Does your kitchen smell a little like a full garbage can roasting under the hot Georgia sun? That lingering odor is your smelly dishwasher. Even though it washes your dishes, this overworked appliance needs a little TLC and washing itself. Ready to get rid of that funk? It's time to break out the elbow grease.
1. Eliminate the odor source
Although a dishwasher washes dishes, it is not a garbage disposal. You don't leave a glass of milk sitting on the counter for days, so why leave a milky glass in the dishwasher to curdle until you're ready to run the load?
Give each cup, plate and bowl a quick rinse before placing it in the dishwasher. Otherwise, food particles can spoil and clog the dishwasher lines, where the food will sit and rot. Yes, this makes the dishwasher a little smelly.
2. Run an empty cycle
At least once a week, run your dishwasher without any dishes inside. Choose the longest running cycle with a hot water wash and rinse. Don't use any dishwashing detergent or rinse. Instead, measure 2 cups of white distilled vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher. Turn on the machine, and let it go. The acid in the vinegar will neutralize odors, sanitize the appliance and break down any odor-causing greasy residue clinging to the walls of the dishwasher.
Every few weeks, use baking soda in place of the vinegar. Measure 2 cups of the powder into the base of the washer and let the cycle run. Baking soda absorbs odors that linger in the plastic interior of the dishwasher.
3. Clean soap and rinse traps
After running an empty cycle, use a small cleaning brush to clean out the soap and dishwasher rinse traps. A baby bottle brush is the perfect size. These traps can become clogged over time, not allowing enough detergent to reach your dishes--and the overall interior of the dishwasher. Scrub away any visible build-up of detergent and flush the traps with warm water.
4. Wipe down the seals
Soak a soft, cotton cloth in a 50 percent vinegar water solution. Open the dishwasher door and wipe down the main seal. You'll be surprised at the amount of food particles that gets tucked in the folds of the rubber seal. Over time this dirt breaks down, causing smelly odors. After wiping, let the dishwasher door stay open so the seal can fully dry. The vinegar odor will go away once the dishwasher is dry.
5. Switch detergents
Give your smelly dishwasher a boost each time it runs a cycle. Choose detergents made with bacteria-killing bleach and odor-neutralizing baking soda. Although you prefer a fresh lemon or orange scent, this is merely masking lingering odors. Choose cleaning products that cut through the grime each time you wash a load of dishes to maintain a clean dishwasher.
6. Remove jar labels
If you wash empty peanut butter, pasta sauce and jelly jars in the dishwasher, remove the labels first. When you leave the papers in place, they can get crumpled and gummy from the adhesives on the jars. These will clog the drains in the bottom of the dishwasher, causing food particles to also get clogged and backed up in the lines. Take a minute and look at the drains for this type of clog. Pull the wet paper out by hand to improve the dishwasher's drainage.
7. Scrub the walls and racks
Once a month, give your dishwasher a thorough hand washing. Use a soft-bristle brush and a degreasing cleanser to remove stains and residue from the inside walls of the dishwasher. This is also a good time to give the wire racks and silverware baskets a scrub down.
8. Flush the lines
If you've rinsed your plates, cleaned the dishwasher routinely and started using a sanitizing detergent--and the odors still linger--you may need to have the lines flushed on your dishwasher. This maintenance task is best left to a professional plumber in the Atlanta area. The company can use a pressure washer and commercial grade solvent to unplug the dishwasher lines much like a clogged sink drain. This procedure not only makes the dishwasher run more efficiently, it also washes away smelly clogs.
If you have hard water, your dishwasher drains or lines can clog from a build-up of minerals. Talk with your plumber about the cost comparison of putting the dishwasher on a professional maintenance cleaning plan or installing a new appliance and adding a water softener to the home.