why does my whirlpool dishwasher stink

Whirlpool Dishwasher Smells Bad? Here’s What to Do.

Like most appliances, dishwashers require regular maintenance to function optimally. Consistent cleaning and maintenance is necessary in order to prevent foul odors. We’ll detail how proper cleaning of components like the filter and spray arms can combat odor when your Whirlpool dishwasher smells bad.

How to Eliminate Whirlpool Dishwasher Smells

These dishwasher cleaning hacks not only eliminate bad smells, but are easy enough to be part of regular upkeep to prevent their return. But before we discuss how to remove odor, it’s helpful to know why a Whirlpool dishwasher smells bad and where odor originates.

Why Does My Whirlpool Dishwasher Stink?

Are you wondering why does my Whirlpool dishwasher stink even if dishes come out clean? Here’s why dishwashers are so prone to odor when not cleaned regularly:

  • Dirty Filter: If food particles that are trapped in a dirty filter are allowed to accumulate, they’ll begin to decompose, creating a bad smell.
  • Trapped Food Particles: Leftover food remnants can also collect in the dishwasher’s gasket or in the corners of the tub, creating odor as they break down.
  • Mildew Growth: Lingering food particles and the dishwasher’s warm, moist environment create the perfect breeding ground for smelly mold and mildew.

Clean the Dishwasher Filter

A Whirlpool dishwasher filter cleaning can eliminate a significant source of odor. Follow these steps to remove and clean the filter with the proper techniques:

  1. Remove the bottom dish rack and locate the filter.
  2. Turn the filter cartridge clockwise to remove the upper filter. Remove the lower filter by lifting upward.
  3. Rinse both filter components under warm water, using a soft brush and dish soap to scrub away stubborn debris.
  4. Replace the lower filter by aligning it with the tabs on the filter compartment. Place the upper filter in the lower filter’s opening and turn clockwise to lock in place.
how to clean a whirlpool dishwasher

Dishwasher Tub Cleaning

The dishwasher tub can also harbor smelly mold and mildew if not cleaned regularly. Here’s how to clean a Whirlpool dishwasher tub with basic home ingredients like vinegar and baking soda:

  1. Pour 2 cups white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container and place it in the bottom rack of an empty dishwasher.
  2. Run a normal wash cycle without detergent or the heat dry option.
  3. When the vinegar cycle has ended, sprinkle 1 cup baking soda in the dishwasher’s base.
  4. Run a hot water cycle to completion.
  5. With a clean cloth, wipe down the dishwasher walls as well as around the gasket.

Clean Dishwasher Spray Arms

A dishwasher’s spray arms have small holes that disperse water to clean dishes. However, these holes can easily become clogged with small food particles, leaving dishes dirty and contributing to Whirlpool dishwasher smells. The following steps detail how to clean spray arms easily and effectively:

  1. Remove the bottom rack and detach the lower and upper spray arms.
  2. Use a sewing needle or piece of wire to remove food particles in the spray arm holes.
  3. Soak the arms in warm soapy water and wipe down with a clean cloth.
  4. Replace the spray arms and the bottom rack.
whirlpool dishwasher smells

Tips to Prevent Dishwasher Odors

While these cleaning techniques can eliminate odor, they can also be part of regular maintenance to prevent it from returning. Here’s how cleaning and other odor-prevention tips can keep a dishwasher fresh and functioning:

  • Clean the dishwasher filter every 6-12 months. 1-7 wash cycles per week requires an annual cleaning while 8-14 wash cycles per week requires two cleanings per year. If you don’t scrape or rinse dishes before loading, the filter requires more frequent cleanings.
  • Clean the dishwasher tub with vinegar and baking soda on a monthly basis. Avoid more frequent deep cleanings to prevent damage to the interior.
  • Check your owner’s manual to determine if there’s a recommended detergent for your model dishwasher. Use only the suggested amounts, as too much detergent, can leave behind excess suds that breed smelly mold and mildew.
  • Refrain from leaving unwashed dishes in the dishwasher for too long, as food particles can generate odor. If dishes aren’t washed on a daily basis, run a “Rinse and Hold” or “Rinse Only” cycle once a day until the dishwasher is full.


If your Whirlpool dishwasher smells bad even after these cleaning tips, then it may be time for a dishwasher repair service to assess the problem. Let Appliance King of America help with this and any other issue from a dishwasher not cleaning dishes to a dishwasher leaving dishes wet.

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