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Why Does My Dishwasher Smell?

girl-pinching-noseThe job of your dishwasher is to make keeping clean easy—specifically, cleaning your dishes. A dishwasher is not only a time-saving device, it can also help reduce water consumption compared to hand-washing dishes. Dishwashers also use hotter water for cleaning than you can get out of your sink faucet, which more effectively kills off bacteria and gives the dishes a deep cleaning that makes them safer to use as well as more pleasant smelling.

So a dishwasher that doesn’t smell nice … that’s going against expectations. Unfortunately, dishwasher odors are a problem that can often strike kitchen plumbing in Winnetka, IL and in some cases may require professional cleaning or even a replacement.

Causes of the Odorous Dishwasher

Let’s start with why you’re getting foul smells from the dishwasher.

  • A collection of food waste: Although you should avoid putting anything in the dishwasher that has large chunks of food on them, some amount of food waste is of course going to get into the dishwasher. The dishwasher will flush this down the drain line, which connects to the main drain in your sink (this is why water will sometimes come up through the disposal when you run the dishwasher). But if food gets trapped in the drain line, the accumulation will rot and create an unpleasant odor.
  • Mold: Mold is the source of odors in several parts of the house where moisture accumulates; it can strike your dishwasher as well. Mold is most likely to develop in the dishwasher if it isn’t appropriately draining, leaving behind standing water.
  • Drain line backup: This is a case where the dishwasher isn’t the specific problem—there’s a sewage backup farther down the drain line that’s pushing sewer odor back up through the dishwasher. This problem will soon start to extend to the kitchen sink drains. If you smell bad odors from the dishwasher and the kitchen sink, this is likely what’s happening.

Solving the Smelly Dishwasher

In some cases, a smelly dishwasher only need some basic cleaning. Although a dishwasher sends soap and water through it each time it runs, there are cracks and crevices it won’t reach. Take out the top and bottom trays and clean around the tracks and wheels. Clean out the dishwasher’s filters—you can find instructions for how to do this for your model in its manual. 

If this doesn’t work, you may need to call on a plumber for assistance. Plumbers can locate the exact cause of the bad smells and provide cleaning for drain lines. In the case of a deeper drain line clog, plumbers will use special tools such as augers or hydro-jetters to get far down into the drains and thoroughly remove the build-up that’s causing the problem so it won’t return.

If you have an extremely old dishwasher (more than 15 years old), you may want to consider replacing it. Odors can indicate the unit simply can no longer effectively drain. A plumber can help you make this choice and arrange for getting a new dishwasher installed.

Reliance Plumbing Sewer & Drainage, Inc. serves the Northshore and Northwest Chicagoland. Call us for drain cleaning and other plumbing services.

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