February 15th, 2018

Appliance News

Dishwashers are a staple appliance in the Australian household, and to good reason. They’re vastly cheaper than age-old hand-washing, for a start, and their convenient, energy-efficient features save you and your family significant time and effort.

But like any appliance, dishwashers aren’t perfect. Without a little maintenance to keep them running smoothly, you might end up with a few funky smells. Or worse… a musty, watery mess and a big service fee.

So we’ve pulled together a troubleshooting FAQ of common dishwasher problems and their solutions to help save you the money and hassle of bigger problems down the track.


  1. Why does my dishwasher smell?

Dishwasher odours are generally caused by a build-up of trapped food particles or grease. They can clog the filters, spray arm, drain hose and other little nooks around your dishwasher.

If they’re allowed to build up over time, these food particles begin to smell and let off fishy or funky odours, which can then transfer onto your dishes. Bacteria builds up and your dishwasher becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and mildew.


  • If your dishwasher smells really musty or damp, you may have a problem with a kinked hose or clogged drain. Pull the dishwasher slowly out from its cavity, if possible, and inspect the hose for damage and the surrounding area for water.


2. So… how do I clean my dishwasher?

You can follow a couple of simple steps to help get rid of food debris and stinky dishwasher smells. A weekly clean will give you the best results and keep your dishwasher running smoothly and effectively.


Clean the dishwasher filters and drain hole

  1. First, remove the bottom dishwasher tray or rack.
  2. Take out the removable dishwasher filter/s. (These should be easy to unscrew and take out for washing, but if you’re unsure, then consult your product manual for proper removal).
  3. Soak your filters in some warm water for 10 minutes.
  4. Scrub each one thoroughly with a stiff brush (an old toothbrush also works well), soap and hot water.
  5. Clean out the drain at the bottom of the dishwasher and remove any residual gunk. You can also pop half a cup of baking soda in to freshen it up.
  6. Replace the clean filters into the dishwasher.

Clean out the spray arm

  1. move the dishwasher spray arm (for most dishwashers, this means pulling out the lower rock and unscrewing the spray arm off its mount).
  2. Use a piece of wire to clean out the holes and remove any hard deposits.
  3. Reattach the spray arm.


Clean the dishwasher seals

  1. Get a damp cloth.
  2. Run it around the contact points and seals to remove built-up grime and residue.


3. My dishwasher still stinks – what’s the best way to clean the whole thing?

You can use eco-friendly solutions to deodorise your whole dishwasher and eliminate lasting odours. Of course, you could also pull the racks out and do it all by hand – but most of us don’t have the patience for that!


Clean with vinegar

The acidic properties of white vinegar help to break down food clogs and deposits all around the dishwasher.

  1. Take everything out of the dishwasher.
  2. Get a cup of white vinegar.
  3. Pour it into a dishwasher-safe container or cup and place it in the top rack. You can also pour this directly into the dishwasher drain.
  4. Run a short cycle, preferably warm or HOT.
  5. Enjoy cleaner, stink-free dishwashing.
    NOTE that the vinegar wash should not be performed regularly, as its acidic properties can damage the inside of your dishwasher if used too often. Some websites suggest using bleach as an alternative, but I’d hesitate to put bleach into my dishwasher for obvious reasons!


Rinse with Baking Soda

Running a Baking Soda rinse wash every so often keeps your dishwasher smelling fresher and looking brighter.

  1. Get a cup of baking soda.
  2. Sprinkle it across the bottom of your dishwasher.
  3. Run a short cycle, preferably warm or HOT.


4. How do I get my dishwasher to clean better?

  • Practice regular cleaning of the filters, spray arm and drain hole to ensure your dishwasher is effectively breaking down and removing food debris.
  • Ensure your dishes aren’t touching and have enough space between each other for water and soap to pass through.
  • Don’t over-stack your dishwasher. It’s more cost-effective to run another cycle than have to wash all of your dishes again.
  • Pour a cup of lemon juice into a dishwasher-safe container and place it inside your dishwasher. The acidity of the citric juice will help keep the dishwasher smelling fresh.
  • Run an occasional hot wash in an empty dishwasher to clean out food debris from the nooks and crannies.


5. Why is my dishwasher not drying my dishes?

There are a number of reasons why your dishes might be coming out wet. You can also check out our Dishwasher Drying Tips for a more comprehensive guide on dishwasher drying.

1. You wash a lot of plastics

Plastics don’t dry as easily due to their density, so they’ll retain a lot of residual moisture. They also have a habit of moving around during a wash cycle, which is why you’ll sometimes find them upside-down and filled with water.

Solution: Use a Rinse-Aid, such as FINISH, to help water run off dishes more easily.


2. Check for extra drying options

You may need to manually switch on the drying option, or there may be an additional drying option to give your dishes an extra blast.

Solution: Check your product manual to make sure you’re making full use of the programs. Many dishwashers do use a condensation drying system


3. Your heating element is malfunctioning

If you’ve an older dishwasher with a heating element drying system, your heating element may be malfunctioning or burned out. You’ll notice a burning or mechanical smell. Your dishes also tend to be less clean on warm or hot washes.

Check whether your dishwasher has an exposed heating element by checking around the base filter for a black ring. Some recent models from Whirlpool Corp (KitchenAid, Kenmore, Whirlpool, Maytag) still have these, along with many older dishwasher models.

Solution: There are DIY solutions online to fix broken heating elements, but these are to be taken at your own risk and will void the manufacturer’s warranty.

We recommend finding the Serial Number Panel on the dishwasher (located either on the inner lip or the back of the dishwasher), noting down the model number and serial number, and calling the manufacturer directly for service.

Poet, music obsessive, and full-time existentialist. Oh, and I write a bit of copy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *