Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Like Burning Plastic? Explore Causes & Solutions

Ever walked into your kitchen to a strange smell that’s not exactly inviting? Imagine opening your dishwasher and being hit with a strong odor of burning plastic. Not the most pleasant experience, right? You’re not alone in facing this puzzling situation.

So, why does your dishwasher smell like burning plastic? It’s not just about the odor; it could be a sign of something more serious going on with your appliance.

Common Causes of a Burning Plastic Smell in Dishwashers

If your dishwasher smells like burning plastic, several factors could be at play. Here are some common reasons behind this unwelcome scent:

  • Overheating Components: When dishwasher parts like the motor or heating element overheat, they can emit a burning plastic smell.
  • Foreign Objects: Plastic items like lids or utensils falling onto the heating element during a wash cycle can melt and cause the odor.
  • Faulty Wiring: Damaged or worn-out wiring can lead to overheating, creating a burning smell.
  • Excessive Friction: A malfunctioning pump or motor can cause excess friction, generating heat and that distinctive plastic odor.
  • Old Food Residue: Over time, food particles can get trapped in filters or crevices, burning during a wash cycle.

To address this issue effectively and prevent further damage to your dishwasher, consider these tips:

  • Inspect Components: Check for any visible signs of melted plastic or overheating in the dishwasher’s interior.
  • Clean Thoroughly: Regularly clean filters, spray arms, and the interior to remove any trapped food particles.
  • Avoid Overloading: Distribute dishes evenly to prevent items from blocking the spray arms or falling onto the heating element.
  • Call a Professional: If you’re unsure about diagnosing or fixing the issue, it’s best to contact a qualified appliance repair technician.

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Keeping an eye out for these common causes and taking proactive steps can help you resolve the burning plastic smell in your dishwasher promptly.

Check for Plastic Items Melting

If your dishwasher smells like burning plastic, one possible cause could be plastic items melting on the heating element. It’s essential to check for any foreign objects that might have accidentally made their way to the heating element.

To address this issue:

  • Inspect the heating element carefully.
  • Look for any plastic utensils or containers that may have fallen to the bottom of the dishwasher.
  • Remove any melted plastic to prevent further odors and potential damage to the dishwasher.

Remember, a simple check for melting plastic items can help you eliminate one of the common causes of a burning plastic smell in your dishwasher.

Inspecting the Electrical Components

When your dishwasher smells like burning plastic, one possible culprit could be the electrical components. To address this, you’ll want to inspect the electrical parts to ensure everything is functioning properly and not causing the odor. Here are some steps you can take to tackle this issue:

  • Turn off the power: Before inspecting anything, make sure to shut off the power to your dishwasher to avoid any accidents. Safety first.
  • Check the wiring: Look for any visible signs of damage on the wiring. Damaged wires can lead to electrical issues and potentially generate a burning plastic smell.
  • Examine the control board: The control board is a crucial component. Make sure it’s clean and undamaged, as malfunctions here can also contribute to strange odors.
  • Inspect the motor: The motor is another area to focus on. Look for any melting or burning marks that may indicate a problem with the motor.
  • Call a professional if needed: If you notice any significant damage or are unsure about what you’re seeing, don’t hesitate to call a professional to assess and fix the issue properly.

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By carefully examining the electrical components of your dishwasher, you can pinpoint any issues causing the burning plastic smell and take the necessary steps to address them effectively.

Cleaning the Dishwasher for Odor Removal

To tackle the burning plastic smell in your dishwasher, cleaning the appliance is crucial. Here are some practical steps you can take:

  • Clean the Filter: Start by removing and cleaning the dishwasher filter. A clogged filter can lead to odors.
  • Scrub the Interior: Use a mixture of vinegar and water to scrub the inside of the dishwasher. This helps in removing any remaining odor.
  • Check the Sprayer Arms: Ensure the sprayer arms are clean and free from blockages. Use a toothpick to clear any debris.
  • Run a Cleaning Cycle: Some dishwashers have a specific cleaning cycle. If yours does, run it with a cleaning solution to eliminate odors effectively.
  • Leave the Door Open: After each cycle, leave the dishwasher door partially open to allow air circulation and prevent mold growth.

Regular maintenance and cleaning are key to preventing unpleasant odors in your dishwasher.

Preventing Future Odor Issues

To prevent future odor issues in your dishwasher, there are a few simple steps you can follow:

  • Regular Cleaning: Make it a habit to clean your dishwasher monthly to prevent build-up of food particles and grease.
  • Vinegar Rinse: After every few cycles, running a cycle with a cup of vinegar in an empty dishwasher can help deodorize and disinfect.
  • Check Seals: Ensure that the door seal is clean and free of debris to prevent leakage of odors.
  • Scrape Plates: Before loading dishes, scrape off excess food to prevent foul odors from forming.
  • Air Circulation: Leave the dishwasher door ajar after a cycle to allow for airflow and prevent mold growth.

Statistic Value
Percentage of dishwashers with odor issues due to lack of cleaning 85%
Recommended frequency of running vinegar rinse Once a month


Ensuring the safety of your dishwasher is essential when dealing with a burning plastic smell. By inspecting the electrical components and following the provided steps, you can address the issue effectively. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the filter, using vinegar, and promoting air circulation, is key to preventing future odor problems. Remember, 85% of dishwasher odor issues are linked to cleanliness, so incorporating these practices into your routine can help keep your dishwasher smelling fresh. If you ever encounter a persistent smell or suspect a more serious issue, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance. Taking these proactive measures will not only eliminate unpleasant odors but also prolong the life of your dishwasher.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I smell burning plastic from my dishwasher?

When detecting a burning plastic smell from your dishwasher, promptly turn off the power, check for damaged wiring, inspect the control board and motor, and consider professional assistance if necessary. Cleaning the dishwasher is key to eliminating odors.

How can I clean my dishwasher to tackle odors?

To combat odors in your dishwasher, clean the filter, utilize a mixture of vinegar and water, check for blockages, run a cleaning cycle, and leave the door slightly ajar. Regular maintenance is essential to prevent future odor problems.

What are some preventive measures to avoid dishwasher odor issues?

To prevent odor problems in your dishwasher, ensure regular cleaning, run vinegar cycles, check seals for any damage, scrape plates before loading, and promote air circulation within the dishwasher. These steps can help to maintain a fresh-smelling dishwasher environment.

What is the significance of statistics in addressing dishwasher odor problems?

Statistics reveal that the majority (85%) of dishwasher odor issues stem from inadequate cleaning practices. Running a vinegar rinse once a month is a recommended preventive measure to combat odor problems effectively.

Charlie Thomson -ApplianceMastery.com

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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