How to Keep Dishwasher From Smelling Between Washes

  • Regular cleaning: The most important step to prevent dishwasher odor is regular cleaning. Clean the dishwasher after every use and deep clean it once a month.
  • Vinegar solution: Use a vinegar solution to clean the dishwasher. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar, pour it into a spray bottle, and spray it inside the dishwasher. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes before wiping it with a cloth.
  • Baking soda: Baking soda is another effective natural cleaner that can help eliminate odors. Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run a cycle without any dishes in it.
  • Lemon juice: Lemon juice is an excellent natural deodorizer. Squeeze some lemon juice into a bowl of water and place it on the top rack of the dishwasher before running a cycle.
  • Avoid overloading: Overloading the dishwasher can lead to poor cleaning performance and unpleasant odors. Make sure not to overload your dishwasher and leave enough space for water to circulate freely.
  • Scrape food scraps: Scrape off any food scraps from dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. This will prevent food buildup in the machine, which can cause odors.

Do you ever open your dishwasher and are hit with an unpleasant odor? It’s not only a nuisance but can also be embarrassing when guests come over. The smell is caused by a build-up of bacteria and food particles that were not properly cleaned during the last wash cycle. But fear not, there are simple steps you can take to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh between washes.

One common cause of dishwasher odor is leaving dishes in for too long before running a cycle. This allows food particles to decompose and produce an unpleasant smell. Another culprit could be a clogged filter or drain, which can lead to stagnant water and bacteria growth. But don’t worry, keeping your dishwasher smelling fresh doesn’t require a lot of effort or time-consuming tasks.

In this article, we will discuss some easy tips on how to keep your dishwasher from smelling between washes. From regular cleaning routines to natural solutions, we’ve got you covered. Say goodbye to the embarrassing odor and hello to a clean and fresh-smelling dishwasher every time!

The Quick Answer:

To prevent odors, clean your dishwasher regularly. Food particles and grease buildup, mold and mildew growth, and inadequate cleaning can cause a smelly dishwasher. Clean your appliance once a month if you use it daily or every other day, or every two months for occasional use. Use hot water to rinse away excess food particles between cycles and common household items like vinegar or baking soda to clean the machine.

What Causes a Dishwasher to Smell Between Washes?

Food Particles and Grease Buildup

One of the common culprits behind a smelly dishwasher is food particles and grease buildup. When you load dirty dishes in your dishwasher, bits of food can get stuck in the crevices of the appliance and start to accumulate over time. If left unchecked, these food particles can rot and create an unpleasant odor.

Mold and Mildew Growth

Another reason why your dishwasher may emit a foul smell is mold or mildew growth. Mold thrives in moist environments, which makes dishwashers an ideal breeding ground for it. The rubber seals around the door and on the inside of your dishwasher can trap moisture, providing a perfect environment for mold to grow.

Inadequate Cleaning

If you’re not cleaning your dishwasher thoroughly, chances are it will develop a bad smell between washes. Over time, mineral deposits from hard water can build up inside your dishwasher’s spray arms, filters, and other components. These deposits can prevent proper cleaning of dishes and cause odors to linger in the appliance.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher to Prevent Odors?

To keep your dishwasher smelling fresh between washes, it’s essential to clean it regularly. How often you should clean your appliance depends on how frequently you use it.

If you use your dishwasher daily or every other day, it’s best to clean it once a month. However, if you only use your machine occasionally or have a small household that doesn’t produce many dishes, cleaning it every two months should suffice.

A Quick Cleaning Tip

To quickly freshen up your dishwasher between wash cycles, run hot water through the machine for several minutes before starting any cycles. This process helps to rinse away any excess food particles and prevent odors from developing.

Common Household Items You Can Use to Clean Your Dishwasher

You don’t need expensive cleaning products to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh. Many household items can do the job just as well.


White vinegar is an excellent natural cleaner that can remove mineral buildup, grease, and other residues in your dishwasher. To use vinegar, pour a cup of it into a bowl or measuring cup and place it on the top rack of an empty dishwasher. Then run a hot cycle without any dishes in the appliance.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another effective cleaning agent that can eliminate bad odors in your dishwasher. Sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom of your dishwasher and run a hot cycle without any dishes inside. The baking soda will absorb unpleasant smells, leaving your appliance smelling fresh.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is an excellent natural disinfectant that can help kill bacteria and eliminate odor-causing germs in your dishwasher. Simply squeeze half a lemon into the detergent compartment of your machine before running a wash cycle.

Is it Necessary to Use Special Cleaning Products for Dishwashers?

While there are some specialized cleaning products available for dishwashers, they’re not always necessary. In most cases, common household items like vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice can effectively remove odors and clean your appliance.

However, suppose you have tough stains or mineral buildup inside your machine that isn’t responding to natural cleaners. In that case, you may need to use specialized cleaning solutions designed explicitly for dishwashers.

A Word of Caution

When using specialized cleaning products or harsh chemicals to clean your dishwasher, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Some solutions may be harmful to your appliance or cause damage if not used correctly.

Leaving Dishes in the Dishwasher for Too Long Can Cause Bad Smells

Leaving dirty dishes in your dishwasher for too long can cause unpleasant odors to develop. When you leave food particles and grease on your plates, they’ll start to rot and emit a foul smell that can linger in your dishwasher.

To prevent this problem, it’s essential to unload your dishwasher as soon as possible once the cycle has finished. If you’re unable to unload it right away, open the door slightly to let air circulate inside and dry out any remaining moisture.

Quick Tip

If you’re short on time and can’t unload your dishwasher immediately, at least give your dishes a quick rinse before loading them into the machine. This will help prevent food from rotting and emitting unpleasant odors.

Preventing Food Particles from Building Up in Your Dishwasher and Causing Odors

The best way to prevent food particles from building up in your dishwasher is by rinsing dishes before loading them into the appliance. This simple practice can go a long way toward keeping food residues from accumulating in the crevices of your machine.

Another preventative measure is regularly cleaning out the filter of your dishwasher. The filter collects large bits of food that might clog up the drain or spray arms of your machine. By cleaning it out regularly, you’ll ensure that water can flow freely through the appliance, which helps keep it clean and odor-free.

A Few Extra Tips

-Scrape off excess bits of food off dishes before rinsing them.
-Run hot water through your sink before starting a wash cycle; this will ensure that hot water reaches all parts of your dishwasher.
-Load dishes appropriately; overcrowding can lead to poor cleaning results and buildup of debris.

Running Your Dishwasher on a Hot Cycle to Help Eliminate Odors

Running your dishwasher on a hot cycle can help eliminate bad odors. High temperatures can kill bacteria and germs that cause odors to linger in your appliance.

To run a hot cycle, make sure that your dishwasher’s settings are set to the highest temperature possible. You can also try using a sanitizing rinse aid that will help kill bacteria and leave dishes smelling fresh.

A Note of Caution

Be careful when running your dishwasher on high temperatures as it may harm delicate items that cannot endure high heat. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions before doing so.

Preventative Measures to Keep Your Dishwasher Smelling Fresh Between Washes

There are several preventative measures you can take to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh between wash cycles.

-Scrape off food debris from plates before loading them into the machine.
-Clean out the filter regularly to prevent buildup of food particles.
-Run hot water through your sink before starting a wash cycle.
-Avoid overloading dishes; this could lead to poor cleaning results and build-up of debris.
-Regularly clean the rubber seals around the door with a damp cloth to prevent mold growth.
-Regularly empty and clean out the drain basket at the bottom of your appliance.

Regular maintenance and proper cleaning of your dishwasher can prevent unpleasant odors from developing between washes. Simple steps such as running hot water before starting the cycle, using vinegar or baking soda to clean the interior, and regularly emptying the filter can all help keep your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Keep Dishwasher From Smelling Between Washes

Why does my dishwasher smell between washes?
The primary reason behind the unpleasant smell coming from your dishwasher is a dirty filter. If you don’t clean it regularly, food particles can accumulate in the filter, leading to a foul odor. Additionally, a clogged filter can lead to the recirculation of dirty water, which can cause your dishwasher to not clean dishes effectively.

What do you put in a dishwasher that smells?
To clean your dishwasher, start by running it for a full cycle. Then, sprinkle a cup of baking soda onto the bottom to neutralize any odors. Finally, run another cycle to thoroughly clean the inside of the dishwasher.

Do dishwashers have filters that need to be cleaned?
A filter is present in most dishwashers to capture food and debris. Regular cleaning is necessary to avoid blockages and maintain the filter’s efficiency.

How often do you need to clean the filter in a dishwasher?
The frequency at which you should clean your dishwasher filter depends on how often you use your dishwasher. It is recommended to clean the filter once a year to once a week, but you can maintain the performance of your dishwasher by cleaning it every three to six months.

How do I deodorize my dishwasher without vinegar?
Instead of using vinegar, you can use unsweetened lemonade mix by putting it in the soap cup to clean your dishwasher. Another method to clean your dishwasher is by sprinkling a cup of baking soda at the bottom of the tub. After using either method, run a full cycle with the hottest water available to help freshen and clean your dishwasher.

How do I get the smell out of my dishwasher and sink?
To eliminate a strong odor coming from your dishwasher, it may be necessary to run two cycles without any dishes inside. The first cycle should use white vinegar instead of detergent, followed by a second cycle with liberal amounts of baking soda sprinkled on the bottom of the dishwasher before running it on a short cycle.

Charlie Thomson is Appliance Mastery's expert on laundry appliances. With a degree in mechanical engineering and over 8 years of experience in the appliance repair industry, Charlie is a go-to resource for homeowners who want to tackle common issues with their washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers.

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