Why Your Dishwasher Smells Like Wet Dog

Why Your Dishwasher Smells Like Wet Dog

We’ve all smelled a wet dog on a sunny day and it isn’t pleasant, to say the least. So if your dishwasher is exuding a similar odor, it’s a telltale sign that something needs to be cleaned or fixed.

So let’s talk about what causes this terrible odor in your dishwasher and what you can do to fix it.

Why does your dishwasher smell like a wet dog?

Your dishwasher smells like a wet dog because it has a dirty water supply or uncleaned interior parts. Wastewater and a filthy sink drain can also cause the stench.

Clean the walls, rubber seal, nozzle, racks, and filters. Unclog the drain hose and remove all decaying food waste in the sink drain.

If the dog-like smell persists, try the following steps:

  • Wipe the interior walls with a clean cloth until they are dry. Open your door slightly after every cycle to help it dry faster.
  • Use an approved dishwasher cleaning agent with odor sanitizer to clean your appliance.
  • Call a plumbing service to check your pipeline for rust, dirt, or food scraps.

If you need to learn more about how to perform these repairs step by step, keep reading below!

Important note: For your safety, unplug your dishwasher and turn off the water valve before you do any repairs. Press the power button and make sure that the panel no longer lights up.

Causes and Solutions

There are 5 reasons your dishwasher smells like a wet dog. 

  1. Your water supply is contaminated.
  2. The interior components are dirty.
  3. The dishwasher walls are constantly damp.
  4. There’s leftover wastewater in the tub.
  5. The sink drain is filled with leftover food.

Here are a few quick suggestions on how to resolve these issues.

Contaminated Water SupplyCheck the mesh filter of the water inlet valve and make sure that it isn’t clogged or damaged. Wash the filter before putting it back in the valve.

Consider installing a water softener system in your household to combat hard water issues.
Dirty Interior ComponentsRun a cleaning cycle on your dishwasher and add a cup of white vinegar, a dishwasher cleaning tablet, or a chlorine-based detergent. Wipe any excess cleaning agent with a clean cloth after the cycle.

Use a clean cloth to wipe the rubber seal and the interior walls. Also, make sure to unclog the drain filter assembly and the spray arm’s openings.
Constantly Moist WallsWipe the interior walls of your dishwasher dry with a clean cloth. Open the dishwasher door slightly after every cycle to aid the drying process and prevent mold and mildew.
Residual WastewaterCheck your dishwasher for clogs in the drain filter, drain hose, or check valve. Perform a continuity test on your drain pump motor and replace it if it’s damaged.
Filthy Sink DrainPour a mixture of vinegar and baking soda into your sink drain or garbage disposal. Wash the mixture off with hot water after a few minutes.

You can also snake the sink drain to remove clogs. Remove the P-trap to clean decaying food waste.

Now let’s dive a little deeper and talk about what causes these issues and how to fix them step-by-step.

Contaminated Water Supply

One very common reason your dishwasher has that wet dog smell is your water supply.

If your home is getting hard water, it will carry dissolved compounds of magnesium, calcium, iron, and other elements into your dishwasher.

Not only do these minerals have a musty odor, but they can also have a smelly reaction against your detergent. 

Hard water also causes your dishes to become spotted, opaque, or covered in a hazy film.

These minerals can also damage some components in your machine, resulting in a dishwasher that does not clean correctly.

On the other hand, if you recently just got this smelly issue, the pipelines that carry your water may be the cause. They can be contaminated with rust, mud, garbage, or food waste that are causing a dog-like smell.

Solution: First, disconnect the water supply hose from the water inlet valve and use a pair of pliers to pull out the mesh filter. 

Clean the mesh filter in running water and inspect it for damages. If there are none, reinstall the mesh filter back in its place or replace it if necessary.

Run your dishes in a normal cycle without using a detergent. Add 1 or 2 cups of white vinegar and place it on the bottom rack to remove the white film on your dishes.

Remove the vinegar and rewash your dishes using a dishwasher detergent that is more suited for hard water.

Also, consider installing a water softening or filtering system in your household to combat hard water issues. This is also great for extending the lifespan of your dishwasher and all your water-using appliances at home.

Call an experienced plumbing service if you think that the dirty water is caused by your pipelines. 

Dirty Interior Components

Another common cause of the terrible smell in your dishwasher is an uncleaned interior. 

Although dishwashers are partially self-cleaning, it still requires your help in removing tough-to-clean food grimes, grease, and fatty oils. 

If you leave your dishwasher uncleaned for too long, you may find decaying leftover food lodged in the racks, baskets, the spray arm, and the door seal.

Some of the larger food wastes are also sifted by the drain filters to prevent them from sneaking into the gears underneath and clogging them.

If these components aren’t cleaned regularly, oil and decaying residues could start to build up inside your dishwasher and cause it to smell like a wet dog.

Solution: Pull out all the removable parts of your dishwasher such as the racks and baskets. Clean them thoroughly in running water using a soft brush and mild soap.

Next, use a clean cloth soaked in hot water to clean the door seal. Make sure to cover all sides, including the bottom and interior parts of the seal.

Clean your filter in running water and use a soft brush to remove food grimes off the filter screens. However, be careful not to deform the screens or poke a hole in them.

If your model has a removable filter assembly, follow the steps below to uninstall it.

  • Step 1: Unplug your dishwasher and turn off the water supply valve.
  • Step 2: Open the dishwasher door and pull out the lower rack to access the drain assembly.
  • Step 3: Hold the propeller and rotate the filter assembly counterclockwise. Gently pull out the filter assembly.
  • Step 4: Disassemble the coarse and fine filter from the main filter.
  • Step 5: Wash each filter thoroughly in running water using a soft brush and mild soap.
  • Step 6: Clean the filter housing or the sump area before putting the filter assembly back.
  • Step 7: Use a straightened cloth hanger or a handheld vacuum to remove any unreachable dirt lodged in the sump area.
  • Step 8: Reassemble the filters and place them back properly. Avoid deforming them.
  • Step 9: Rotate the filter assembly clockwise to secure it. Insert the lower rack back into the dishwasher.

Lastly, clean the water nozzles or spray arms. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Unplug your dishwasher.
  • Step 2: Pull out the bottom rack and baskets to access the nozzle.
  • Step 3: Remove the nozzle cap by turning it counterclockwise. 
  • Step 4: Clean the nozzle thoroughly using a dishwasher brush or old toothbrush.
  • Step 5: Soak the nozzle in distilled white vinegar overnight then rinse it in running water.
  • Step 6: Check if the water can pass through all the nozzle openings. Keep cleaning the opening until the water flows freely.
  • Step 7: Reinstall the nozzle and turn the cap clockwise to lock it.
  • Step 8: Spin the water nozzle to make sure that it can move freely in its place.

Residual Wastewater

Wastewater carries all the leftovers from your dishes. It is drained away at the end of every cycle to keep your dishwasher clean. 

To accomplish this, the drain pump motor spins the impeller and forces the water into the hose and out of the sink drain or garbage disposal. 

However, if one or more of the draining parts malfunction, this will hinder the draining process or stop it entirely.

Clogged components may also cause wastewater to flow back into your dishwasher, causing some of the dirty water to be left in your tub,

If left unchecked, this will produce a terrible smell and cause a leak at the bottom of your dishwasher door.

That being said, here are the common causes of dishwasher draining issues and how to troubleshoot them.

Faulty Drain HoseDetach the drain hose from both ends and run some water in between to test it for clogs. Remove the cause of the blockage and reinstall the drain hose.

Avoid twisting or pinching the drain hose. Reattach it tightly to avoid gaps in the connections.
Clogged or Damaged Filter AssemblyPull out the dishwasher assembly and clean each filter gently in running water. Reinstall the filter assembly properly and avoid deforming it.
Faulty Drain Pump Component Remove the drain pump assembly and test all its components for continuity. Replace the entire assembly if the impeller, solenoid, or pump motor is damaged.
Stuck or Worn Out Check ValveInspect the condition of the check valve and verify that it is facing the right direction. Take out the check valve from its housing and clean it before reinstalling it.

If the check valve is damaged, replace it and make sure to install it correctly. Push the check valve slightly and check if it moves in the right direction. 

Constantly Moist Walls

It is normal for your dishwasher to be moist after every cycle. However, if you use it often at short intervals, it won’t have the chance to dry completely.

If your dishwasher wall is constantly damp, this will create an off-putting smell when you open its door. 

Just like how your clothes develop mildew when they are damp for too long, a constantly moist and warm dishwasher is a perfect spot for mold to grow and thrive. 

Solution: First, run a cleaning cycle in your dishwasher to help loosen and remove some of the dirt, oil, and mold build-up. This will also lessen the bad odor in your dishwasher.

Add a cleaning agent during the cleaning cycle such as a dishwasher cleaning tablet, chlorine-based detergent, or a cup of distilled white vinegar.

However, be careful not to mix vinegar and dishwasher detergent at the same time. Also, avoid using bleach as this causes discoloration and damage on dishwashers with stainless steel walls.

Next, perform a deep clean to ensure that all leftover dirt and bacteria are completely removed.

Follow these steps to properly clean the interior of your dishwasher:

  • Step 1: Unplug your dishwasher and press the start button to make sure that there is no residual power left.
  • Step 2: Pull out any removable component inside the dishwasher, such as the basket, racks, and spray arms.
  • Step 3: Clean them thoroughly in warm water using a soft brush or damp cloth.
  • Step 4: Wipe the interior walls and the dishwasher’s base with a damp cloth soaked in white vinegar. Remove any excess cleaning agent left in the tub.
  • Step 5: Use a clean cloth to dry the interior walls of your dishwasher. 

Also, keep your dishwasher door slightly open for a few minutes after every cycle. This will help your dishwasher dry and cool off faster.

Filthy Sink Drain

If you regularly clean your dishwasher, it is possible that the wet dog smell isn’t coming from your appliance but the sink drain.

This happens if you or any of your household members have a habit of throwing large chunks of leftover food or pouring hot grease down the sink drain.

Not only will this clog and prevent your dishwasher from draining correctly, but it will also produce an awful smell that could make its way into your dishwasher’s tub.

Solution: Clean your sink drain by pouring a mixture of baking soda and vinegar into the kitchen sink opening.

Let it sit for more than 10 minutes then run hot tap water in your sink for a few seconds to wash off the mixture.

You can also manually clean your sink drain by removing the P-trap. Perform the steps below to do this:

  • Step 1: Prepare a bowl and place it underneath to catch spilling water from the P-trap.
  • Step 2: Hold both ends of the P-trap and carefully turn the lock on one end counterclockwise to loosen it.
  • Step 3: Loosen the other end by turning the lock in the same direction.
  • Step 4: Remove the P-trap and pour the water into the bowl.
  • Step 5: Clean it thoroughly and make sure that there is no food waste and mold left in the trap.
  • Step 6: Reinstall the P-trap back in place and make sure that the connections are tight.

Cleaning your dishwasher regularly will not only rid it of terrible odors but also keep your dishes sanitary for everyday use.

If some of the steps above are a little too technical for you, you can always call your dishwasher’s support center or hire a professional for help.

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