How to Get Rid of Fishy Smell in Dishwasher?

Dishwashers are a modern-day convenience that can save you time and effort while keeping your kitchenware clean.

However, there may be times when you notice a fishy smell (similar to algae from a fish tank) coming from your dishwasher, making your cleaning experience less enjoyable.

Don’t worry, this is a common issue, and there are practical solutions to help you get rid of the unpleasant odor.

One primary cause of fishy smell in dishwashers is a buildup of food particles, grease, and residues.

These elements can form in various parts of your dishwasher, such as the filter, interior walls, or drain. Understanding how to maintain and clean your dishwasher is crucial for keeping it smelling fresh and working effectively.

To tackle the fishy smell, it’s essential to pinpoint the source and apply proper cleaning techniques.

In the following sections, we will explore some proven strategies to eliminate that pesky odor and keep your dishwasher smelling fresh for optimal kitchen hygiene.

Understanding the Causes of Fishy Smell in Dishwasher

Let’s first go through some of the reasons that can lead to fishy smell in the dishwasher.

Bacteria and Food Debris

A common cause of the fishy smell in a dishwasher is the buildup of bacteria and food particles.

When you use your dishwasher, it’s normal for small food particles to get trapped inside the machine.

Over time, these particles can begin to decompose and create an environment where bacteria can grow and produce a fishy smell.

To maintain a clean dishwasher, clean the filter regularly to remove any trapped food debris.

This will help prevent bacterial growth and minimize the chances of developing a fishy odor.

Additionally, always scrape your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher to reduce the amount of food particles entering the machine.

Poor Cleaning and Contamination

Another cause of the fishy smell in a dishwasher could be the result of poor cleaning practices or contamination from other sources.

Using too little or the wrong type of dishwashing detergent can contribute to the problem.

The detergent you choose should be designed explicitly for dishwashers and capable of effectively breaking down grease and food particles.

To ensure a thorough clean, make sure you’re using the appropriate amount of detergent according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Additionally, check the dishwasher’s spray arms for clogs, as this can impact water flow and cleaning efficiency.

Bacterial Growth Due to Less Usage

Bacterial growth in the dishwasher can also cause a fishy smell.

This can occur if the machine is not frequently used, creating a moist environment that encourages bacteria to breed.

To combat this issue, try to run your dishwasher more frequently, and leave the door open slightly after each cycle to let excess moisture evaporate.

Moreover, consider using a dishwasher cleaner or a vinegar solution to clean your machine periodically.

This can help remove any residual bacteria, ensuring that your dishwasher remains clean and fresh-smelling.

By understanding the causes of fishy smell in your dishwasher and addressing them, you can maintain a sanitary and odor-free appliance.

Proper cleaning techniques, regular usage, and detergents designed for dishwashers will help keep your machine fresh and ready for your next load of dishes.

Another possible reason many people believe can cause a fishy smell is the algae in the water supply. Here is a great discussion about it.

Also read: How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher?

How to Prevent Fishy Smell in Dishwasher

Now that you understand the possible reasons that can cause a fishy smell in your dishwasher, let’s learn a few techniques to prevent this smell.

Proper Loading of Dishes

To avoid a fishy smell in your dishwasher, always make sure you properly load your dishes.

Place larger items like pots and pans on the bottom rack and smaller items such as plates and cups on the top rack.

Ensure that the soiled surfaces face the center of the dishwasher to promote better water circulation.

Proper loading allows your dishwasher to clean all surfaces effectively, preventing the buildup of bacteria that may cause a fishy smell.

Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning is crucial in maintaining a fresh-smelling dishwasher. Remove any food debris from the filter and the dishwasher’s interior after each cycle.

Wipe the surfaces with a damp cloth to eliminate any grease or residues. Run a hot water cycle with dishwasher detergent on an empty dishwasher at least once a month to thoroughly clean and disinfect it.

This will prevent mold and mildew growth that may contribute to a fishy smell.

Perform Routine Maintenance

Performing routine maintenance on your dishwasher helps in preventing unpleasant odors.

Clean the dishwasher gasket regularly to remove any trapped debris. Also, inspect and clean the spray arms to ensure proper water flow.

Use a vinegar and water solution to clean and disinfect the dishwasher’s interior.

Occasionally, run a cycle with a specialized dishwasher cleaner to maintain your appliance’s performance and keep unpleasant smells at bay.

Use the Right Detergent/Tablets

Always use recommended dishwasher detergent and avoid using regular dish soap as it may cause excessive sudsing that can damage your appliance.

Opt for antibacterial detergents, which help eliminate bacteria that may cause fishy smells.

Moreover, avoid overloading the dishwasher as it may lead to poor water circulation and residual food debris.

Following these tips on proper loading, regular cleaning, maintenance, and safety precautions will prevent fishy smells from developing in your dishwasher, ensuring a clean and fresh appliance for everyday use.

Also read: Are Hydro Flasks Dishwasher Safe?

How to Remove Fishy Smell in Dishwasher

While it is best to prevent your dishwasher from smelling like a fish, in case it does happen, you can use the techniques covered here to remove that smell

Vinegar Rinse

White vinegar is not only a natural disinfectant but also an excellent odor neutralizer. To get rid of the fishy smell in your dishwasher, follow these easy steps:

  1. Empty the dishwasher of all dishes and utensils.
  2. Fill a dishwasher-safe container, like a glass measuring cup, with 2 cups of white vinegar.
  3. Place the container on the top rack of your dishwasher.
  4. Run the dishwasher on a normal cycle, without detergent. The vinegar will help dissolve grease, grime, and neutralize the fishy odor.

Make sure to use this method regularly to maintain a fresh and clean dishwasher.

Baking Soda Cleanse

Baking soda is another natural cleaning agent that can help you tackle the fishy smell in your dishwasher.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Remove all dishes and utensils from your dishwasher.
  2. Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda evenly across the bottom of the dishwasher.
  3. Close the dishwasher and let the baking soda sit overnight.
  4. In the morning, run a normal cycle without detergent. The baking soda will help break down the odor-causing particles and absorb any lingering fishy smell.

By using these simple methods, you can effectively remove the fishy smell from your dishwasher and maintain a cleaner and fresher kitchen environment.

Remember to also clean your dishwasher’s filter regularly to prevent any future odor issues.

Also read: Can You Use Dishwasher Pods for Laundry?

Effective Cleaning Products

When dealing with a fishy smell in your dishwasher, there are several cleaning products that you can use to effectively get rid of the odor.

In this section, we will discuss four popular cleaning agents, their benefits, and how to use them to clean your dishwasher.


Affresh is a popular dishwasher cleaner specifically designed to tackle stubborn odors and residue.

It’s an easy-to-use tablet that you simply place in your dishwasher’s detergent compartment and run a regular cycle.

Affresh not only eliminates odors but also prevents the build-up of food particles and grease, which is crucial for maintaining a fresh-smelling dishwasher.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal, known for its deodorizing properties, can also help with fishy smells in your dishwasher.

To use activated charcoal, place a small amount in a mesh bag and hang it inside the dishwasher.

After running a cycle, the charcoal should absorb most of the undesirable odors. You may need to repeat this process a few times for the best results.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a natural cleaning agent and deodorizer that can be used to eliminate fishy smells in your dishwasher.

Simply pour one cup of lemon juice into the bottom of your dishwasher and run a normal cycle.

The lemon juice will break down food particles, grease, and grime, leaving your dishwasher smelling clean and fresh.

Also read: Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Bad?

Antibacterial Cleaner

Using an antibacterial cleaner can help combat fishy smells as well as sanitize your dishwasher.

Ensure you choose a product that is safe for dishwasher use and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

This type of cleaner not only tackles stubborn odors but also kills bacteria and germs, ensuring a clean and hygienic environment for your dishes.

Remember to also clean your dishwasher’s drain filter on a regular basis, as this can be a major source of unpleasant odors.

Regularly using one of the cleaning products mentioned above can help keep your dishwasher smelling clean and fresh, making for a more pleasant dishwashing experience.

Also read: How to Get Rid of White Residue in Dishwasher?

Cleaning Dishwasher Components to Get Rid of Fishy Smell

To get rid of the fishy smell in your dishwasher, it’s essential to clean its components thoroughly.

This section will provide detailed guidance on how to clean the dishwasher filter, gasket and seals, bottom rack, and spray arm.

Cleaning Dishwasher Filter

Dishwasher filters come in two types: manual filters and self-cleaning filters.

Regardless of the type, keeping your dishwasher filter clean is crucial in eliminating unpleasant odors.

  1. Manual filters: Locate the filter at the bottom of your dishwasher, usually below the bottom rack. Remove the filter and clean it with hot, soapy water. Use a soft bottle brush to reach deep into the filter’s crevices. Ensure no food particles are left behind before reinstalling the filter.
  2. Self-cleaning filters: While these filters don’t require manual cleaning, occasionally checking for trapped debris or blockages is a good idea.

Cleaning Gaskets and Seals

The gaskets and seals in your dishwasher help prevent leaks and maintain a watertight seal.

Cleaning them regularly will not only reduce odors but also prolong their lifespan.

  1. Make a paste by mixing baking soda with water.
  2. Use a soft sponge or rag to apply the paste to the gaskets and seals.
  3. Scrub gently to avoid damaging the delicate material.
  4. Rinse with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.

Cleaning Bottom Rack and Spray Arm

The bottom rack and spray arm are essential components in the washing cycle.

Keeping them clean will ensure your dishwasher operates efficiently and without unpleasant smells.

  1. Bottom Rack: Remove the bottom rack from the dishwasher and inspect for trapped food particles or debris. Use a soft brush to clean any nooks and crannies, then rinse the rack thoroughly with warm water.
  2. Spray Arm: Locate the spray arm, usually at the bottom of the dishwasher. Carefully remove and clean the spray arm ports. Use a small brush to clean the spray arm holes, ensuring no food particles or debris are left behind. Reinstall the spray arm once it is clean.

By following these steps, you’ll be on your way to a fresher-smelling dishwasher.

Remember to perform these cleaning tasks regularly to prevent buildup and maintain the efficiency of your dishwasher.

Also read: Do Dishwashers Use a Lot of Electricity?

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I eliminate bad odors in my dishwasher?

To eliminate bad odors in your dishwasher, make sure to clean its filter and interior regularly. One effective method is using a combination of baking soda, soap, and water. Another option is running an empty cycle with vinegar, as it helps to deodorize and sanitize your dishwasher.

What causes a fishy smell in the dishwasher?

Fishy smells in your dishwasher are usually caused by food particles and grease buildup. This can happen when the dishwasher filter is not cleaned regularly or if leftover food particles accumulate on dishes or in the dishwasher’s interior.

How do I prevent my dishes from smelling fishy after washing?

To prevent fishy smells on your dishes, make sure to rinse off any food residue before loading them into the dishwasher. Regularly clean your dishwasher’s filter and interior, and consider running a cleaning cycle with vinegar to remove buildup and odors.

Why does my dishwasher produce a sewage-like odor?

A sewage-like odor in your dishwasher could be caused by a clog in the dishwasher’s drain or a problem with the dishwasher’s plumbing. It’s important to inspect and clean the dishwasher’s drain to eliminate any blockages and ensure proper water flow.

Are certain dishwasher brands more prone to fishy smells?

Fishy smells are not specific to any particular dishwasher brand. Instead, they are often a result of poor maintenance or leftover food particles. Ensure that you clean your dishwasher regularly and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper use and maintenance.

How can I fix a smelly dishwasher drain?

To fix a smelly dishwasher drain, you need to remove any clogs or food debris that may be trapping odors. Start by removing and cleaning the filter, followed by inspecting and cleaning the drain. If the smell persists, consider calling a professional plumber to examine your dishwasher’s plumbing.

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