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How to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher

4 steps to an odor-free dishwasher

Stop bad dishwasher odors by cleaning food scraps from the tub and running a dishwasher cleaner through a cycle.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Eliminate dishwasher smells

Photo 1: Clean the screen

We found this cool science experiment growing in our “clean” dishwasher. Clean the screen at the bottom of your dishwasher.

Photo 2: Clean the sprayer arm ports

Poke food particles from the holes in the sprayer arm.

Photo 3: Clean the door lip

Tip the door down all the way and spray the bottom edge and lip area with cleaner/degreaser spray. Let it soak for a while, then scrub it clean. Repeat anytime you see buildup.

Photo 4: Add a cleaner

Add a special cleaner and run a full dishwashing cycle.

If you have bad dishwasher smells after running a cycle, don’t reach for the bleach bottle. Bleach is very corrosive to metal parts and doesn’t solve the root problem. The smell comes from bacteria that feed on trapped food and grease in the strainer screen at the bottom of the machine, in the jets in the sprayer arms and along the bottom edge of the door.

Start by cleaning and rinsing out the screen at the bottom of the tub (Photo 1). Next, clean out any food lodged in the ports of the sprayer arm (Photo 2). Then clean off the bottom edge of the door and the metal lip area that sits below the door (Photo 3). You’ll be surprised at how much crud is there.

Once you’ve cleaned those areas, throw in a bottle of dishwasher cleaner and disinfectant (Dishwasher Magic; order from and run a full cycle with no dishes or dishwashing detergent (Photo 4). Keep those critical areas clean in the future and your stinking problem won’t come back.

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