Dishwasher Smelling Like A Wet Dog? Solve It In 7 Steps

Does your dishwasher smell like a wet dog?

Unfortunately, decaying food particles can cause the issue. But don’t worry! You’ve come to the right place to get it fixed.

If your dishwasher smells like a wet dog, you’ll need to clean the filter, spray arm, door seal, and machine. It’s also essential to clean your garbage disposal, open the door after every wash cycle, and replace any damaged components.

Keep reading to learn more about these tips, and forget all about the issue!

Why trust us? This article was written in collaboration with two appliance repair experts: James Blackford & Andy Fulencheck. We have over 25 years of combined appliance repair experience – please see our profiles to learn more about our backgrounds.

How to Fix a Dishwasher that Smells Like a Wet Dog

There’s nothing more annoying than having to wash the dishes by hand because your dishwasher smells like a wet dog.

dishwasher smells like a wet dog

Luckily, there are different solutions you can try. These are:

#1 Clean the Filter

If your dishwasher has a wet dog smell after running a wash cycle, there’s a good chance your filter is dirty, and bacteria are trapped in it.

Don’t worry, though. You can easily get rid of the wet dog smell by cleaning your filter. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Remove the bottom rack of your dishwasher. I recommend referring to the manufacturer’s manual to avoid damaging your appliance.
  1. Remove the cylindrical filter by turning it counterclockwise and pulling it up gently. Please remove the second flat filter (if your dishwasher has one).
  2. Check the filter housing to make sure there’s no food debris. If there is, please clean it with a wet sponge or dishcloth.
  3. Fill a large bowl with warm and soapy water.
  4. Place the filter in it and wait for a couple of minutes. Then, use a wire or stiff nylon brush to scrub the inside and outside of the cylindrical and flat filters.
  5. Rinse the filters with warm water.
How to clean a dishwasher filter and get rid of the wet dog smell.
Use a brush to clean your dishwasher’s filter

If you notice that your filter is broken or damaged, please replace it.

#2 Clean the Spray Arms

In my experience, dishes can also smell like a wet dog if the spray arms are dirty.

A diagram of where a dishwasher's spray arm is located
The spray arm can accumulate food particles and smell bad over time

You see, spray arms distribute the water around to clean the dishes. Unfortunately, if they become clogged with food particles, your dishwasher will smell like a wet dog, or it won’t clean all your dishes properly.

Cleaning the spray arms may sound like a complicated thing to do, but it’s really simple. You’ll just need to:

  1. Remove the lower basket, twist the lower spray arm, and pull it out gently.
  2. Remove the upper basket.
  3. If the upper spray arm has screws, please remove them. Then, detach it.
  4. Use a toothpick to remove any debris and unclog the holes.
  5. Rinse the spray arms with warm water and dry them with a clean cloth.
  6. Put the upper and lower spray arm back into place.

I also recommend soaking your dishwasher’s spray arms in vinegar overnight to break down any grime and stubborn food debris.

Bear in mind that the process of removing the spray arms will vary depending on your dishwasher’s model.

#3 Clean the Door Seal

While you’re at it, I also recommend cleaning the door seal to eliminate the wet dog smell from your dishwasher.

Cleaning your door seals will also help prevent mold and mildew from growing on your appliance!

Follow these quick tips to clean your dishwasher’s door seal:

  1. Fill a large bowl with warm water and dish soap.
  2. Dip a soft rag in the soapy water and wipe down the dirty seal.
  3. If there are any stubborn stains, use a soft brush and baking soda. I also recommend using an antimicrobial disinfectant.
How to clean dishwasher door seal
Use warm and soapy water to clean your dishwasher’s door seal.

Once you’re finished, please dry the door seal with a clean towel to prevent mold from growing.

#4 Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

It’s also important to remove any trapped particles and mineral buildup from the interior to get rid of the wet dog smell from your dishwasher.

I recommend using a cleaning tablet once a month and a sanitizer every six months. Some sanitizers come in a bottle that you’ll need to place in the silverware compartment with the top facing downward.

Then, run a full cycle with hot water to melt the wax seal and allow the sanitizing solution to clean your dishwasher and eliminate the wet dog smell.

I also recommend using vinegar to remove strong odors and stubborn stains. Here’s how to use this natural cleaner and stop your dishwasher from smelling like a dog that just went for a swim:

  1. Make sure the dishwasher is empty.
  2. Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with one cup of white vinegar and place it on the top rack.
  3. Run the hottest cycle on the dishwasher. Hot water can dissolve more dirt than cold water.

Tip: After running the vinegar cycle, add a cup of baking soda to the bottom rack and run a short cycle to have a sparkling appliance.

Once you’ve completed the steps above, I recommend dipping a microfiber cloth in a bowl with dish soap, water, and white vinegar. Then, wipe down your appliance’s surface, including the control panel and handles.

#5 Clean Your Garbage Disposal

If you’ve tried the four fixes above, but your dishes still smell like a wet dog, then you’ll need to check your garbage disposal.

You see, dishwashers and garbage disposals are typically connected through the same plumbing system.

So, if you haven’t cleaned your garbage disposal in a while, it’s possible for the wet dog smell to seep into your dishwasher.

In my experience, the easiest way to clean your garbage disposal is by using a cleaning foaming tablet. These tablets not only deodorize but also remove buildup.

For those seeking a natural alternative, you can use a combination of baking soda and ice to clean your garbage disposal. The ice will freeze and help dislodge any stubborn debris from the blades.

#6 Open the Door

To keep the wet dog smell from reappearing in your dishwasher, it’s important to leave the door open after every cycle.

Open your dishwasher's door
Once you’re done using your dishwasher, open the door to prevent unpleasant odors.

You see, your dishwasher uses hot water to clean the dishes. So, if you don’t open the door, the residual steam will be trapped inside the dishwasher, resulting in unpleasant odors.

Some modern dishwashers even offer a feature where little arms pop out and open your dishwasher for you after each cycle!

#7 Sort Your Sink’s Drain Hose

If you’ve tried all fixes above, but your dishwasher is still smelling like a wet dog, there’s a good chance you have a drainage issue.

Due to an improperly hung drain line, smells ranging from ‘wet dog’ to ‘rancid sewage’ can come with back flowing water from the sink to the dishwasher.

Where the drain hose hooks up to the plumbing (or disposal) there must be an uphill climb before going down toward the dishwasher- an air gap. 

If this is incorrect, you can get water from the sink collecting in the dishwasher – causing an odor.

Solving this problem involves getting into your pipework, requiring an appliance technician or plumber to help you out.

You can try clearing out blockages yourself, but until the pipes are fixed, the wet dog smell from your dishwasher will persist.

How to Keep Your Dishwasher Clean: 6 Easy Tips

Now that you finally got rid of the wet dog smell, I’m sure you’ll want to keep your dishwasher clean and learn different ways to prevent unpleasant odors.

This is why I’ve prepared a list of some easy tips that can help you:

  1. Use a rinse aid to help your dishes dry faster and avoid mold.
  2. Don’t forget to open the door after every wash cycle.
  3. Remove any food debris from the dishwasher after each cycle with a paper towel.
  4. Once a week, clean the door seal (for detailed instructions, go to fix #3) to avoid mold, grime, and any other spots. I also recommend cleaning your dishwasher’s filter once a week to prevent the wet dog smell from reappearing.
  5. Make sure to thoroughly clean your dishwasher with white vinegar or a cleaning tablet every month.
  6. If you suspect there’s a faulty component in your dishwasher, inspect it or call a professional.

Take a look at our Dishwasher Maintenance & Care Guide to learn other tips on how to make the most out of your appliance and save up to $500 in repair and electricity costs!


I hope that this article has helped you gain some more confidence in eliminating the wet dog smell from your dishwasher.

Remember to clean the filter, spray arms, door seal, and machine. Don’t forget to open the door once you’re done using the dishwasher and check for any damaged components.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article. If you found it helpful, please check out our related posts below.

Have an excellent rest of the day!

James Blackford
James Blackford
Appliance Repair Expert
James Blackford is an Appliance Repair Expert with over 16 years of experience. After spending over 15 years working as an Electronic and Appliance Technician for Sears, James is now a Master Technician for SquareTrade and runs his own appliance repair business in New Mexico. Read more