How to Clean and Deodorize the Dishwasher

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When it comes down to cleaning, dishwashers are quite the least considered appliance in most kitchens. While we tend to run self-cleaning cycles for our ovens and get rid of fridge spills quickly, we often leave the dishwasher for later, because it doesn’t really appear dirty since the tub is visually clean after every cycle.

And that’s why, a common problem most homeowners experience is a smelly dishwasher.

However, getting rid of that odor and having a shining clean dishwasher is just a matter of a few steps that doesn’t even call for any complicated tools. If how to properly clean and deodorize the dishwasher is your question, below is a detailed walkthrough to get you started.


These are the supplies needed to become succesful with the cleaning.

  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpicks
  • Toothbrush
  • Plumber’s snake
  • Bleach
  • Lemon
  • Baking soda
  • Essential oil (optional)

Cleaning the door gasket

The black rubber seal around the opening of the dishwasher is termed as the door gasket.

The magnetic strip of the gasket helps prevent water leakage from the dishwasher by clinging to the door frame.

To make sure you remove all the food particles that get washed off and stuck on the sides of the gasket during the dishwasher cleaning cycle, wipe down with warm water regularly.

Cleaning the spray arm

The clogs in the holes of the spray arm not only lead to unpleasant smells, but also hamper the functioning of the dishwasher.

Clean the holes by simply removing the arms, holding them over the sink, and getting rid of food particles using a pin or toothpick.

Hold them under running water to clear the holes, further reinstalling the arms in the appliance.

Cleaning the filter

There are times when a clogged filter can make it impossible for the dishwasher to drain completely.

If you are experiencing troubles with the draining, check for any clogs in the filter. Take out the filter using a plumber’s snake and use an old toothbrush to scrub the same.

Keep the appliance smelling great and running smoothly by inspecting the drain and cleaning the filter weekly.

Cleaning out the garbage disposal

If the bad smells are caused by the garbage disposal, you’ll be able to determine the same on disconnecting the central hose from the disposal.

Clean out the disposals by removing the hose and cleaning it out using a damp cloth and a stiff wire and a thin, damp cloth.

Once you have cleaned the hose, use some cold water and a mild bleach to break up the leftover food bits.

It’s also great to run small pieces of lemon through the disposal to remove unpleasant odor.

Cleaning the insides

Regular use leads to the accumulation of soap scum and grime on the door and the walls of the dishwasher.

Clean them using a scrub brush and hot soapy water to make a huge difference. Take out the dish racks and wipe them down thoroughly.

If the finish on the racks has worn down to the metal, restore it using a dishwasher rack repair coating to prevent rusting.

Deodorizing the dishwasher

The whole and sole reason of bad smells oozing from your dishwasher is food buildup inside the various parts of the appliance.

Over time, tiny bits or particles of food accumulate in the crevices and the filter of the machine, thereby ending up in a buildup.

This food buildup in turn, creates an unpleasant odor, which can get transmitted to clean dishes during the drying process.

While some dishwashers come with stainless steel innards that are a better option, most of them feature plastic innards.

The fact that plastic has a porous surface and absorbs mildew and dirt leads to a persistent smell unless you clean out the dishwasher regularly. Vinegar and baking soda work wonders to deodorize your dishwasher.

Vinegar deodorizing treatment

According to Good House Keeping, white vinegar helps remove all the grime and tiny food particles from the dishwasher, while restoring a fresh smell.

Fill a glass bowl or cup with distilled white vinegar, carefully placing it on the top rack of your dishwasher.

Place it between the prongs that separate glasses from one another. (The fact that clears away all old detergent build-up, cuts grease as well as neutralizes food smells makes vinegar the perfect dishwasher cleaning agent.)

Go for the hottest setting on the dishwasher and run it through a single cycle, followed by leave the door open for an hour to let the air out.

Overnight baking soda treatment

For an even stronger deodorizing, pour some baking soda inside your dishwasher, further leaving it overnight.

All you need to do in the morning is run an empty cycle of the appliance, only to be amazed by the fresh fragrance it oozes.

Adding a good scent

While white vinegar works up a great cleanse, everyone isn’t fond of its scent. To mask the vinegar smell with a good scent, you can always add a little essential oil in your choice of scent to the vinegar.

You can go for orange, lemon, lavender, or peppermint oils for a lovely aroma, while also allowing them to exhibit some antibacterial properties.

Cleaning the exterior

It’s time to clean the exterior of the dishwasher and you can use hot soapy water to pull off the job.

If you own a stainless-steel dishwasher, remove the residue, dirt and fingerprints from the appliance using a glass cleaner.

Make sure you don’t pour or spray cleaning liquids on the surface directly. Instead, apply the cleaner or detergent water to a paper towel, sponge, or washcloth to wipe down the surface.

Preventing the unpleasant odors

To make sure any unpleasant smells don’t keep reoccurring, perform a weekly cleaning of the insides of the appliance as well as the filter.

Rinse the dishes and remove large food bits before placing them in the machine to avoid drainage clogs.

The water softener present in every dishwasher balances the concentration of magnesium and calcium in the water to prevent calcium deposits from clogging your machine and yielding odors. Thus, make sure you have a rightly functioning water softener installed in your appliance.

There’s no doubt that a smelly dishwasher doesn’t only feel unpleasant to use, but also get less functional when it comes to cleaning the dishes.

With all that food residue that the dishwashers handle, it’s very common to get the insides gross and smelly if not cleaned on a regular basis.

Make sure you perform a thorough cleaning of the dishwasher every 2 weeks, keeping it all fresh and fragrant.