Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Like Wet Dog?

If your pup has ever gotten stranded outside in a sudden rain shower, you’re familiar with the foul odor of a wet dog. If you catch a whiff of that same smell coming from your dishwasher, you’re probably wondering what could have caused it and how to get rid of it.

So, what causes that wet dog smell in dishwashers? As it turns out, many different things can lead to that less-than-appetizing aroma. Some common reasons for a smelly dishwasher include bacteria, a dirty filter, and contaminated water. This is only the tip of the iceberg, though.

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Like Wet Dog

Reasons Why Your Dishwasher Smells Like A Wet Dog

Here are a few of the most common reasons that your dishwasher smells like a wet dog.

  • Hard Water: Mineral deposits can build up in your dishwasher if you have hard water. This build-up prevents the dishwasher from sanitizing itself properly, which causes a nasty odor.
  • Dirty Filter: If you haven’t cleaned your dishwasher’s filter for a few months, that could be why it stinks. Filters can become clogged with grease and old food, so you should clean them often.
  • Decaying Food Particles: If you don’t rinse your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher, decaying food particles could make your machine smell terrible. Make sure you frequently clean your dishwasher with a commercial dishwasher cleaner or white vinegar.
  • Too Much Humidity: After the wash cycle, there’s often water left behind on dishes and in the bottom of the dishwasher. To prevent odors from mold or mildew, try leaving the dishwasher door ajar between wash cycles.
  • Dirty Plumbing: If you habitually pour grease or food particles down the drain, you could have dirty plumbing contributing to the foul smell in your dishwasher. 

How To Get Rid Of The Wet Dog Smell In Your Dishwasher

If your dishes smell like a wet dog, you’re probably desperate to eliminate the odor. Here are a few ways to get that nasty smell out for good.

dishwasher maintenance tips

1. Clean The Filter

Many dishwashers have a removable filter underneath the bottom rack. This filter can get clogged and make your machine stink. T

o clean the filter, just pull out the bottom rack and remove it, then scrub it thoroughly to remove grease and food particles and put it back. To prevent odors, you should clean this filter once a week.

2. Clean The Screens

Some units have removable screens that make them easy to clean. If that’s the case with your dishwasher, simply pop them out and scrub them as you would with the filter. 

If your screens aren’t removable, you can wipe them gently with a wet sponge. Be careful not to push any food particles into the screen holes.

3. Clean The Sprayer Arms

Gently wipe the sprayer arms with a wet cloth and inspect them carefully to make sure none of the sprayer holes are clogged with food particles.

You can use a toothpick to pull the clog out if any holes are blocked. Be careful not to push anything into the holes.

4. Clean the Door Seals

Grease and food particles can build up in the door seals and around the lip of the dishwasher.

You should be able to wipe the area clean with a wet cloth, but you may have to scrub a little if it’s been a long time since you’ve cleaned it.

5. Run A Cleaning Cycle

Sometimes all you need to do to eliminate the bad smell from your dishwasher is run a cleaning cycle. Just add a commercial dishwasher cleaning product to the detergent bay and run it on the hottest heat cycle.

White vinegar is also effective at cleaning and deodorizing your dishwasher if you don’t have commercial cleaner on hand. Just fill a bowl halfway with white vinegar and place it upright in your dishwasher. Run it on its hottest heat cycle and enjoy a fresh, clean machine.

6. Leave Door Open Between Wash Cycle

If you don’t run a heated drying cycle or notice that your dishes are still wet after it runs, the constant humidity inside your dishwasher could be the source of the bad smell.

To keep mold or mildew from growing in there and causing an odor, leave the door slightly ajar to prevent excess moisture between wash cycles.

Maintenance Tips To Stop Your Dishwasher From Smelling Bad 

getting rid of dishwasher smells

Once you eliminate the nasty odor from your dishwasher, here are a few tips to keep it from returning.

  • Rinse Your Dishes: If you eat many strong-smelling foods, those food particles can linger in your dishwasher and make it smell bad. Any food particles left in the filter after you wash your dishes will cause an odor too. Rinsing your dishes well before putting them in the dishwasher eliminates the source of the smell and will keep your filter from getting clogged.
  • Leave Your Dishwasher Door Open: If you don’t use a heated drying cycle after you wash your dishes, the water left behind can cause a musty odor. Even if you use a drying cycle, sometimes extra water will collect on the floor of your dishwasher. After each wash cycle, leaving the dishwasher door slightly ajar can keep it from smelling bad.
  • Add  Essential Oils: Adding a few drops of essential oils to your dishwasher to your detergent will add an extra boost of freshness to your entire kitchen while you wash your dishes. Choose a bright, citrus scent like lemon or orange to add a little extra cleaning power while simultaneously energizing the vibe in your home. If you have pets, make sure the essential oil you use is safe for them to smell before you use it in your dishwasher.
  • Add Vinegar: We’ve already discussed using white vinegar to clean your dishwasher and remove build-up on the screens and sprayer arms, but using a little vinegar in every wash load can also keep your machine smelling fresh. You can put ½ cup in a bowl and place it upright in the top rack of your dishwasher, just like you would to clean the whole unit.

Why Do My Dishes Smell Like Fish?

If you cook fish often and don’t rinse your dishes and cookware well enough before placing them in the dishwasher, it could make your dishes smell like fish. 

Alternatively, built-up grease and food particles can sometimes cause a fishy odor. Empty your filter and thoroughly clean your dishwasher to eliminate the smell.

If you haven’t cooked fish and cleaning your dishwasher doesn’t make the fishy smell disappear, the odor may be coming from your pipes. If you have a habit of rinsing grease and food particles down the drain, it may have caused a stinky build-up in your pipes. 

To deodorize your pipes, pour ½ cup of baking soda followed by ½ cup of white vinegar down the drain, then plug the drain and let it sit for about an hour. When that time is up, pour a pot of boiling water into the drain.

Why Do My Dishes Smell Like Eggs?

If you cook eggs and don’t rinse your cookware and dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, leftover bits of food could be the reason your machine smells like eggs. If that’s not the case, you may need to empty the filter and give your dishwasher a thorough cleaning.

If you haven’t cooked eggs and cleaning your dishwasher doesn’t help, you might have hard water. Hard water leaves a sulfuric odor behind that’s reminiscent of rotten eggs. If you know you have hard water, you may need to install a water softener to eliminate the smell from your dishwasher.

If the smell isn’t from hard water or a dirty dishwasher, your pipes might be dirty. If you pour grease down your drain regularly, this is the most likely cause of the foul odor in your machine. You can deodorize your pipes safely and efficiently using baking soda, white vinegar, and boiling water.


If you’ve ever run your dishwasher and discovered that it smells like your dog after he goes for a swim, you’re probably desperate to eliminate the odor.

A few reasons for this bad smell could be anything from a dirty machine to hard water or even dirty plumbing. Once you’ve located the source of the odor and eliminated it, you can keep your dishwasher smelling fresh by:

  • Rinsing Your Dishes Thoroughly
  • Emptying Your Filter Frequently
  • Running a Cleaning Cycle Regularly
  • Adding Essential Oils or Vinegar to Your Wash Load
  • Leaving the Door Ajar Between Wash Cycles to Prevent Humidity
Shauna Stone