Dishwasher Smells Like Wet Dog? (here’s why & what to do)

If you own a dog and it has ever got soaked, you’ll know all about that wet dog smell. It’s usually easy to solve, all you need to do is wash and dry your pooch. However, if your dishwasher smells the same way as your wet dog, you have a problem.

To find out what causes this issue and the best ways to solve it, keep reading. In this article we look at all of the most likely reasons your dishwasher smells like a wet dog and offer ways to solve this issue and prevent it from happening again.

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Like A Wet Dog?

There are several things that can cause a wet dog smell in dishwashers. Most are easy to solve and won’t take more than a few minutes. They include;

Probable CauseSolution
Limescale build upRemove limescale using white vinegar
Rotting food particlesClean the dishwasher using a commercial dishwasher cleaner
Clogged filterClean the filter
Excess moistureLeave the door ajar after the cycle has completed
Clogged pipesClean the pipes and remove any blockages
Clogged spray armsClean the spray arms and remove any blockages
Dirty door sealsClean the door seals

Limescale Build Up

loading a dishwasher

If you live in a hard water area (that’s more than 60% of the UK), this could be the cause of your dishwasher smelling like a wet dog. Hard water is caused by minerals in the water (typically calcium and magnesium) which can accumulate inside the dishwasher where they form a hard, crusty residue.

Once this limescale builds up, bacteria, mould and mildew spores attach themselves to the surface which can result in that wet dog smell.

The best way to remove that bad smell and get rid of limescale deposits too is to run a hot wash cycle. Place a bowl on the bottom rack and half fill it with white vinegar. Then run the empty dishwasher on the hottest wash cycle it has.

This will kill germs, eradicate odours and remove limescale. Leaving your dishwasher looking clean and smelling fresh. You could use a commercial dishwasher cleaner to achieve similar results but vinegar is better for removing limescale.

Rotting Food Particles

If you don’t rinse your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher, any remaining food particles will begin to rot which could be causing that wet dog smell.

To eliminate this bad odour you will need to clean the dishwasher using a commercial dishwasher cleaner or by adding a bowl half filled with white vinegar and selecting the hottest wash cycle.

Clogged Filter

The filter on your dishwasher is there to trap any stray food particles and other debris from spreading back onto the dishes once they’re clean.

If you haven’t cleaned the filter in a while, it’s possible that it has become clogged with food and other debris. This would definitely make the dishwasher smell bad.

You should get into the habit of removing the filter at least once a month to ensure it is clean and working correctly.

How To Clean The Dishwasher Filter

Cleaning the filter is an easy task that will only take a few minutes. All you need to do is;

  1. Access The Filter
    The filter is situated below the bottom spray arm of the dishwasher.
  2. Remove The Filter
    Most dishwasher filters twist to undo and can then be lifted out of their housing.
  3. Wash The Filter
    Place the filter in the sink and wash under running water. Concentrate on the foil screen and brush with a toothbrush to remove any stubborn bits. If the filter is greasy you can soak it in warm soapy water or even soak it in a bowl of white vinegar.
  4. Replace The Filter
    Once the filter is fully clean, replace it back into its housing and secure it in position.

Excess Moisture


Once the dishwasher has finished its cycle, there is often water left on the sides and floor of the appliance. If this is not allowed to dry out, it can cause mould and mildew spores to breed which can smell like a wet dog.

To allow the dishwasher to dry out between uses you should leave the door ajar. This allows the moisture to escape and leave your dishwasher dry.

Dirty Or Clogged Pipes

If you regularly place greasy or excessively dirty dishes in your dishwasher, the pipes can become clogged or at least partially clogged. This could be the cause of the wet dog smell emanating from your dishwasher.

Check the drain hose for any blockages and then check the pipework the drain hose connects to. If possible remove any sludge found in the pipes using a plumber’s snake.

Running a cleaning wash once a month (or more often if you regularly wash greasy dishes) is a great way to prevent this problem from occurring again.

Clogged Spray Arms

The spray arms are an important part of your dishwasher’s cleaning functionality. The only way water is spread around the dishwasher and onto the dishes is via the spray arms.

If the nozzles become clogged with grease, food particles or limescale, the dishes won’t clean properly and could end up smelling like a wet dog. To solve this you should carefully remove the spray arms and inspect the nozzles for any blockages.

You can prise any particles from the nozzles using a toothpick but be sure to prise the particles out and not force them in deeper.

Dirty Door Seals

The seals around the door of your dishwasher can accumulate grease and food particles which could be contributing to that wet dog smell. 

You can clean all around the door seal using a damp cloth and a toothbrush for those stubborn areas. This should then be incorporated into your regular cleaning schedule.

How To Prevent Your Dishwasher From Smelling Like A Wet Dog


Now that you’ve solved the problem, you will need to get into a routine that prevents it happening again. There are a few simple tasks that can make all the difference. These include;

  • Rinsing The Dishes
    Before placing those dirty dishes in the dishwasher, give them a quick rinse under the tap to remove any food particles.
  • Leaving The Dishwasher Door Ajar After Use
    Once the cycle has completed and the dishwasher has been emptied, leave the door ajar to allow the interior to dry out.
  • Cleaning The Filter Regularly
    The filter on your dishwasher should be cleaned at least once a week to ensure the smooth running of your appliance and to prevent any bad odours.
  • Wipe Around The Door Seal
    You should get into the habit of wiping around the door seal with a damp cloth after every use to prevent any unwanted smells.
  • Running A Cleaning Cycle Regularly
    You should run a hot cleaning cycle using either a commercial dishwasher cleaner or a bowl half filled with white vinegar at least once a month. This will prevent any unwanted smells and keep your appliance running properly.
  • Use Bicarbonate Of Soda To Clean The Dishwasher
    Instead of white vinegar you could sprinkle 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda over the bottom of the empty dishwasher and run a hot wash cycle.

SEE ALSO: How To Clean & Sanitise A Dishwasher (to remove smells & dirt)

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does everything in my dishwasher smell like a wet dog?

If everything in your dishwasher smells like a wet dog it’s probably because there is a limescale build up, the filter is clogged, the spray arms are clogged, the pipes are clogged, there is rotting food particles in the tub, the walls of the dishwasher are wet or the door seals are dirty.

How do I fix the wet dog smell in the dishwasher?

To fix the wet dog smell in the dishwasher, place a bowl half filled with white vinegar on the bottom rack of the dishwasher and select a hot wash cycle.

How do I deodorise my dishwasher without vinegar?

To deodorise your dishwasher without using vinegar, you should; clean the filter using warm soapy water and a toothbrush. Then run a hot wash after sprinkling 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda on the bottom of the appliance.

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