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Dishwasher Smell Like Garbage: Reasons & How to Fix?

People complain about how their dishwasher smells like a garbage. While some are more specific than others, many label the smell as that of rotten eggs, rotten vegetables and some as the smell of kitchen trash.

If you are cowering at the very sound and thought of a garbage like smelling dishwasher, you would want to know what causes the smell in the first place. Knowing the reason could help you prevent it and take care of it as soon as possible.

Dishwasher smell like garbage

A dishwasher can smell like garbage due to food debris stuck in the appliance parts for a long time or a filter that has not been cleaned for a while. Also clogged hoses, leakage and dirty gasket can also cause similar smells but cleaning, scrubbing and adding vinegar can get rid of the smell.

You wouldn’t want your dishes to smell like garbage. Here are a few possible reasons why your dishwasher might be smelling so bad and how you can solve it:

Rotten food:

One of the most recurrent of reasons why dishwashers smell like rotten food is simply because it might actually have food stuck inside.

If you haven’t scraped out all the food out of the plate before putting it on the dishwasher, the food might get stuck in the utensil basket.

It could also be sitting in the spray nozzle. Buildup pf this food gunk can really make your dishwasher stinky.


Remember the age-old trick or pre rinsing your dishwasher? While pre rinsing every time can be a hurdle, it wouldn’t take much to check if there are food stuck inside.

If there is, you may want to rinse your dishwasher. A thorough clean once in a while, scrubbing off all the gunky food can help avoid stinky scenarios. Be sure to clean the plate off all food bits before tossing them into the dishwasher.

Dirty filters:

Dirty filters are also one of the primary culprits that make your dishwasher smell like garbage and understandably so if you haven’t cleaned your drain filter in a while.

This is particularly true for the newer models of dishwashers which have a removable filter to catch any bigger food particles. The removable filter also makes it easy to clean the appliance.

Unless you completely forgot about the drain filter, this should not be a bother. Yet clogged drain filters are the most communal reason why dishwashers smell like waste.


Most solutions to a garbage smelling dishwasher lies in the cleaning of the appliance and this is no different. For filter removal, you may have to refer to your manual first if you haven’t done it before.

The filter which is placed below the bottom rack of the appliance can be accessed if you remove the rack. The filter is screwed in so you would need to remove the screws first.

Now take off all the food debris and clean the filter thoroughly. Scrubbing is not important but can be done to take away the smell. At the end of it, use hot water to rinse it all off.

Dirty hose:

So, you clean your dishwasher filter regularly, scrub off any food debris and make sure your filter is seamless to drain out water easily.

With all of that ticked off, if your dishwasher is still smelling like garbage, you would need to take a look at the hose. Under your sink there is a drain hose, that may become clogged when it has been in use for a long time.

This hose drains out the dirty water from the dishwasher into the outside drain. Its not always clogging that causes an issue.

Sometimes if this hose become kinked or knotted at some point, the water drainage is hindered, causing more issues like a waste smell coming off the dishwasher.


If you doubt that it might be the hose that is acting up cause such an odor, you may want to check for knots. Straighten the knot straight if there is one.

Nevertheless, if you feel that there is a clog in the drain hose, it is best to call in a professional for the work. Prevention is also a cure and using hot water to run a rinse cycle can also help to avoid clogged drain hose.

Dirty rubber seal:

A much neglected part of the dishwasher, which may cause your dishwasher to give off an unpleasant smell, similar to that of litter, may come from the rubber seal.

If you have checked, cleaned and rinsed everything inside the dishwasher, and if you instinctively cannot figure out whether the smell is coming from inside or outside, it may be that rubber seal.

The seal or the door gasket may pick up food particles and create a buildup that causes the very smell.


The easy solution to this is using water to wipe down the seal. You can use hot water for a better clean as well.

Dirty water:

If none of the reasons are why your dishwasher is smelling like garbage, the problem is a little on the deeper end and might need your extra attention.

If there is a leak in your dishwasher, the leaking water will seep into the appliance for a while before you have noticed it. It would be the smell and a damp bottom cabinet that could indicate such a problem.


Leaks a no easy fix and you would need to call in profession to have the leak fixed. Leaks are caused by either clogs or mold in the dishwasher.

Can I put vinegar in my dishwasher to eliminate garbage smell?

The age-old remedy to cleaning anything in the house probably goes back to vinegar.

Not only is vinegar inexpensive and readily available, vinegar effectively cleans off any surface. Thanks to its ability to be an odor neutralizer, vinegar is often put in washing machines, dishwasher, carpers and other surfaces to get rid of any smell.

Vinegar not only gets rid of the smell, but also loosens any hard stains, softens old gunk and even food debris.

You can put vinegar in the dishwasher to abolish the smell of garbage coming from the appliance, but it is important to know how to use the vinegar.

The acidity of the vinegar is what helps with combating the smell and it also helps that the vinegar itself is colorless. With a pH of around 2, the acidity of the vinegar can also damage the dishwasher and certain parts of it if not used correctly.

Remember to always steer clear of rubber parts like the door gasket that prevents the leak. Never touch vinegar to the rubber seal, since it could possibly cause the rubber to wear out and crack.

To use vinegar, you can simply run a maintenance cycle where you add vinegar and run a round.

Using distilled white vinegar is the best options since it does stain dishwasher walls neither does it leave a smell of its own. Without the addition of any detergent, put a cup or two of vinegar in a bowl and place it on the bottom shelf of the appliance.

At the bottom, run a cycle with normal water. If you put the bowl on the top rack, run a cycle of hot water.

How to keep the dishwasher from smelling between washes?

If you want to keep the dishwasher from smelling between dishes, here are a few steps that you’d need to follow:

  • Check if there is any food debris. This step alone can save you from getting a smelly dishwasher.
  • Make sure there is nothing on the drain filter. Clean and rinse the drain filter thoroughly using soapy hot water. Dish soaps are best choice for this step.
  • Check and clean the nozzles and spray arm. While you are at it, you may want to take a look at the hose drain to make sure it’s not causing the smells.
  • Use a soap-soaked cloth to clean the walls and insides of the appliance. If there are food particles hardened on parts like the door or gasket, you would have to remove them
  • Use vinegar in a bowl to keep it in the top or bottom rack and run an normal cycle for a good rinse. If you wish to add an essential oil smell, you can use a cloth to wipe parts of the dishwasher with it.
  • Allow the dishwasher to dry before the next wash.

Final Thoughts

The common reasons why a dishwasher might smell like garbage is clogged filters and uncleaned food debris which can both be fixed with proper and thorough cleaning. Adding vinegar helps get rid of such odors. If there is a clogged hose or leakage causing the smell, you may want to call an expert.