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Dishwasher Deodorizing

Category Appliances
Dishwashers can periodically develop a bad odor. There are temporary fixes, but for a long term remedy check the drain, garbage disposal, and other involved plumbing. This is a page about dishwasher deodorizing.


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By 5 found this helpful
June 23, 2010

I spent a lot of time researching why our dishes smell like wet dog every so often. I was very glad to see the millions of hits I encountered as now I know I am not weird.

I think I have solved it. After years of wondering about this I looked at everyone's answers and by process of elimination discarded anything that did not work or apply.

I have two new Miele dishwashers and two new hot water tanks; therefore, it can't be the build up on the anodes. I have used all the good soaps, to no avail.

Sometimes washing dishes with eggs will contribute to the smell, but then I should not have the smell if eggs were not used.

I thought about chemical reactions with the well water, but then again, people on municipal water have this problem. My water softener is new too with no odor to it.

I wondered about chemical reactions during damper days, I added bleach, I added vinegar, baking soda, whatever I could. Sterilized the darn thing totally, removed the filters, cleaned out the bottom, checked the piping. Sometimes I would simply rewash the dishes using vinegar after the first pre-rinse cycle.


So recently I decided to experiment again. I decided to add a little bit of vinegar to the machine after I unloaded it. It would smell pretty strong for a while but then the smell would dissipate. Voila! For two weeks now my dishes have not smelled whatsoever. I am wondering whether or not the acid is neutralizing something in the bottom of the dishwasher which I normally can't access.

For all its worth. Try adding vinegar at the beginning of the day so that it can sit there until you turn the dishwasher on. I am very curious to see if this works for anyone else.

By annie

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June 27, 20100 found this helpful
Top Comment

This is the absolute answer, you either have no "Air Gap" or vent off the garbage disposal drain outlet or the vent hose is kinked or the garbage disposal drain outlet is practically blocked with organic debris that creates the smell. We have tried all you mentioned and more and finally found the answer. First we added a air gap vent (the vent in top of the sink because I had a soap dispenser there before) which solved the problem completely then after that the problem re-occurred even with the air vent gap, we removed the outlet from the disposal and found onion skins lodged in the garbage disposal outlet.


Removed them and problem solved again. Bottom line, add an air gap and check for debris. Problem solved. We struggled with this for over two years before finally solving the problem. I hope this helped. :) Best Wishes!

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June 23, 20100 found this helpful

After the dishwasher is done, there seems to be a pond water smell on the dishes. I run the dishwasher 1 to 2 to times a day. I do run hot water over the garbage disposal and have put liquid detergent, lemon rinds and ice cubes (separately) while running it before I start the dishwasher. I've also tried a vinegar wash. There isn't any water sitting at the bottom of the washer when it is finished. None of the things I've tried seem to work. Any suggestion on this is appreciated!


Cnil from Northern CA


Dishwasher Odor

Try cleaning the inside on the door seals. I was having an odor problem and found black build up of grunge on the seal. I thought the black was the seal. Since scrubbing, there's no odor. (10/17/2005)

By Cheryl from Missouri

Dishwasher Odor

Think I read that you could run some frozen? lemonade mix through the dishwasher. Have you tried just posting on Google something like "how clean dishwasher smell odor". Just try different words in your search, and I'll bet it will find some answers.

Have you tried baking soda or vinegar?


By Jan

Dishwasher Odor

Dump a cup of baking soda in the bottom and run it through a cycle, if not, I read that a trap inside may need to be cleaned. All the little bits and pieces of foods may need to be cleaned out. Look in the owner's manual or online for dishwasher odor troubleshooting. (10/17/2005)


By Nancy

Dishwasher Odor

I noticed the same thing and with my next load of dishes I poured 2 capfuls of bleach in the bottom of the washer and let it run it's cycle. The smell is gone and my dishes are sterilized. I use a capful with every load now. Hope this helps. (10/18/2005)

By chas

Dishwasher Odor

Thank you all for your great suggestions.

By reta thomas

Dishwasher Odor

Try running a cycle with Tang (yes, the astronaut drink mix). Use the same amount as you would of the powdered detergent. The citric acid in the mix did the trick for me. If it works for you, repeat monthly. (02/15/2006)

By Jean

Dishwasher Odor

I have also been having this problem with my dishwasher. I have also tried about every possible thing. The other day, out of desperation, always willing to try anything to get rid of that awful smell, I set my dishwasher on the air dry mode. Once the washing cycle is all done, I crack open the door a bit and let the dishes dry over night. It has been a couple of loads now and the smell is finally gone. Hope it works for you (09/06/2006)


By Robert

Dishwasher Odor

Pond or wet dog odor, yet don't have a dog. I think it's a well water problem. Seem to be a problem with units on wells. I noticed the odor in toilet too. I'm going to put a pre-filter on the hotwater tank cold side feed and see if this works. I will place notice if works. (11/07/2006)

By Karl from Florida

Dishwasher Odor

I find that if I use the "rinse and hold" cycle I have a sour smell the next morning that almost clings to the dishwasher. It takes several washings to get rid of it. I started using an adjacent cycle called "quick wash and rinse". It does use a little more water but I don't have that nasty smell to contend with! (11/29/2006)

By Grandma Margie

Dishwasher Odor

I've had the pond water problem and have used bleach, maybe half a cup, and it's gone. I wonder if there's somewhere in the dishwasher where water sits and never drains. (04/07/2007)

By Kendra

Dishwasher Odor

I have the same thing. I put a small egg cup of bleach try that. (03/03/2008)

By Richard

Dishwasher Odor

I paid a service man to come out and he said my water coming into the dishwasher wasn't hot enough to cut through the soap film. So he suggested running the water in the tap before starting the dishwasher until you can't put your finger under it. Run your load as normal (if you use a tablet type of detergent, put that directly on the bottom so it will dissolve) and then when you have the door open for unloading and loading keep it cracked to help air circulate. This has helped a lot! Good Luck. (04/28/2008)

By Amy from NC

Dishwasher Odor

I've noticed if I clean anything metal, like pots, pans, lids, cookie sheets, etc. That is when the odor is worst. The odor in cups makes milk taste really bad. I've tried baking soda, bleach, adding a small amount of liquid soap at the start, they work sometimes. Try a couple of loads without metals. I don't use a rinse aid, just one more chemical we don't need. (06/07/2008)

By Mary Lee

Dishwasher Odor

I was beside myself until I came upon this website. I, too, have a new Bosc dishwasher, with a stainless steel inside and well water. But every time I opened the door, the stench was embarrassing. I then tried, as recommended, the 1/2 cup of bleach poured into the bottom of the dishwasher before putting it through a cycle. Voila, the smell is gone! Thanks so much for all the feedbacks. It helped me solve MY problem. (06/08/2008)

By nanacy l

Dishwasher Odor

I had the same problem, dishwasher smells, even after doing a load of dishes, sometimes worse than others. Read the advice here, used what I had on hand which was white vinegar (filled the detergent thing with it and closed it) and sprinkled 1/2 a box or so of baking soda on the bottom of my washer and then used pot and pan cycle, hi temp, with hi temp prewash option and air dry (since the dishwasher was empty) and it is spotless and seems to smell fine! I will be back if this does not keep the problem at bay, I intend to do this weekly or as needed (06/13/2008)

By qwho

Dishwasher Odor

Our problem turned out to be a mouse that had taken up residence in the layer of insulation padding on top of the dishwasher. So much for our three worthless cats. Service guy said this is a very common problem, and source of bad dishwasher odors, since they like the heat and moisture. Unfortunately, no easy solution other than pulling out the whole unit, scrubbing, and replacing the insulation. Be sure to seal all openings around power cord and waterlines and baseboards with screening to prevent recurrence. (08/07/2008)

By Richard

Dishwasher Odor

In our case, the odor ended up being caused by the city water itself: during warm months especially, algae blooms in city reservoirs and/or in mountain reservoirs for a kind of algae called diatoms give the water a pond-like/fishtank-like/musty odor, exacerbated by high-temperature drying. No fix other than to add a whole-house water filter that can remove this odor on the incoming water line to the house.

I'd like to see dishwasher manufacturers add their own water filters to the machines to prevent this increasingly common problem (due to global warming, algae blooms can be expected to worsen in the next few decades). (08/08/2008)

By Fred

Dishwasher Odor

I think Mary Lee is onto something. We replaced our old dishwasher (Plumbing the new one the same way as the old one). We bought the type that is made with stainless steel inside. I thought that SST stainless steel would last a lifetime, other than mechanical components wearing out. Anyway, ever since I installed it, it has had a bad odor after washing and leaving dishes in it for half a day or so.

I think there must be something that adheres to the metal surface that eventually develops the odor. Just wondering if anyone else has the Stainless Still type and have the same problem. (08/24/2008)

By Roger of Tulsa

Dishwasher Odor

I had the same problem. Driving me crazy until today. I found a build up of sludge (food) under the door. On the underside of the door. Check down there before you buy a new dishwasher! (09/16/2008)

By Carol

Dishwasher Odor

I have the same problem. I pour bleach in it and run it with no dishes and wash all around the door and around the inside. It works for about a month then it smells again. I was watching This Old House and about fell out of my chair when they discussed this problem. They said it had to do with the dishwasher hose. If it is not installed properly or it is laying down , the water sits in the hose and it gets moldy. I am going to replace the hose and have it so it is raised up and not laying down. Hope this helps. (11/17/2008)


Dishwasher Odor

Not sure if anyone is as dumb as me, but there was a black plastic spatula that blended right in with the heating element and melted in half. Needless to say, it is the source of the odor! (12/03/2008)

By Tim

Dishwasher Odor

I've got one of these odor problems in a rental property dishwasher (plastic tub). I'll call the tenant and ask them to try the baking soda, vinegar, and/or bleach for a cycle. I'll also suggest scrubbing the seal on the door and running the hot water before starting the machine.

Pete1, don't be afraid of bleach in your dishwasher with stuff you eat and drink from/with. The active ingredient in bleach is typically chlorine. The city puts chlorine in your water supply in minuscule amounts to ensure your water is still clean when it gets to your faucet in your home. Emergency preparedness measures and camping instructions suggest using a small amount (a tablespoon or so per bucket) of bleach to treat questionable water before drinking. Always use plain unscented chlorine bleach for cleaning involving anything meant for human consumption. Check your local Red Cross, FEMA Office, Camping Supply, etc. for the exact dosage for purifying water intended for human consumption. Ingesting too much chlorine can be harmful, like most things. (01/13/2009)

By Fred

Dishwasher Odor

If your dish washer smells like wet dog or pond, your problem is EGGS! Eggs smell funny if you leave remains on dishes in the dishwasher. I hated that smell and finally figured it out! DO NOT leave egg residue on dishes. (01/20/2009)


Dishwasher Odor

Softener Anyone? If so, read on.

Good evening. I am very passionate about cooking, keeping a clean kitchen, and most important brewing good beer. So when I started having water odor issues I was frustrated to no end and in a mood to kick some serious microorganism butt. There is nothing more unappetizing than trying to enjoy a wonderful IPA from an offending pint glass.

Anyway, I found this discussion board while attempting to solve the exact same issue as most of you. Anything that came out of my dishwasher (a brand new Maytag) dishes, bowls, cups and glasses both ceramic and glass smelled swampy or as others describe, like a wet dog.

I know exactly what is going on here and I can guarantee you that no amount of bleach, vinegar or citric acid in the dishwasher is going to solve your problems. For one the dishwasher is most likely not the heart of the problem. In fact most modern dishwasher units are designed to not allow grey water to back-up into the unit during or after a cycle. Also if you are like me and you rinse your dishes prior to loading the unit, your grey water should be fairly sanitary. On the flip side if you leave grease and chunks of food on your dishes when loading you washer then yes you may have to take the thing apart and clean out the filter, drain hoses, etc.

About my demographics - I live in a small city in Northern California and the water is 100% ground source water and it's harder than heck and full of dissolved solids. That being said my first inkling was to get the city involved or at least notify them off our problem, which is exactly what I did. The city was very responsive and offered to come out and take a water sample and chlorine reading if I wasn't able to solve the problem myself.

Ruling out the dishwasher (it's brand new, for heavens' sake) I began to conduct some experiments. The first thing I did was borrow a clean glass from a neighbor and filled it with water from the out side hose bib closest to the city service line. I filled it up and let it sit for a while. I came back and gave it a good sniff. No odor. I even dumped it out, let the glass air dry, filled it again and the same thing (as expected) no odor and no point in getting the city involved any further.

Most houses have a pretty simple plumbing setup. Main line coming in from the city service; a bunch of pipes usually copper or galvanized, providing service to a handful of appliances.

Appliance-wise, for most homes it's usually just a water heater, dishwasher, and washing machine. That is of course unless you're like me and you own a water softener. Do you own one? If so do what I did. Open the lid where the salt is added, take the cap off the brine well and take a big whiff. Any off-odors? I am not talking about a slight salt brine smell or organic ocean like smell. I am talking about the smell of decaying organic matter, a bacteria-like odor similar to a dead animal either heavy or ever so slight. Any off-odors from the softener point to a bacteria infection within the unit and most likely the softener's resin tank.

Welcome to the heart of the issue. If you read your water softener appliance guide there is usually a blurb on how to sanitize the unit. In fact right out of the box, most manufacturers recommend that the unit be sanitized. Depending on where your softener I located you may need to sanitize it regularly. I also recommend that you use a high quality softener salt. I recommend Morton's. With regards to the salt, keep in mind that a 60 pound bag of salt pellets will run you about five dollars and a one pound box of Morton's Kosher Salt flakes will run you about the same. In other words softener salt is not very well refined, probably contains impurities and is definitely not a par with quality culinary salt.

Sanitizing a softener - I own a Kenmore Ultrasoft 100 unit and sanitizing it was a simple affair - 3 gallons of clean water with 1.5 ounces of chlorine beach into the brine well, then press down the on/off/hold button to start a cycle. Most softeners take about 2-3 hours to complete their cycle. When finished give the softener another sniff test and repeat if necessary. I sanitized mine twice for good measure. Unfortunately there's more work to be done after the softener is done cycling. You see the softener also services all the other appliances down your home's appliance chain (i.e. the water heater, dishwasher, and washing machine. All of these units need to be sanitized as well, especially the water heater.

If you sanitize your water heater, you can also sanitize your dishwasher (empty), washing machine (empty or do a load of whites) by simply running a cycle. Sanitize your water heater by turning the pilot off as well as the cold water inlet valve. Drain a large portion of the tank and then close the drain valve. You may want to purchase a hose cap prior to this just in case your drain bib won't seal. Next open the cold water service line fixture on the top with a wrench and pour a gallon of bleach into the tank. Reconnect the cold line to the water heater, turn on cold inlet valve, check for leaks, and turn the pilot back on. Let the tank fill and wait a couple hours. Once this is complete I recommend running hot water fixtures in the house to get the bleach-water flowing through the house.

I also recommend running the dishwasher and washing machine. Once this is complete you can either drain your water heater again or just let the chlorinated water work it's way out. I chose the latter and it took a few days for the chlorine odor to dissipate. These two steps made a huge difference and everything coming out of the dishwasher is odor free. You'll probably need to rewash some tainted dishes and wash clothes that are probably tainted. Good luck.


By chris eynon

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