Why Does My Dishwasher Smell?

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell?

Dishwashers are one of the hardest working appliances in your kitchen, but sometimes, dishwashers not properly cared for could accumulate residue that over time becomes bacteria as it rots and smells. This can be a very unpleasant surprise, especially when you’re expecting the fresh scent of clean dishes.

Discover some of the most common reasons why your dishwasher might smell like fish, how to fix it and how to eliminate unwanted odors from happening again in the future.

4 reasons a dishwasher might smell like fish

If you’ve noticed a strange, fishy smell coming from your dishwasher, you’re not alone. This issue might be more common than you think and there are a few reasons you might be noticing this unpleasant smell.

Determining what is causing your dishwasher to smell is the first step in eliminating the odor once and for all. Here are four common reasons your dishwasher might smell and ways to solve the problem.

A person examines a dishwasher drain hose to see if it is damaged or clogged.

1. Dishwasher needs to be cleaned

Dishwashers not properly cared for could accumulate residue that over time becomes bacteria as it rots and smells.

2. Damaged or clogged dishwasher drain hose

A clogged or damaged dishwasher drain is another common issue that can cause your dishwasher to smell. This is caused by food particles and bacteria that become trapped in the drain when dirty water cannot properly drain, leading to an unpleasant, fishy odor. If you notice gurgling sounds coming from your appliance, your dishwasher draining slowly, your dishes coming out unclean after a cycle or leftover water inside your dishwasher, then you might have an issue with your dishwasher drain hose.

3. Mold or mildew buildup in dishwasher

Dishwashers not properly cared for could accumulate residue that over time becomes bacteria such as mold or mildew as it rots and smells. To avoid further buildup inside the machine, make sure to wipe all four inside sides of the dishwasher door for soils and residues that may have accumulated.

4. Food particles trapped in soap scum build up

Food particles can sometimes become trapped in soap scum and build up inside of a dishwasher when the filter is dirty or when too much dish detergent is used. This particle buildup overtime can result in a strong, fishy scent when the dishwasher is in use.

A person examines a dishwasher filter to see if it has food particle buildup.

How do you clean a dishwasher that smells bad?

There are a few things you can try to clean a dishwasher that smells bad. You can clean your appliance thoroughly, check it for damage, and use a powerful dishwasher cleaner to eliminate unwanted odors.

A woman wipes down and cleans the inside of a dishwasher.
A person starts a dishwasher wash cycle with affresh® dishwasher cleaner.

Step 1: Run a cycle with dishwasher cleaner

To eliminate unwanted smelly fish odors from your dishwasher, make sure to clean your dishwasher regularly. Run a cycle with a dishwasher cleaner or try a combination of white vinegar and baking soda to fight unpleasant smells.

Step 2: Thoroughly clean the dishwasher

If a dishwasher cleaning cycle does not eliminate the fishy smell, then a thorough cleaning is necessary. Make sure to also remove any food debris from the filters, spray arms and dishwasher drain to prevent future food particles from building up inside the appliance. It’s also a good idea to inspect and regularly clean your garbage disposal, if you have one, to avoid unwanted odors.

Step 3: Ensure dishwasher drain is clear and not damaged

Lastly, a damaged dishwasher drain hose that is leaking can also cause a foul fishy odor. Make sure to check your dishwasher’s drain hose for any damage to avoid water buildup and unwanted odors coming from the appliance. Smooth out any kinks in the dishwasher hose so water can freely flow. If you find that the hose is damaged and is restricting water flow, then you’ll need to replace it.

Step 4: Run a final wash cycle with dishwasher cleaner

Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned your dishwasher and assessed it for any damage, you should then run a final wash cycle with affresh® dishwasher cleaner. Affresh® dishwasher cleaner helps to deep clean your machine’s tub, racks, pump and valve, drain and recirculation hoses to help optimize your appliance’s performance and keep odor-causing residues at bay.

Explore affresh® dishwasher cleaner

While there are many reasons your dishwasher might produce an unwanted odor, regular cleaning can help you remove odor-causing residues and keep your appliance running efficiently. Using affresh® dishwasher cleaner can also help ensure your dishwasher is free from limescale, mineral buildup and odors.