How to Deodorize a Dishwasher – Step By Step Methods

How to Deodorize a Dishwasher – Step By Step Methods

Let us be frank. Have you cleaned your dishwasher recently? I mean like giving your machine a deep clean. If we are to guess that is a long time ago. It is important that you know how to deodorize a dishwasher.

How To Deodorize A Dishwasher
Photo Credits: Edward Nelson,

Dishwashers do a lot of work cleaning dirty dishes and in the process, small particles of food debris, soap suds, and grease get stuck in its different parts. 

After a long time of accumulation, your dishwasher starts to smell so bad and looks dirty. This reduces its lifespan and affects the machine’s overall efficiency.

Running empty wash cycles only is just not enough to clean the crates, cartridges, filters, drains, and all other parts of a dishwasher. While the dishwasher’s main job is to clean things, it also needs to be thoroughly cleaned occasionally.

Maybe your dishwasher has been smelling awful, it is time for you to give it a deep clean. You probably have been buying chemicals from grocery stores, they are quite expensive. 

The good news is that you do not have to worry about deodorizing your dishwasher. You can clean it by following very simple steps or methods and using natural cleaning items that are relatively cheap. 

If you prefer learning by video, this article is also explained here.

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Parts of a Dishwasher

There are different mechanical and electrical parts of a dishwasher that work together to perform its unique job of cleaning things. Their individual function when compromised can cause the appliance to malfunction. 

This can make it smell bad. These parts include:

Control Panel

It is also called the control console. Control panels are embedded on top of a dishwasher door.  Where it houses different settings functions, buttons or displays for regulating the dishwasher. 

It is connected to an electronic control board via a ribbon wire cable that transmits information from the display functions and control buttons. 

Pump Motor

Otherwise known as the circulation pump motor, it pumps water to the spray arms by rotating the circulation rotor or blade during the washing stage of a washing cycle.

Door Gasket

It is a rubber that is also known as the door seal. Like its name, it seals the edge of a dishwasher door on the outside and the gap between the dishwasher basin opening. 

The door gasket has a magnetic strip inside that helps it grips the dishwasher door frame. This prevents water from leaking out of the machine during dishwashing cycles. 

Drain Filter

This is found in the drain and it prevents food debris or particles from blocking the drain.

Height Adjuster

It is a mounting plate that consists of track wheels for top rack height adjuster. Each side of the top rack is propped up with one plate. 

These plates hold the top rack and make it possible to adjust the height of the rack either up or down as the user desires.

Check Valve

This contains a flexible piece of rubber or plastic that bends to only one direction sealing an opening in the outlet water hose. It forms part of the outlet water path in the drainage system that allows used water to drain from the dishwasher. 

This prevents water from flowing back to the dishwasher basin.

Spray Arms

These are hollow tubes that spin continuously spraying water on dirty dishes in order to get them cleaned. It propels water from the dishwasher tub round the dishwasher.

Detergent Dispenser

It is embedded in the inner door panel. The detergent dispenser contains the dishwasher detergent in an enclosed compartment. The outer lid of this dispenser has a clamp or hook that is regulated by a timer. 

The dishwasher detergent is distributed around the machine when the clamp opens the outer lid of the dispenser at the right time during a washing cycle. 

The dispenser components also have a rinse aid that comes to play during the last stage of the washing cycle.

Drain Hose

This carry used water after a washing cycle from the drain pump to the sink through the drainage system.


It is embedded in the dishwasher’s control panel. It regulates all the electro-mechanical parts of the machine. They include the heating element, drain pump, water inlet valve, and wash pump. 

The timer either turn them on or off depending on the instruction. It also aids the control buttons during a washing cycle.

Vent and Fan Unit

The vent is found below the dishwasher. It opens during a drying cycle to allow the fan to send moist or hot air from the dishwasher. 

When it is faulty, dishes will not dry properly because of the moist air that remains within the machine’s tub. Also, when the fan fails during a washing cycle the machine stops working. 

Drain Pump

This removes used water from the dishwasher tub during draining and rinsing stage of the washing cycle.

Drainage System

It consists of the drain hose, the drain pump, and the sink drain. They carry used water from dishwashers out of the house. 

A blockage of this system hinders proper drainage of water away from the machine during a washing cycle. This leads to flooding within the dishwasher.

Electronic Control Board

This is the control room of the dishwasher. It begins and stops the overall functions of the machine. These functions are the filling of water, washing cycles, draining and drying. 

It collects information from the control console or panel when the user selects the control buttons. It also displays data on the control panel such as the status of the cycle, time and so on.

The Sump and Motor System

It is found below the dishwasher basin below the machine. It moves water away from the sump collection area through the spraying arms. 

The sump consists of the water filters, chopper blade system, pump housing, water collection chambers, drain pump and sensors.

The motor system consists of the circulation pump, pump motor, the sump and impeller or rotor.

Heating Elements

It is located below the dishwasher basin. It increases the temperature of the water during the washing and rinsing stage of the dishwashing cycle. 

This enhances the cleaning and general sterilization or filtration process of the dishes and the machine. It is regulated by the timer.

Pump Motor

This is an electric motor attached to the impeller or rotor inside the dishwasher sump. It spins the rotor at a high speed to force water through the spraying arms under great pressure.

Water Inlet Valve

The water inlet valve is a solenoid valve that has coils that open when the inlet valve is triggered by the timer. It is operated electrically to control the flow of water into the dishwasher during the filling stage. 

This valve does not open when there is no voltage. Consequently, water will not flow into the dishwasher basin from the water supply.

Water Inlet System

This is an anti-siphon system that is attached to the left wall on the outside of the dishwasher basin. It acts as an airgap and delivery system for the inflow of water. 

Water flows into the dishwasher via a water hose connected to an inlet situated on the side of the dishwasher basin. When water flows through this system, it fills the dishwasher basin prior to the washing cycle.

Power Control Board

Power control boards are attached to the voltage (120V AC power) entering the appliance. It uses a built-in transformer that changes the AC power of 120V to a low DC voltage.

This low DC voltage is used with the dishwasher sensors showing on the control board.

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Cleaning the Parts of The Dishwasher

The first step to deodorizing your dishwasher is cleaning the different parts of your dishwasher regularly (weekly, monthly or quarterly) depending on the frequency of use. 

These cleaning processes not only remove the existing smell from your appliance, but it also prevents future reoccurrence and maintains the parts for optimal function.

Cleaning Supplies That You Need


Mild liquid soap.

Warm water.

A cup of baking soda.

A cup or small bowl with white vinegar.

Bottlebrush.Cotton swab.

A soft cloth or paper towels.

Lemon peels (optional).

Essential oils like orange, peppermint, and lavender oils.

Mild bleach.

The Drain Filter

Video: How To Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

This video explains everything you need to know about cleaning your dishwasher filter.

A lot of dishwasher models have a filter that prevents debris and food remains or particles from blocking the drain. After some time, this food remains, or debris accumulates in the filter and starts to decay. 

As a result, it oozes out an awful smell and is the major cause of foul odors inside the dishwasher.

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  1. Remove the lower rack of the appliance so that you can see the filter in the drain.
  2. Detach the filter from the machine.
  3. Wash the drain filter in the sink inside the kitchen with sponge, soap and lukewarm water.
  4. When necessary, clean the hard to reach areas of the filter using a bottle brush.
  5. Check the drain for any food remains and dirt. If there is, remove them and clean the drain with sponge, soap and hot water.
  6. Replace the filter to the drain.


You should be cleaning the filter regularly at least on a monthly basis. When you do, it is enough to keep it clean and smelling fresh. This helps it to work better. 

However, if the filter is always smelling and blocked before your monthly cleaning, you may have to change it.

Spray Arms

When it is blocked with food particles or gunk, it reduces the machine’s efficiency. which results in poorly washed dishware or kitchenware. 

This also causes the dishwasher to smell. When you clean it occasionally, it increases the quantity of water that it pumps out over dirty dishes increasing its cleansing action.  


  1. Remove the top and bottom spray arms.
  2. Hold them individually over your kitchen sink.
  3. Use a cotton swab to remove all food debris.
  4. Rinse the spray arms after removing food debris stuck inside with water.
  5. Make sure the holes are completely clean and clear.
  6. Return them to the dishwasher.

The Silverware Basket

This gets easily grimed; a weekly cleaning routine will do. 


  1. Remove the silverware basket from the appliance.
  2. Remove any stuck-on food debris or dirt to prevent mold infestation.
  3. Wash it using soap, warm water, and a bottle brush.

The Door Gasket

Food remains that are washed off your dishes can sometimes get stuck onto the sides of the door gasket during a washing cycle. This leaves gunk on it giving it a grimy look and can be infested by mold or mildew.

Clean the door gasket or seal with lukewarm water, soap, and a soft cloth occasionally. This gives it a sparkling look and fresh smell.

The Door Latch

A few years after consistent use, the door latch can get rusty a little. To get rid of this, do the following:


  1. Clean it using steel wool and a stainless-steel cleaning agent. 
  2. Rinse the door latch and dry with a soft or cotton cloth.
  3. Coat the door latch with clear nail polish. This serves as a waterproof to prevent future rust.

Clean Other Internal Compartments

With constant use, dirt is accumulated inside the dishwasher including the walls and compartments. A simple cleaning process can help get rid of dirt and all lingering odors inside the appliance.


  1. Remove the top and bottom racks and wash them in your kitchen sink with warm water and soap. Rinse when you are done.
  2. Clean the inner areas of the dishwasher with a sponge, warm water and soap.
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How to Remove Smell from A Dishwasher – Step by Step Methods

The best deodorizers are the baking soda and white vinegar. White vinegar is a natural deodorant and it is very safe for cleaning your dishwasher.

It removes stubborn stains and dirt from your machine leaving a sparklingly clean look.

Baking soda is also a good deodorizer. It gets rid of the smell from dishwashers. They are a relatively cheaper and better option than any other chemical cleaning agent.

But you can not use them at the same time, your choice is fuelled by your preference.


Empty your dishwasher of all dishware.

Fill a cup or small bowl with white vinegar and put it on the upper rack of the dishwasher.

Run the hottest washing cycle. This will break down the left-over food debris or particles, soap suds, and gunk from the walls and entire interiors of the dishwasher. Leaving it sparkling clean.

Remove the cup or bowl from the appliance at the end of the cycle.

Dredge the floor of the dishwasher with a cup of baking soda.

Run another cycle at the hottest temperature. This is to ensure that all the baking soda dissolves completely.

At the end of this cycle, clean the dishwasher interiors with paper towels. 

This should leave your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Deodorizing with Lemon Peels

Just like using vinegar and baking soda, you can also deodorize a dishwasher following the same steps or method above.


  1. Fill a cup or small bowl with lemon peels.
  2. Run a short normal wash cycle.
  3. At the end of the cycle, check the filter under the lower rack underneath the dishwasher for lemon peels. They could fall from the lower rack during the washing cycle.


You can also add some freshness and aroma to your dishwasher and kitchen by adding a few drops of essential oils to the vinegar. For example, you can use orange, peppermint, or lavender oils for extra effect.

Apart from deodorizing your dishwasher, they also contain some anti-bacterial properties.

The Drain Hose Needs Some Cleaning Too

If after following these steps above your dishwasher still smell bad, then something is probably wrong with the drain hose. In this case, you might notice stagnant water below your appliance at the end of each cycle.

Remember that the drainage system in your home is attached to the same main drain hose as the appliance. If this is the primary cause of the smell oozing out from the dishwasher, you will have to check by following these steps.


  1. Pull your dishwasher from under the counter if it is a countertop model. If it is not, check the back of the dishwasher where you can see the drain hose clearly.
  2. Ensure that the hose is not restricted or bent. This can restrict the flow of water from the appliance which can lead to water flooding inside it.
  3. Remove the drain hose and wipe it thoroughly with a firm wire and thin wet cloth. This may take a long time and may require you to repeat this process and using lots of wet cloths to get rid of all the dirt inside the hose.
  4. After cleaning the drain hose with the wire and cloth, use mild bleach to dissolve any left-over food inside the hose and run cold water through it.
  5. Additionally, you can cut the lemon into tiny bits and run a cycle. This will help to sterilize or deodorize any lingering smell.
  6. If you notice that used water from your kitchen flows into your appliance, you can raise the drain hose loop higher than it is. This will prevent water from the kitchen sink flowing into your dishwasher.

Additional Notes

If you constantly have to purify your appliance, you might have to invest in an advanced model. There are newer invented dishwashers that have self-cleaning filter features. 

Previously, they used to be in the form of a loud grinder that grinds food particles or debris to fine particles that cannot clog the dishwasher drain. 

Recently, they have been updated to a fine mesh kept on top of the drain that does not allow the passage of food debris. Water pushes the food particles under pressure via the mesh and dissolves it into small particles that easily flow out to the drainage system.

This prevents the accumulation of these food particles in the drainage system over time that can block the drain and cause the appliance to smell. The advantage of these models is that it won’t cause any additional noise in your home.

Extra Precaution

  1. During the deodorizing processes, do not add any dishwasher detergent except the cleaning agents mentioned in this article.
  2. You should never mix vinegar and bleach to clean your dishwasher. A combination of these two can cause a formation of toxic fumes. This could chemically react with any left-over dishwasher detergent from the previous wash cycle. 
  3. Some people recommend using one cup of strong bleach. For example, using chlorine to clean the appliance. This is a wrong practice. While it might help to keep the interiors of the appliance sparkling white, it might affect stainless steel parts of the machine reducing its lifespan in the process.


Dishwashers are one of the kitchen appliances that work so hard. From washing the dirtiest cleaning items, it also gets grimed in the process. If this is accumulated over time, they make it ooze out a foul smell. 

It can also make its numerous parts to malfunction reducing the efficiency and lifespan of the appliance.  Since this is not what you want, there is a need to regularly clean the machine. 

By following these simple steps and methods mentioned in this article, you can deodorize your dishwasher.

We hope that you found this article helpful. If you did, we would love to hear from you. Drop your comments, questions or suggestions in the comment section below.

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