Purchase a pack of your favorite brand and run them through the machine periodically. Follow the instructions on the packaging.

5. Avoid faucet when the machine is water-filled

Avoid the use of kitchen faucet when the dishwasher is filled with water.

This is to prevent diversion of water from the washing machine as it fills.

The danger is that if diversion of water succeeds food debris becomes trapped in gaps of the machine as a result of a lack of sufficient water needed during the wash cycle.

6. Check your water softener

Regularly check your water softener. Make it a point of duty always to keep the salt levels at an acceptable standard.

Try to cycle the salt or consider switching your water softener salt to a specific kind. Using iron-removing salt helps to minimize or keep dishwasher odors away.

7. Run preventive measures 

Other ways of taking care of dishwasher’s smell are to run a cleaning cycle by distilled white vinegar in the machine’s compartment to flush out any persistent odors and bacteria.

Alternatively, to make sure that your dishwasher is working properly, apply rinse aids to enhance clean quality. 

To prevent the dishwasher from smelling, rinse your dishes and cups with cold water before inserting them into the dishwasher.

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