Explaining A Chemical Smell from a Dishwasher

Dishwasher has a chemical smell

Does your dishwasher smell like chemicals?

You’re not alone! I know how annoying it can be to have this happen, especially when you’re faced with a pile of dirty dishes that need cleaning.

The good news is that if you have a spare 15 minutes and aren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves, then you’ve come to the right place to get this issue fixed.

If your dishwasher has a chemical smell, chances are it’s either new, you used harsh cleaners, or you have hard water. It’s also possible that a plastic item has fallen into the heating element, you have a worn-out connection or the board is shorted.

Keep reading to learn how to fix the issue!

Why trust us? This article was written in collaboration with James Blackford, our appliance repair expert. James has over 16 years of experience as an appliance technician, works as a Master Technician for SquareTrade, and runs his own appliance repair company.

In-case you prefer to listen, here’s a clip from our podcast where we discuss why your dishwasher might smell of chemicals.

Why Your Dishwasher Has a Chemical Smell? 6 Possible Reasons

You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve seen complain about not being able to use their dishwashers due to a strong chemical odor.

Unfortunately, this may happen due to numerous reasons. The most common ones are:

#1 It’s Brand New

If you have recently bought your dishwasher, and it has a chemical smell, don’t worry – this is completely normal!

Most brand-new appliances can have a strong odor that resembles chemicals due to the materials used during manufacturing, such as adhesives or protective coatings.

Over time, this odor should naturally fade away. However, if it persists, try using a tablet cleaner and running the hottest cycle to get rid of the chemical smell.

In my experience, placing a cup of vinegar on the top rack and running a hot cycle can also help speed up the process. I also recommend wiping down the door and gaskets with a damp cloth.

Don’t forget to leave the door open after every cycle to allow moisture to escape and prevent mold and other unpleasant odors.

#2 You Used Harsh Cleaners

If your dishwasher is not brand new, then there’s a good chance you recently used a strong cleaning agent, which may have left behind residues.

To prevent this issue from happening again, please follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and use dishwasher-specific detergents. Avoid using chlorine bleach and other abrasive cleaners.

To remove the lingering effects of that harsh cleaner, try running an empty cycle of hot water with vinegar or baking soda.

While you’re at it, please clean your filter with warm soapy water and a wire or hard nylon brush. It’s also important to clean your spray arms and remove any food residue to prevent odors from developing.

#3 Hard Water

Sometimes, when hard water is combined with some detergents, it can create a chemical-like smell.

Unfortunately, dealing with hard water can be very frustrating, especially because it can affect your dishwasher’s performance. But here are a few tricks you can try.

Firstly, I recommend running your dishwasher with a cup of vinegar on the top rack and adding a tablespoon of table salt to the soap dispenser before adding the detergent.

Add salt to your dishwasher's soap dispenser
If you live in an area with hard water, try adding salt to your dishwasher soap dispenser.

According to the Salt Association, salt acts as a water softener by using the process of ion exchange. During this process, calcium and magnesium ions found in hard water are exchanged for sodium ions, resulting in softer water.

It’s also important to clean your dishwasher at least once a month, especially if you live in an area with hard water. This will help prevent mineral buildup and limescale formation.

#4 Burnt Plastic Item

If notice a chemical or burning smell while washing a plastic item, it’s likely that it has fallen from the racks onto the heating element.

A diagram of where a dishwasher's heating element is located
Check the bottom of the dishwasher to see if anything has fallen

In such cases, it’s important to open the windows, remove the burnt plastic item, and clean your dishwasher using vinegar, baking soda, or a tablet cleaner.

Repeat the cleaning process as needed to get rid of the odor. Please note that you should never reuse plastic items that have been burnt, as they can release harmful chemicals.

To ensure the safety of your plastic dishware, avoid placing them on the bottom rack, as they’ll easily melt. Instead, try placing them on the top rack.

#5 Worn-Out Connection

If the chemical or burning smell persists, then you’ll need to check the connection where your dishwasher hooks up to your home’s electrical system.

To do it, please follow these simple instructions:

  1. Turn off the circuit breaker and remove the lower access panel from your dishwasher. You’ll find a small gray metal box that contains the wires.
  2. Open the box. You’ll see different wires, please focus on the white and black ones, as these are usually the culprits.
  3. Identify the burnt wire and remove the old cap from it. Then, clean the wire and put a new cap on it.
  4. Wrap an electrical tape around each of the connections to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  5. Reassemble your dishwasher.

If you don’t feel comfortable with electrical repairs, I recommend reaching out to a professional.

#6 The Board Is Shorted

Sometimes, certain chemical smells can be mistaken for a burning smell. So, if the issue persists after trying the fixes above, it could indicate a shorted board in your dishwasher.

This issue is more commonly observed in dishwashers that have been in use for over 10 years.

When this happens, it’s best to reach out to a professional who can safely diagnose the problem and replace any necessary components.

Just a heads-up, some LG dishwashers may have a burning smell coming from the control board due to the materials used in their manufacturing process.


That about covers it! I hope that this article has helped you get rid of the chemical smell coming from your dishwasher.

More often than not, cleaning your dishwasher with a tablet cleaner, vinegar, or baking soda can solve the issue. However, if the odor persists, it’s important to check both your connections and the control board, as sometimes a chemical smell can be mistaken for a burning odor.

Thank you so much for reading this quick article! If you ever experience a different issue with your dishwasher or with any other appliance, don’t forget to check out our site.

Good luck!

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more