Why does my Dishwasher Smell like Fish?

Every homeowner, at some point in time, experiences smells in their dishwasher or washed dishes. The most common smells reported by users include fish, rotten eggs, wet dogs, and sewage. It is the most irritating and disgusting experience. But the good news is that you can get rid of the fishy smell on your own. A little effort and your dishwasher will be as good as a new one.

Why does my Dishwasher Smell like Fish?

Before we elaborate on the solutions for eliminating fishy smell from your dishwasher, it is important to understand its reasons.

What causes your Dishwasher to Smell like Fish?

Food Particles: The food particles inside your dishwasher start to decay over time. The rotting particles can cause smells in your dishwasher.

Clogged Filter: Accumulated food particles block the filter. It becomes a hotbed for bacteria and mold that leads to smelly dishes. To get rid of mold from your dishwasher, you can use these cleaners.

Hard Water: Hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. Mineral deposits over time can lead to smells inside your dishwasher.

Wrong Detergent: Using a wrong detergent or one not recommended by the dishwasher’s manufacturer creates more problems than it solves. Apart from a smelly dishwasher and smelly dishes, you have to deal with dirty and stained dishes.

Faulty Drain Pipe: A wrongly installed or defective drain pipe can cause your dishwasher to smell like fish.

Solutions for a Foul Smelling Dishwasher

You can use the following tips to remove various odors like fish, wet dogs, rotten eggs, and sewage from your dishwasher. We recommend you keep the user manual handy while working on your dishwasher and call professionals if you can’t handle the cleaning process.

Filter Cleaning

Filter Cleaning

The most important thing to do is to clean the dishwasher’s filter. It is the place where most food particles will gather and become the reason for smells. The filter is located at the bottom of your machine under the spray arm. It is relatively easy to remove the filter and wash it.

All you need to do is dip the filter in a bowl of distilled white vinegar and scrub it with a toothbrush. Rinse it with tap water, and you are good to go.

Some machines have two filters and/or a filter screen. You must clean all the filters in your machine. Therefore it is important to check the user manual beforehand.

Drain Pipe Cleaning: Food particles stuck in the drain pipe can be a big reason behind the fish smell from your dishwasher. Removing the drain pipe may not be everyone’s cup of tea. You may need to contact a certified plumber for this.

Door Seals Cleaning: The rubber seals around the door and body of your dishwasher need regular cleaning too. Bacteria can grow here. The most effective way to clean these seals is to use a mixture of water and vinegar or soap and water. Dip an old toothbrush in the mixture and give the gaskets a good nice scrub. Make sure that you go gently on the rubber.

Spray Arm Cleaning

Spray Arm Cleaning

Spray arms project water streams on dirty dishes. If the openings on these arms are dirty and surrounded by bacteria, the water in your dishwasher is surely going to smell bad. Scrub the spray arms with vinegar and use a flexible wire to clean the showerheads.

Using the Right Detergent: One should always go with the recommended detergent and one suitable with the water at your home. If your home has hard water, make sure you use a detergent specifically made for hard water.

Monthly Dishwasher Cleaning

Monthly Dishwasher Cleaning

A monthly dishwasher cleanup is mandatory to keep your dishwasher in mint condition and keep all its parts neat and clean. A well-maintained and clean dishwasher has a fairly low chance of giving smells compared to a dirty dishwasher.

Some people use commercial cleanup products for cleaning their dishwashers. However, vinegar and baking soda are more effective than commercial products. They are cheap, too. Follow the steps below for cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda.

  • Remove all the dishes from your dishwasher.
  • Place 1-2 cups of vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher and run it in hot settings.
  • Once the cycle is complete, remove the cup.
  • Sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom rack and run your dishwasher on a normal cycle.
  • White vinegar kills germs and removes stains on the interior; baking soda deodorizes and clears the drain pipe.
  • Do not add baking soda and vinegar together in your dishwasher.

Check for Dead Rats: A dead rat or rodent behind or below your machine can be the cause of smells coming from your dishwasher. The chances of finding a dead rate are very rare but a lot of homeowners have reported this.

Final Words

A smelly dishwasher is not that big a problem as it may appear. More than 90% of smelly dishwashers are usually dealt with a good dishwasher cleanup. However, a few cases require technicians.


  • Stephen Powers

    Appliance repair guy from Washington. I am majorly experienced in dishwashers, water filters and refrigerators, AMA on my twitter account.

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