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Why Your Dishwasher Smells Like Sewage

Dishwasher bad Sewage smell

Dishwashers are amazing inventions. They remove the drudgery of washing dirty dishes by hand, freeing up your time to tackle other chores or recreational activities.

As someone who has owned a washing machine for a few years, it’s a great feeling when you’re relaxed on the sofa after a nice meal and you can hear the dishwasher in the background working away at cleaning all your dirty dishes, without you having to lift a finger.

As amazing as these appliances are, they require some maintenance, or your dishes could be left with dirt on them and your dishwasher will start to smell bad. That’s right, dishwashers can emit bad odours if left unchecked, and in this article, I’ll take you through some natural ways to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh as the day you install it.

Odours can arise in the kitchen in a variety of ways – dirty hobs and ovens, unemptied bins, unclean washing machines, and surprising to many – the dishwasher is on that list, too. In fact, many dishwasher owners have reported that their dishwasher smells like wet dog, rotten eggs, or sewage – eww, let’s fix that!

The Cause of Bad Dishwasher Odours

Most of the odours are caused by leftover food trapped in the drain. Small lumps of chicken and veggies build up over time, mixing together and rotting away in a hidden part of the dishwasher. Food particles can settle in corners, drains, filters, and door seals and will need to be removed with regular cleaning to keep bad smells away.

Natural Ways to get Rid of Smells

Before using anything of these odour busting cleaning remedies, make sure to thoroughly clean the drain and filters, and inspect all corners and doorframes for any food debris. Only when this is complete can you move on to the cleaning methods set out below.


lemon for dishwasher smell

Citric acid is found in many cleaning products. It is not surprising that lemons are an effective and natural remedy for unpleasant odours. The acid combats the causes of odour formation and a pleasant smell remains.

Directions: Cut a lemon in half and squeeze it out over the cutlery basket and the inner bottom of the dishwasher. Now start the rinse cycle of the machine. Repeat the process if necessary.

Cost: It’s a leman, we’re talking pennies.

Pros: It’s all-natural, easy to use, has no cleaning chemicals, and is cheap.

Cons: Doesn’t always neutralise bad lingering odours like rotten food that gives of a sewage smell and may need several runs to get rid of the smell.


Directions: Pour a coffee cup full of vinegar over the interior of the dishwasher, and run a hot cycle.

Pros: Vinegar is effective against unpleasant odours and bacteria, so you get to kill two birds with one stone here.

Cons: vinegar gives off a sharp vapour that you should avoid inhaling. Some people really dislike the smell of vinegar and may opt to skip this method.

Be careful, as the vapour from the vinegar can catch your through, so if you are sensitive, apply with caution. Do your best to avoid inhaling vinegar and work with the window open.

Baking Soda

Directions: Spread three heaped tablespoons of baking soda over the base of the dishwasher. You can run a normal cycle with the dirty dishes in the machine, so you’re helping to clean the dishwasher of smells and at the same time washing dishes with the premium tabs and salt.

Pros: The baking soda can be used with the dishes and is a cost-effective all-natural cleaner.

Cons: If the baking soda stays in the dishwasher for too long, it can clump and become harder to remove. You should therefore start the rinse cycle immediately after applying.

Manual Cleaning

Elbow grease has been the go-to cleaning method for centuries, it’s a good idea to wipe down all of the insides of the dishwasher, including jet nozzle and racks with a damp cloth of warm soapy water. Leftovers collect in the cutlery basket and in the drainage filter and grime can build around the door seals and hinges – giving them a good scrub will remove any foods or dirt that might be giving off a bad smell.

You should clean the dishwasher thoroughly for at least a month to make sure no bad smells develop. Once a week you should also opt for a longer rinse cycle, as short low-temperature eco washes don’t help to remove all the dirt inside.

Cleaning Dishwasher Drain Filter

If you don’t remove and clean the drain filter regularly, you’re guaranteed that bits of food will gather there and start to smell bad.

After cleaning the filters thoroughly (see your user manual for guidance on how to dismantle these for cleaning) run your dishwasher at maximum temperature.

Many machines have the special “half load” program, which is faster and therefore more economical. However, the savings programs have the disadvantage that they often work with lower temperatures. Low temperatures encourage the formation of odours. Therefore, a longer program should be run occasionally in order to reach high temperatures (at least 60 degrees Celsius) to break down foods and zap bacteria.

Cost: Nothing but your time

Tip: The less a dishwasher is used, the greater the likelihood of odours developing. Those who use their appliance every day and at higher temperatures will melt away hardened foods and kill off odour-causing bacteria.

Dishwasher Cleaner

I have laid out some of the best natural ways to clean and remove nasty smells from your dishwasher, but you can go down the chemical road, as there are some very effective dishwasher cleaners from Finish.

These deep cleaners are designed to remove limescale, break down grease, in harder to reach areas, and leave your dishwasher with a fresh lemon fragrance. Simply remove the cap, place the bottle on the top rack in an empty dishwasher, and run a long hot cycle and the dishwasher cleaner will work its magic.

If you’re really lazy or just don’t have the time for a manual thorough cleaning, then run one of these cleaners through your dishwasher once every couple of months to help keep it fresh.


Should I use dishwasher odour stopper?

So-called dishwasher odour stoppers are available in stores. While they are effective, they only mask the smell. They do not eliminate the cause of the odour formation, which is why the deodorants are not an actual solution to the problem.

They use chemical agents and should be used with caution. It is best to do without the chemical clubs and use natural means. Remember that the dishwasher deodorants come into contact with the dishes that you are eating after cleaning. Furthermore, the substances get into the water cycle and behave in a harmful way there.

How do I stop odours building dishwasher when on holiday?

If you are absent for a longer period of time, you must prepare the dishwasher for this period:

  • clean the interior thoroughly
  • clean and cleaner all the filters
  • ensure no puddles of dirty water remain in the base of the dishwasher
  • remove all dirty dishes and leave the appliance empty
  • let the last rinse run through without dishes
  • tilt the door agar while you are away to let air circulate
  • never leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher
  • the dishwasher should be as dry as possible

How do I clean the drain filters?

The drain filter is located on the floor of the interior of the dishwasher. In principle, you must always proceed according to the operating instructions. In most cases, the filter is loosened by turning it slightly and can then be pulled out for cleaning under a tap. It can be cleaned under running water and washed in the sink. When reinserting the device, make sure it is locked and seated correctly.

Not only will cleaning the filters keep your machine smelling fresh, but will also prevent the dishwasher drain from blockage, ensure maximum performance and freshness.


  • Running high temperatures cycles reduces odours
  • Clean the dishwasher regularly with natural or chemical methods
  • Regularly clear filter of food debris
  • Remove and clean the cutlery tray
  • Deep clean once every month to keep bad sewage smells away
  • Select a high temperature wash cycle once a week
  • Scrape off leftover foods and rinse before placing into dishwasher
  • Use dishwasher daily
  • If you require dishwasher salt, ensure always toped up