Why Your Dishwasher Smells Bad (And What You Can Do About It)

When you walk into your kitchen, you want to smell freshness and cleanliness. Unfortunately, kitchens tend to be prone to some pretty bad smells. Whether it’s leftover food that wasn’t put away, last night’s dishes or your bin, bad kitchen smells are pretty off-putting. But there’s one bad smell that can trump all others – a smelly dishwasher.

We’re not sure if the smell is made worse by the fact that you don’t expect it to smell – after all, it’s supposed to clean things – but dishwashers can trap so many bad odours. When it’s really bad, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your dishwasher has intentionally scrunched up the smells into a veritable stink bomb, and then flung it right at your face. It can be that offensive.

But don’t worry – we’re here to tell you all about the common cause of a stinky dishwasher, and give you solutions that can save your sense of smell.

Food Trap

Imagine, if you will, that someone has put down a mousetrap to deal with a mouse problem in a property. Now, imagine if they temporarily forgot about that mouse trap. Would they ever remember to check it?

Well, if the mousetrap worked, their nose would soon know about it due to the unbearable smell of the poor mouse that has ceased to be. The same logic applies to food traps, or filters, in dishwashers.

These filters serve to trap large particles of food that get washed off dishes, but are perhaps too big to allow down the innards of the dishwasher or the drain. As these bigger chunks of food could block the drain, the best way to deal with them is to trap them before they get there. However, since they’re no longer going down the drain, they have nowhere to go. So they sit there and continue to decompose until they emanate a repugnant whiff that flows throughout your property.

Solution: A pretty simple one – just clear the smelly particles away. You’ll find the filter/food trap at the bottom of the dishwasher, just above the drain. If it isn’t removable, then just stick on a pair of rubber gloves and give it a good scrape and scrub. If it is removable, simply pull out the filter and scrape the offending items into the bin and give it a quick, warm rinse under the tap to get rid of the smaller debris.

Air Gap

Ever heard of an air gap? Don’t worry, it’s not something that most people know about. Not every dishwasher necessarily has an air gap. What an air gap does is that it ensures that any water overflowing within the dishwasher will flow into your sink instead.

An air gap will also keep waste from the sink from getting into the dishwasher – which can cause some nasty smells.

Solution: If you’re having a problem with a smelly dishwasher, then it may be worth seeing about installing an air gap. This can be done by a trained installation specialist, such as a Repair Aid engineer.


When all else fails, clean it! As with pretty much everything else we own, a good clean can help get rid of any untoward stenches. You may think that as a dishwasher is a cleaner itself, it is exposed to cleaning chemicals – so why does it need a clean? Well, the detergent you use is meant to clean plates and dishes – not the innards of a dishwasher. Besides, a lot is probably getting cleaned away from your dishwasher by the flowing hot water. Whatever that is left over is going to require a bit more effort to clear away.

Solution: There are multiple ways you can clean your dishwasher. You could try a shop-bought dishwasher cleaner – or try alternatives such as vinegar, citric acid or baking soda.

Just place it in as you would your detergent. If you’re using a liquid formula then, pour a little bit into the bottom of the machine. Run it through a regular cycle and see what results you get. If the smell is still there, try a few more cycles. If that doesn’t work, try a different solution.

To keep the bad smells away, we’d recommend running a cleaning cycle once a month.

So there you go – three different solutions to your dishwasher’s odour problems. If none of the above work, then you might have some sort of drainage issue. If so, Repair Aid can help with that.

Author: Repair Aid®

Date published:

Categories: Dishwashers

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