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Dishwasher Smell Like Mold or Mildew: Reasons & How to Fix?

Is your dishwasher smelling like mold or mildew? Are you wondering what are the possible reasons for making your dishwasher smell like mold? Are you looking for ways to make sure that the mold or mildew smell is eliminated from your dishwasher?

Dishwasher smell like mold or mildew

There are several reasons why dishwashers can smell like mold or mildew. Therefore, the leftover food particles, dark environment, hot or humid temperature, moisture, leakage, blocked drain, and so on create the perfect environment for mold or mildew growth.

Being knowledgeable about the reasons and the solutions for mold and mildew issues in your dishwasher will help you to surpass any unwanted accidents and to mold your decisions accordingly.


Moldy filters:

One of the first reasons why there will be a mold smell coming out of the dishwasher is related to the filters of the dishwasher.

In addition, the drain filter in your dishwasher usually catches all the food particles that are cleaned off of the dishes.

All these food particles get trapped in the drain filters and sometimes without proper cleaning, the filters can get clogged with food.

All these can then lead to a rotting problem where a very moldy smell will come out of the food particles.


If your dishwasher is smelling like mold due to the excess food particles that are being trapped on the drain filters, then you need to make sure to remove the dishwasher filter’s rack from the bottom of the dishwasher.

This will help you to get the filter out of the dishwasher to get rid of all the food particles. Afterward, you need to clean the drain filter with hot water and a liquid cleaning solution to get rid of the smell of mold.

Stuck-on food:

Another reason why your dishwasher may smell like mold is due to the food particles that are stuck on the sides of your dishwasher.

This environment inside the dishwasher is prone to bacterial growth which is why a moldy smell will come out of your dishwasher.


To make sure that all these stuck-on food particles are eradicated fully, you need to make sure to rinse your dishes before putting them inside the dishwasher.

If rinsing off your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher becomes much of a hassle, then you can just scrape off the food residue from all your plates and dishes so that it’s not too much of a stress on your dishwasher.

This will also ensure that fewer food particles are stuck on the sides of your dishwasher. Moreover, you can also run a cleaning cycle in your dishwasher to make sure that all of the food particles are eradicated properly.


One of the most common reasons why there is a mold smell in your dishwasher is due to the closed environment of the dishwasher.

In addition, when you keep your dishwasher’s door closed or keep the dishwasher unused for a long time, it creates the perfect environment for microbes like mold to grow.


One of the first things that you can do to make sure that there isn’t any mold growth in your dishwasher due to the closed environment is related to leaving the dishwasher ajar so that air and light can be circulated properly.

In addition, this will also help to dry out your dishwasher properly to make sure any potential mold growth isn’t available anymore.


Moisture in the dishwasher:

Although mildew is not as bad as mold, it still is a health risk and can cause your dishwasher to be disrupted.

Accordingly, mildew growth needs the appropriate environment to fully developed into mold and the appropriate environment includes a damp surface that has a lot of moisture intake.

Moreover, with all the cleaning and washing of dishes, your dishwasher will have moisture everywhere and when you close the dishwasher with moisture in it, this is the perfect place for mildew growth.

The mildew growth process is even more strengthened by the dark environment that is found inside a dishwasher.


One of the effective ways to make sure that moisture isn’t available in your dishwasher is by emptying the rack at the bottom first and then working your way up so that water cannot get stored in the bottom rack.

In addition, you can also make use of the heat feature to make sure the inside of the dishwasher is properly dried.

Moreover, you can make sure that the lid of the dishwasher is opened occasionally by two or three inches so that air can get in and out of it.

Warm temperature:

Another reason why mildew growth can be evident or a very musty odor can come out of your dishwasher is due to the warm temperature that is found within the dishwasher.

In addition, this warm musty environment is the best for these microbes to grow and multiply. The heat that comes from the dishwasher is also responsible for this.

Moreover, the leftover food particles that are cleaned off of the dishes get stuck in various places in the dishwasher. Accordingly, microbes like mildew look for nutrients from these food residues, and thus mildew grows excessively.


To make sure that there isn’t always a warm or hot temperature prevalent in your dishwasher, you need to let your dishwasher cool off after cycles of washing by leaving the door ajar or by turning off the dishwasher.

In addition, you also need to get rid of all the mold spores from the air within the dishwasher and to do that, you need to use either baking soda or vinegar to properly clean everything inside of your dishwasher.

Possible leak:

If there is a possible leak in your dishwasher through a partial clog or any other issue then this internal environment will cause your dishwasher to smell like mildew.


It’s not really wise to run a clogged dishwasher with a possible leak. This is why you have to get professional help to get rid of this leaking problem and eventually get rid of the mildew smell.

Can I run bleach through my dishwasher to eliminate mold and mildew smell? 

With all the cleaning, your dishwasher can definitely start smelling like mold and mildew. In such situations, you can definitely run bleach through your dishwasher to eliminate the mold and mildew smell.

Moreover, to make this process work, you first have to make a cleaning solution out of bleach but you first need to take all the safety precautions.

In addition, you need to be aware of the fact that you cannot mix your bleach with other cleaning solutions such as vinegar, ammonia, rubbing alcohol, and so on as these will have a detrimental chemical reaction.

Accordingly, you first need to put some warm water in a spray bottle and add ¾ cup of household bleach to that spray bottle.

After that, you just need to shake the mixture together to make the chlorine bleach solution. However, you can never boil water and chlorine bleach together as this will release a harmful gas.

In addition, you now have to add the solution to the dishwasher and have to set a cycle with the highest heat to make sure that all the mold and mildew are removed.

What do you do if your dishwasher has mold and mildew?

When your dishwasher has mold or mildew problems, the smell or mold spores will cause lung problems, asthma, and many other diseases.

Therefore, to get rid of any unwanted accidents, you need to be aware of the steps you need to follow if you notice mold or mildew in your dishwasher.

Clean the filter:

One of the first things that you need to do if your dishwasher has mold or mildew is related to cleaning the drain filters to get rid of all the food particles, debris, rotting food, and so on.

Rinse with vinegar:

After you are done cleaning the filter, you also need to clean the gasket carefully. After that, you just need to use a vinegar-water solution to spray it on the inside of the dishwasher.

Then you need to run a wash cycle in your dishwasher with hot water setting to get rid of all the mold and mildew.

Dry your dishwasher:

Cleaning your dishwasher isn’t the only thing that should be done rather you should also give time to let your dishwasher air dry fully.

This is particularly important because mold or mildew like black mold, orange mold, and pink mold will still find the warm and moist environment of a clean dishwasher favorable and thus will multiply.

Final Thoughts

Moisture, drain blockage, leakage, high temperature, dark environment, food residue, and so on are the reasons why your dishwasher will smell of mold or mildew. In such situations, you will have to take action otherwise several health risks can be caused.