Is that Smell Coming from My Dishwasher?

by Bill Welles

person starting dishwasher on top control panel

At a Glance:

Why Am I Noticing an Odor? 


Why Trust Us?

We love our kitchens for different reasons—some of us love to cook, some of us love to decorate, and others love to share meals with friends and loved ones. Out of all the things we enjoy most about our cooking space, there is a unanimous distaste for one task in particular: holiday cleaning. There are few guarantees in life, but taxes and dirty dishes are two things we can always count on to damper the mood.  

We've become quite reliant on having a quality dishwasher to do the heavy lifting when it comes to after-meal cleanup, but if your dishwasher isn’t getting the job done, it can deter you from staying in and cooking as often as you’d like. If you think it might be time for a new dishwasher, a small upgrade can affect the whole way you interact in the kitchen.  

The dishwasher is where we clean and sanitize our dishes, yet it can still give off an unpleasant odor from time to time. This won’t make it any more enticing to get in the kitchen and prepare a home-cooked meal. If we can eliminate our least favorite part of preparing a meal, it changes the whole outcome and experience.  

Why Am I Noticing an Odor? 

woman holding nose from smelly dishwasher

You might notice an odor coming from your dishwasher for a few reasons. It’s quite common; even top-of-the-line machines can fall victim to unwanted smells. Dishwasher odors are typically caused by a buildup of grease or trapped food particles. These remnants can transfer onto your dishes and clog filters, spray arms, hoses, and other nooks and crannies around your appliance.   

It can also be a cause of a kinked hose or clogged drain. Any sort of damage to either of these parts can lead to a buildup of water surrounding your dishwasher. A dishwasher is a delicate cleaning appliance that requires routine care to ensure all these parts function correctly. We have to adapt and change the way we use our dishwasher because current models use less water, and detergents are no longer made with phosphates, which were helpful in softening hard water but released dangerous pollutants.  

Now, this is no cause for concern—it’s a good thing. If your dishwasher is used properly, it will do a much better job cleaning than preceding dishwasher models, and it will cut back on energy costs. If you want to eliminate dishwasher odor and keep your appliance in tip-top shape during the busy holiday season, follow these tips to get the most out of your machine: 

 1. Use the Proper Detergent 

You need a strong detergent that can cling onto food particles and wash away any stuck-on remnants. Manufacturers have put their trust in Finish Quantum soft tablets. These tablets have been tested in our showroom, and we can vouch for their effectiveness. We also carry a selection of detergents and cleaners from top brands like Bosch and Miele

2. Full Rinse Aid Reservoir 

Using a rinse aid in your dishwasher’s dispenser is a valuable technique because it helps the water flow over the dishes instead of beading or splashing and prevents spots from forming all over your dishware. It also helps your dishes dry, which can help eliminate odors by reducing the amount of moisture buildup in the wash bin.  

3. Don't Pre-Rinse Dishes 

The importance of pre-rinsing dishes is a common misconception. It’s a good idea to scrape off larger chunks of food, but you don’t need to wash any dish before throwing it in the dishwasher. If there isn’t anything for the detergent to lock onto, your machine will fill with lots of soap, but it won’t necessarily do a better job cleaning.  

The powder in your detergent or finish tablet is made with an enzyme that automatically reacts when it comes in contact with the food on your plate. If there is no food, that enzyme can’t break down, and the powder will leave a chunky, chalk-like residue on your dishes.  

4. Let the Hot Water Run Before Using the Dishwasher 

Most dishwashers can effectively heat water, but it can sometimes take the duration of the wash cycle to do it. If you turn on the faucet and let the water run for a few minutes, the water will already be warm when you start the cycle, and your appliance will run much more efficiently. 

And high-end dishwasher brands such as Asko, Bosch, GE, and KitchenAid have a pre-set water temperature that won't start counting down the cycle until that temperature is reached. 

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Dishwasher 

If you’re like many of us, your parents probably taught you growing up that you don’t start the dishwasher until it is completely full. This was a smart approach back in the day when the average dishwasher would use enough water to fill up a mini-van and sounded louder than a jet engine.  

Dishwashers today use far less water per cycle (an average of 3 gallons), and even running a half-full cycle saves more water and energy than washing dishes by hand. And dishwashers are almost completely silent, so you can still clean your dishes without waking the baby or disrupting the Jazz games.  

6. Clean with Vinegar 

If you don’t have a water softener or live in an area with hard water, you will likely notice a buildup of calcium or white film inside your dishwasher. If you see this, pour two cups of white vinegar into an empty dishwasher or pour the vinegar in a bowl and place it on the top rack for a full cycle on the warmest setting. Once the cycle is finished, leave the door open for about an hour so your dishwasher can fully air out. 

Vinegar is the perfect deodorizer because it will cut grease, clear away old detergent residue, and neutralize any remaining food odors. It will give your appliances a glistening sheen and it will look brand new on the inside.   

If you aren’t crazy about the scent of vinegar, you can add a few drops of essential oil to the vinegar. Peppermint is a great holiday scent that will create a welcoming aroma in your home. Plus, natural essential oils are non-toxic and have antibacterial properties.  

Out of all the kitchen appliances, a smelly dishwasher can really put a damp on holiday cleaning when you can't even go near it. With our helpful cleaning tips, we'll have your dishwasher smelling like brand new so you don't have to handwash your dishes to get rid of the smell. But that not only, at Duerden's Appliance and Mattress, we not only cleaning tips for all your appliances, we are the one-stop shop for all of your appliance needs to furnish your home. Visit us today or browse online to find your next dishwasher, refrigerator, dryer, and more!


If you learn more about dishwasher cleaning tips, look at some of the top questions we've gotten.

What is the best home solution to clean a dishwasher?

Place a glass measuring cup or another dishwasher-safe container upright in the lower rack after adding 2 cups (500 mL) of white vinegar to it. If you want to clean the interior of your dishwasher, run a regular cycle without using the heat-dry option. Avoid using detergent.

Can I use Dawn to clean the dishwasher?

In order to clean dishes without using suds or bubbles, you should only use dishwashing detergent, which is made exclusively for dishwashers.

Is vinegar or baking soda better for cleaning the dishwasher?

A baking soda rinse will eliminate any remaining smells, and a vinegar rinse will eliminate grease accumulation.

Why Trust Duerden’s Appliance & Mattress?

Duerden’s Appliance & Mattress has been a fixture of the Bountiful community since 1957. With name-brand appliances, exceptional customer service, and affordable prices, we know you’ll love shopping with us. Our wide selection of products is curated to match your needs and make your life easier, every single day. Whether you are remodeling your space, replacing your old appliances, or furnishing your new house, Duerden’s can help you build the home of your dreams.

Speaking of dreams, we have name-brand mattresses in every size, type, and comfort level so you and your family can get the sleep you deserve. Check out our in-store and online selections and see what makes us the first choice of all appliance stores in Bountiful, UT.

What’s Next?  

With the Christmas feast getting near, your dishwasher will be working hard to keep your dishes and your kitchen clean. It’s a good idea to practice these steps regularly and run a vinegar cycle every couple of months. That way, you’ll always be able to breathe easy in the kitchen, regardless of the dishes stacking up.  

And if your dishwasher has cleaned its last utensil, now’s a great time to shop for a new dishwashing appliance. Give us a call or stop by Duerden’s to shop our collection of dishwashers and cleaning accessories. It’s a gift that keeps on giving year after year.  

Learn More: 6 Types of Dishwashers on the Market