Stinky Dishwasher

We have a beautiful new dishwasher. It holds a lot more than our old one, and it has an impressively tight seal when you close its door. And therein lies the problem. It stinks. We’ve been rinsing dishes before loading them, but the smell of dirty dishes does not abate.

Other than the obvious - running the thing when it’s not full - any ideas?

Have you tried letting the door ajar for about an hour after unloading the clean dishes?


… or cleaning the filter?


What kind of smell? Food or mold?

For food, try a vinegar rinse, or stick some lemon peels in there when you run a cycle.

My (clothes) washer smells of mold anytime it’s not left open, even if it was open for days before to let the seal completely dry. The only solution is to never deal it shut unless it’s in use, or recently I’ve taken a paper towel, dried the entire seal, and then sprayed it with febreze to kill old smell.

(Not to state the obvious, but have you checked the filter? My new dishwasher filter needs to be cleaned out a lot more than the old one did.)


Did they connect it properly? If you don’t have an air gap, the dishwasher should be installed with a ”high loop” .

Also, check filter as previously suggested.

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Agree with others that cleaning the filter would be the #1 suggestion.

Example: Over the summer I switched dishwasher detergents to Seventh Generation packs (pods). The dishwasher became smelly after awhile. No visible food residue. Perplexing. Vinegar rinse was no help.

Finally I pulled up the perforated plate that sits below the cylindrical part of the filter.

Aha! Stuck to the bottom of that plate were shreds of undissolved outer film from the detergent packs. Probably with a film of food residue clinging to them, though I would have needed magnification to see that.

I soaked both parts of the filter—cylinder and perforated plate— in water and a few drops of dish soap. Then cleaned away the debris with a toothbrush. Quit those detergent packs too.

No more stinky dishwasher.

Amazing to me how so little debris can make a dishwasher so smelly.


In addition to periodically cleaning out the filter, I also run this (Affresh) “cleaner” through (empty cycle).

Thanks, all.

I think I expressed myself imprecisely. The dishwasher smells bad when it contains dirty dishes. It does not smell bad empty, or when it contains clean dishes.

We don’t need to run it as often as we did our old one, because it holds a lot, so the dishes stay in there longer. And it’s hard to leave this dishwasher door open a crack, because it really wants to be closed.

The filter is clean (the thing was just installed a week or so ago, and H checked, just to be sure). I don’t think this dishwasher needs an air gap, but I will inquire of the plumber who installed it. Our old dishwasher had no air gap, and it also didn’t smell bad.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say we had a combination dishwasher / composter on our hands.


Is the garbage disposal on the same sink as the dishwasher?? Check for hose connection at the top of the disposal.
What you might be smelling is “smelly stuff” in your disposal that is migrating through the dishwasher exhaust line.

Also, if the dirty dishes are going to be in the dishwasher for any length of time (prior to running it) you might want to scrape and pre-rinse them.

Personally, I run my dishwasher every night whether it is full or not.

She already said she rinsed.

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Got it. Maybe there’s a shorter cycle setting or similar on your new machine that would still do the job? (The default cycle on our machine runs longer than we need to get scraped dishes clean.) That way you could run the machine partially full if that funky aroma starts.

We don’t have a garbage disposal.

Yeah, there is a “half” cycle, which we’ve been using. It just seems like such a waste of water! Eh.

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Sure seems like you have explored the available options. When I need to run a partially full machine because of dish funk, I tell myself that it’s still probably more efficient on water and energy use than me washing by hand. That’s my story anyway!

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I guess I’ll be re-telling this one!

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Try adding some white vinegar when doing a dishwasher cleaning cycle

Pure wisdom here.

The only thing I’ll add is that periodic use of a biologic drain cleaner, such as Bio-Clean can work wonders with odors and slow drains. The bacteria and enzymes in these products dissolve organic residues very effectively, and regular use can save plumbing and septic systems. My regular interval is 1x/mo in all drains, toilets, clothes waher, laundry standpipe and DW.

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I don’t know how realistic it is to expect a tightly sealed room-temperature box of dirty dishes sitting for days at a time not to smell bad.


Just don’t use the dishwasher.

Problem. Solved.

Is there a small amount of water in the bottom of the dishwasher (there should be)?? If so, dip your fingers in it and smell it. If it smells, then your pump impellers or some other component has “material” stuck to them.