How to Clean a Dishwasher and Eliminate Smells

Updated: May 22, 2024

4 steps to an odor-free dishwasher

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

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Clean the Dishwasher Screen

Does your dishwasher smell like fish? We found this cool science experiment growing in our “clean” dishwasher. Start by cleaning and rinsing out the dishwasher screen at the bottom of the tub.

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Step 2

Clean the Dishwasher Sprayer Arm Ports

Next, clean out any food lodged in the ports of the sprayer arm. Poke food particles from the holes in the sprayer arm. Food build up can also be a cause for a dishwasher not draining.

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Step 3

Clean the Dishwasher Door Lip

Then clean off the bottom edge of the dishwasher door and the metal lip area that sits below the door. You’ll be surprised at how much crud is there. 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.

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Step 4

Add a Cleaner

Once you’ve cleaned those areas, throw in some of dishwasher cleaner and disinfectant, such as Dishwasher Magic, and run a full cycle with no dishes or dishwasher detergent. Keep those critical areas clean in the future and your smelly dishwasher problem won’t come back.

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