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How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

January 19, 2018

Ever notice an unpleasant odor emanating from your dishwasher in the kitchen? Over time, food particles and grime can build up in your dishwasher, resulting in less-than-sparkling dishes and musty odors. Follow these quick and easy steps from the expert plumbers at Roto-Rooter to clean your dishwasher and eliminate pesky odors.

Don’t worry! You can solve your smelly dishwasher problems with simple products you probably already have in your home. Don’t use bleach! Bleach is highly corrosive, can damage the metal parts in your dishwasher, and probably won’t solve the problem anyway.

The Sponge Bath
When’s the last time you washed your dishwasher? Seems counterintuitive, right? Believe it or not, food particles and grime mixed with a hot, humid environment is the perfect situation for odor-causing bacteria to grow.

Begin the cleaning process by removing the top and bottom dish racks. Use a damp cloth or paper towel to wipe out any loose food particles. Dishwashers also have a screen or strainer in the bottom to catch food particles. Clean and rinse the strainer thoroughly, removing any traces of food.

Using a small wire, such as a bent paperclip, check each nozzle on the dishwasher sprayers on both the top and bottom for crumbs or small particles. Use the end of the wire to clear any blockages from each nozzle. This is especially important if you have mineral buildup from hard water.

Lastly, give the dishwasher surfaces a good wipe down. Use a sponge or cloth soaked in hot soapy water to wipe down the walls and top of the dishwasher. If your dishwasher racks feel grimy, wipe those down too. Don’t forget the dishwasher door! This is especially important if you have mineral buildup from hard water.

The Steam Bath
After giving your dishwasher surfaces a thorough cleanse, you can sanitize and eliminate even more odors with everyone’s favorite household cleaner--white vinegar. (Some companies do sell dishwasher cleaner and disinfectant. These products can be effective, especially if you have hard water. Be sure to follow the recommendations of your dishwasher manufacturer!) Replace the top and bottom racks in your dishwasher. Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with 1 cup (8 ounces) of white vinegar and place it snugly in the top rack, using the prongs to keep the bowl upright and prevent spilling. Do not add detergent!

Run the dishwasher for a full cycle on the hottest setting possible. The vinegar will be sprayed all over the inside of the dishwasher, allowing the gentle acids in the vinegar to help break down any remaining grime and neutralize odors.

After the cycle completes, leave the dishwasher door open. This will allow the interior to fully dry. By now, you should have a clean, fresh-smelling dishwasher ready for use. Repeat this process every few months, or as needed to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean.

Bonus tip: Not crazy about the smell of vinegar? Add a few drops of pure, high quality essential oil to your bowl of vinegar before beginning your dishwasher cleaning cycle. The essential oil will override the pungent smell of vinegar, plus it will add a pleasant aroma to the kitchen. Try citrus scents like orange or lemon for a crisp clean smell, or go for a more luxurious aroma like lavender or peppermint.

If you’ve completed this cleaning process but you are still having issues with odors, there may be a more serious problem with your dishwasher, such as a clog further down the drain line preventing proper drainage. Roto-Rooter plumbers can install any brand of dishwasher, and they can also help repair or replace damaged or leaking water supply and drain lines. If you're dealing with dishwasher or any other kitchen plumbing woes, schedule a service here and we'll help you get your kitchen back to normal in no time!

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