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Troubleshooting a Stinky Dishwasher

troubleshooting a stinky dishwasher

Nobody really enjoys washing dishes, but we all appreciate them when they’re clean. That’s why we have dishwashers. But what happens when your dishwasher starts to smell and you’re at that point where you don’t want to open it to put the dirty dishes inside? And what can you do if, after a wash cycle is finished, the smell remains?

Here are some ways to troubleshoot a stinky dishwasher:

Arm yourself with a bit of liquid dish soap and a wet rag, a few sturdy toothpicks, the dishwasher’s owners’ manual and:

  • Check the bottom of the tub, under the lowest rack, where food and other debris may accumulate. Remove any visible particles and wipe the area around the spray arm.
  • Remove the dishwasher filter and empty any accumulated food debris. You may want to rinse the filter before re-installing it, or dip it into mild soapy water and then rinse well with clean water before you put it back, depending on what your owner’s manual suggests.
  • Wipe down the door’s seals and scrub discolored areas with an old toothbrush. If there’s mold, wipe the spots with a soft cloth soaked in a very light bleach solution…but use caution with bleach. Bleach can corrode the insides of stainless steel dishwashers and break down metal and plastic parts. If you plan on bleaching anything, use plenty of water with it and RINSE WELL.
  • So where do the toothpicks come in? To clean out the holes on the spray arm. Clean the holes first using toothpicks to remove lime scale and other build-up; then using the damp cloth, wipe the spray arm. If you have two (one upper and one lower), make sure to clean both.
  • Run the dishwasher on its hottest cycle while it’s empty. Some folks add a commercially available dishwasher cleaner, but basic household ingredients will do the trick, too: an unsweetened lemonade mix packet or baking soda sprinkled around the inside; or a cup of vinegar on the top rack in a dishwasher-safe cup can help deodorize and bring your dishwasher back to a more neutral scent.

So what happens when you’ve done all of that and the smell is still there?

  • Check the water supply and discharge hoses. Your manual will show you where yours are located. Over time, both of these hoses can develop low spots or even kinks, trapping water and food debris in the lines. Rinse them out, wipe them down and then re-route to help keep water moving and draining properly.
  • Make sure the discharge hose is installed properly. It needs to be able to drain freely.
    • If you notice that you have a puddle in the bottom of your dishwasher after running it, re-route your discharge hose so it will drain completely.
    • A draining sink can cause water to back up into your dishwasher through the discharge hose. Re-route by raising the loop higher.
  • Check under and around the dishwasher for foreign objects. Children and animals have a knack for knocking small items under appliances.

Call City Wide Plumbing 480-966-8795. Our local plumbing experts are ready to handle your plumbing problems for you.

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