How to Clean a Dishwasher

4 steps to an odor-free dishwasher

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Stop bad dishwasher odors by cleaning food scraps from the tub and running a dishwasher cleaner through a cycle.

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Eliminate dishwasher smells

Clean the dishwasher screen


Does your dishwasher smell like fish? We found this cool science experiment growing in our “clean” dishwasher. Clean the screen at the bottom of your dishwasher.

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Step 2

Clean the dishwasher sprayer arm ports

Poke food particles from the holes in the sprayer arm. Food build up can also be a cause for a dishwasher not draining.

Step 3

Clean the dishwasher door lip


Tip the door down all the way and spray the bottom edge and lip area with cleaner/degreaser spray. Let it soak for a while, then scrub it clean. Repeat anytime you see buildup.

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Step 4

Add a cleaner

Add a special cleaner and run a full dishwashing cycle. If you have bad dishwasher smells after running a cycle, don't reach for the bleach bottle. Bleach is very corrosive to metal parts and doesn't solve the root problem. The smell comes from bacteria that feed on trapped food and grease in the strainer screen at the bottom of the machine, in the jets in the sprayer arms and along the bottom edge of the door. Read on to learn how to deodorize dishwasher.

Start by cleaning and rinsing out the dishwasher screen at the bottom of the tub (Photo 1). Next, clean out any food lodged in the ports of the sprayer arm (Photo 2). Then clean off the bottom edge of the dishwasher door and the metal lip area that sits below the door (Photo 3). You'll be surprised at how much crud is there.

Once you've cleaned those areas, throw in a bottle of dishwasher cleaner and disinfectant (Dishwasher Magic; order from Amazon now) and run a full cycle with no dishes or dishwashing detergent (Photo 4). Keep those critical areas clean in the future and your smelly dishwasher problem won't come back.

Watch this video to learn how to troubleshoot a dishwasher that isn’t working properly:

Here's how to tackle 12 more nasty smells in your house.

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