Why does my dishwasher smell?

Have a smelly dishwasher? Build-up is usually the culprit. Get our tips on what to do with a smelly dishwasher and how to clean your dishwasher properly.

Why does my dishwasher smell?

The short answer is build-up – but a build-up of what exactly?

When your dishwasher is in constant use, it’s easy for food, grease and limescale to build up inside your machine. Unless you give your dishwasher the care and attention it needs, you may start to notice unpleasant smells. With a little maintenance every now and again, you can keep your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean.

We recommend using Finish Dishwasher Cleaner once a month to clean hidden parts, deodorise and most importantly, keep your machine running at optimum efficiency. See below for how to use Dishwasher Cleaner, as well as other steps you can take alongside using Finish, to keep your dishwasher running at its best.


Overtime, food debris can build up in your dishwasher’s filter, on the interior sides, the dish racks and all the nooks and crannies inside your machine, which can be out of sight and hard to reach.


The water supply in your area can have a dramatic effect on the amount of limescale that can accumulate in your dishwasher. Hard water is water that has a high amount of mineral content, most commonly calcium and magnesium carbonates from limestone. Harmless to humans but potentially damaging to machines; over time these minerals clump together on various parts of the dishwasher such as the heating element and the water jets that are supposed to blast off food and gunk.


Maintaining a clean and fresh dishwasher doesn’t have to be a chore. Here’s a few helpful hints to help prevent a smelly dishwasher:

  1. Use Finish Dishwasher Cleaner. Cleaning your dishwasher regularly can help to prevent a foul smelling machine. You wouldn’t wash your dishes with a dirty sponge, and the same rule should apply to your dishwasher. Using Finish Dishwasher Cleaner once a month will help to:

    • Neutralise odours from organic materials
    • Clear grease from vital internal parts
    • Remove limescale build-up from hard-to-reach parts like the heating element and sprayer arms
    • Maintain your machine for the best dishwashing effects every time

  2. Get rid of excess food. Although it’s not necessary to pre-rinse your dishes, you should make sure that any large pieces of excess food is scraped into the bin before you load up the dishwasher. This will help keep the dishwasher filter clear from larger pieces of food which could cause your machine to smell.

  3. Rinse the filter. Most dishwashers have a filter located at the bottom of the machine which helps stop food from clogging up the drain or being re-deposited onto your dishes. If this filter is not cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis, it can lead to a foul smelling dishwasher. Check the user manual for instructions on how frequently you should clean or replace your dishwasher’s filter. If your dishwasher is washing heavy loads daily you should get into a habit of giving the filter a quick rinse with hot soapy water before each cycle. As well as regular rinses, remember to use Finish Dishwasher Cleaner once a month to take care of the dishwasher filter and give the hidden parts a thorough clean.

  4. Don’t neglect the nooks and crannies. Food debris can become trapped in the smallest of crevices in your machine. Finish Dishwasher Cleaner does a great job of tackling these parts inside of your dishwasher, but there are some parts that the cleaner can’t get to outside the dishwasher. Grime can build up in the rubber seal around your dishwasher door and inside the spray arms which could lead to a nasty smell if left for too long. A quick wipe down with a cloth and hot soapy water should do the trick. When dealing with the spray arms, try dislodging food debris with cocktail sticks or something similar in size. You can also try adding a zesty dishwasher freshener, Finish Lemon Freshener gives your dishwasher a clean and fresh smell without leaving a strong fragrance on your dishes.


Use Monthly

  1. Use dishwasher cleaner when dishwasher is empty
  2. Only remove the sticker, not the cap
  3. Place bottle upside down in the bottom rack, like you would place a plate, keeping the cap closed
  4. Run the dishwasher empty, on a minimum 65°C programme

So there you have it! With a few simple and effective steps, you can help to prevent a smelly dishwasher.

*Fits all dishwashers. Do not add detergent

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