a possible cause of bad dishwasher odors?

CavimumJanuary 18, 2013

Could reduced or no interior air circulation ~AND~ the current "scrape-don't-rinse" of dirty dishes be the cause of the bad dishwasher odors that so many of us are experiencing?

We've had our new Bosch DW a couple of months now, and I'm noticing bad odors from it, but only when there are dirty dishes sitting inside. DW is correctly installed by professional with proper air loop, etc.. There is no water - standing or otherwise - on the floor of the tub after a cycle finishes; it is bone dry.

Our Bosch smells great after the DW has run a cycle and the dishes are unloaded, but:
-When there are dirty dishes inside and the door to our Bosch DW door is propped open slightly, there are NO ODORS.
-When I allow the door to close naturally, creating no air circulation, with those exact same dirty dishes, on the same day, an hour or two later the interior smells like a garbage truck. Gag.
-Leave it propped open again (approx 1/4" to 1/2"), mimicking the old Kenmore/Whirlpool DW door, there is no blast of odor when opening the door on the same day.
-We are using the same detergent (Finish Powerball tabs) as with our former DW.

We've never had this happen in 40 years of DWs. With the old 'American' DWs, we rinsed dishes, and the doors were not so heavy that they automatically closed tight. The door was always cracked (slightly open) until we fully closed it to start a wash cycle. All our previous 'American' DWs had visible 'steam vents' (non-technical term) that the Bosch does not have because of new condensation drying technique or whatever-they-call-it.

? ? ? Is it possible the American style 'steam vents' and drying system allowed better/any fresh air circulation inside the DW between wash cycles that the Bosch and other Euro brands do not? Air displacement when water enters the tub would indicate some sort of escape vent for air in the Bosch, but it may not be as large as those old traditional steam vents, especially due to the reduced amount of water the new DWs utilize. Rinsing the dishes definitely left less food on the plates and such.

As long as our Bosch can 'breathe' between cycles, there is no discernible odor, just like the old days with our Kenmore/Whirlpool DW.

Any thoughts? Opinions?

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Odor is a specific problem listed in the Self Help section of the owners manual. Have you looked at the 5 causes they list and the associated actions?

1. Food debris is present at the bottom of the dishwasher
2. Food particles are present near the door seal
3. Dishes left in unit too long before running a cycle
4. Residual water is present at the bottom of the dishwasher
5. Drain hose is obstructed

1. Remove the filters and clean according to the "Care and Maintenance" (pages 13-14) section of the manual
2. Refer to "Care and Maintenance" (pages 13-14) section of the manual
3. Run a Rinse cycle if you do not intend to immediately wash the dishes
4. Ensure the unit has completely drained from the last cycle
5. Remove any obstructions from the drain hose by calling qualified personnel.
Note: If odor still persists, run the Normal/Regular cycle until it flushes and interrupt the cycle and place an 8oz. cup of distilled white vinegar solution on the top rack and then finish the cycle.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Maybe it's those bottom filters that have to manually cleaned. Most of them are greasy and nasty. It's just gross to think about.

I will NEVER own a dishwasher with a manual clean filter...I couldn't care less about how quiet it is!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 12:23AM
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I appreciate your comments, but that's not it.

After a cycle completes, DW is unloaded, we allowed the DW to sit for sixteen hours with no dishes and door completely closed. No odors.

As soon as we put in some dirty dishes from a meal, allow door to close and not propped open for fresh air circulation, the DW smells badly after two or three hours.

That's my point. I think these odors are coming from the food on the dishes in trapped air and, in most cases, absolutely nothing is wrong with the filters, etc.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 8:38AM
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Yes, I have the same problem with my Thermador dw. Only way I've found to resolve the issue is to keep the door propped open a little before its full of dirty dishes. Where I live we have hard water and I do have to rinse off all food before loading the dishes into dw so it is confusing where the bad odor is coming from.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Well, if it's the food that smells and not the DW, I'd have to wonder what you're cooking that smells so bad after only a couple of hours? Eggs are notorious for that, but most anything else won't really smell all that bad until it gets to fermenting. That's at least 24-48 hours before that happens. And since using a DW uses less water than handwashing, you should be running your DW every day, regardless of if it's full or not. Are you running it at least once a day? And have you made sure that the drain hose in unobstructed and the filter is clean?

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 1:15PM
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@GreenDesigns - We eat the normal stuff. Scraping and not rinsing leaves a lot more stuff on the plates & bowls, though. My nose is also more sensitive to odors than most people, too.

We do not run the DW every day because there are only two of us, and sometimes it takes two or three days to fill up the DW if we're eating some meals out. Other times, it does get run daily; just depends.

When I prop the door open with a dishrag to give 1/4" clearance for air to circulate, there is no smell at all for hours. I think my refrigerator would smell, too, if it was at room temp inside and we put all the leftovers in there without a cover. The "scrape-don't-rinse" combined with no fresh air is what I think is the culprit in many of these odor complaints. Turns out that's what is going on in our DW, based on my experiments. Our old DW door never closed fully on its own, like this Bosch does.

Keeping a dishrag on the top of the door to keep it cracked open is a hassle, so we may start rinsing dishes again, like we did with the old DW.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 2:19PM
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We recently had a problem with the drain hose, and a Bosch dishwasher not fully draining. It was obvious as there was water left in the tub at the end of the cycle.

What was less obvious was that it was not pumping out at the end of each sub cycle. That means water and fine food from the initial wash was still there at the end of the cycle. It was kind of an intermittent problem and even when it pumped out the tub fully, and you removed the filter, the water left (and some water left is normal) was cloudy.

So, before you assume pump out is not an issue it is worth removing the filter at the end of the final cycle, and checking the residual water to see how clean it is. If it is cloudy that could be the source of your odour after it sits for a while.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 12:24PM
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Warm food will rot, and rotten food generally has an unpleasant odor. The widely believed need to scrape but not rinse is very likely the cause. If the dishes are wet, the conditions for bacterial growth are ideal. If the dirty dishes were put in dessicated, then rot would be very much delayed. The actual rule is that the dishes do not have to be rinsed in order to be cleaned but only scraped. The rule doesn't address odor generation.

I have read on this site such concepts as: 'the enzymes will not have enough to eat if the plates are clean, so they won't clean the dishes.' If the dishes are clean you will not need as much detergent to clean them. The enzymes do not multiply like bacteria, and if they are minimally needed ('fed') they will be minimally used. One only wants to avoid having too much foam from using more detergent than is appropriate for the residual grease on the dishes, and if the water temperature is too high, too much detergent that might cause etching.

In many Meile dishwashers there is a crystal cycle for glassware. It uses a lower temperature to avoid etching. Just how much greasy food is one supposed to add to a set of wine glasses so the enzymes will be happy while sloshing over the glassware?


    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 11:11AM
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I installed (tilted) my Bosch dishwasher to sit flush with the other cabinets when the door is not closed. That way, I can leave the door slightly (only like .1 inch) open and it still "looks good" in the kitchen. I found that closing the door after the wash cycle will trap a good amount of warmth and humidity in the tub which may increase odors from soiled dishes.

I would recommend to give items soiled with garlic, fish etc. a hot rinse before loading them into the dishwasher. Other than those items, I don't rinse and run the DW every two to three days - no smells, most of the time. You might want to leave the door slighty ajar before going to bed.

FWIW, Bosch dishwashers have a vent to release excess steam and heated air during the cycle. Where this vent it depends on your model. And cloudy water may not be the perfect indicator for a clean rinse as rinse aid actually causes some cloudiness, too.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 3:16PM
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I got a new Bosch a few months ago. I scrape *and* rinse. Can't help myself. That discussion is for another thread. The point is, I don't have a lot of food sitting on my dishes to stink up the place. Since I live alone, it might take me up to a week to get a full load. I used to do that with my old Kenmore and there was never a bad smell.

It takes my Bosch about three days to begin to smell, so that's how often I run it. It irks me that there are so few dishes inside, but I'm trying to get over that.

There is no food debris left behind in the filter. I've checked. What I think is the cause is the small amount of water at the bottom of the filter trap. According to what I've read, it's supposed to be there, keeps the parts from drying out and cracking. The Bosch is well insulated. It's like a giant incubator. My theory is that any container of water in a tight, enclosed place is gonna start smelling after a few days. I can't leave my door ajar, mainly because the DW is in a corner and that would interfere with opening other drawers. Besides, it's not a look I sought when I bought a new DW.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 11:51AM
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I do not have the problem -- or at least, my nose isn't picking it up --- but for those times a few dishes will be sitting, I run the "quick cycle" (no detergent) with the "half load" option plus the Eco-something button. Cuts the energy use down and probably uses no more water than I would for rinsing.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 2:32PM
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A week ago, we returned from a 2-week vacation. Prior to leaving, I ran a "Sanitize" cycle in our Bosch DW and mopped up the water residue down in that 'trap' and also cleaned the filter. And I allowed to door to close (but not latch) as it normally is closed during everyday life.

Door was closed for two weeks and it smelled fine upon return. No doors at all.

Once we started putting dishes in the sanitized DW, it started to smell awful within hours.

Air doesn't circulate or get in the DW because the door closes quite 'closed' before latching, so this has to be the cause. At least, in our house and DW.

We can't leave it propped open all day or it causes a traffic hazard. Whatever residue is on the dishes, after scraping and a light rinse, causes the awful odors, combined with lack of good air circulation. I refuse to wash dishes prior to putting them in the DW.

Our old Kenmore Elite door just did not close as "closed" as this Bosch door. More air must have gotten in and circulated, because we never had this type odor, and we don't eat weird foods with odd odors; just the normal stuff. Things get bad when we do have the odd highly seasoned meal, though.

My other theory is that due to the condensation drying feature, there is less air flow via the steam exhaust vents like all six of our previous DWs.

After my highly scientific experiment outlined above (LOL), that is my take on it.

I've taken to running the DW every night if it is even half full, just to keep the odor down. Otherwise it be rather disgusting and can knock one over the next day. So much for saving water and electricity . . .

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 7:04PM
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Cavimum, I think your scientific findings are rock solid. :) I miss my old low-end Kenmore with its plastic innards that never smelled bad, ever. Funny thing is, I never used air dry with the Kenmore, yet there was never condensation after a run. It seems that there is always moisture on the door of the Bosch.

That being said, my dishes sparkle. And I'm convinced that the dire warnings that pre-rinsed dishes will either not be cleaned or will be etched are nothing but old-wives' tales.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 12:32AM
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"Funny thing is, I never used air dry with the Kenmore, yet there was never condensation after a run. It seems that there is always moisture on the door of the Bosch. "

@linelle - I always used air dry with our Kenmore but can't say if the inside of the door was wet, or not. I think the color hid any moisture. BUT .... my Kenmore had the steam vent in the door so maybe there was less moisture in the unit by the end of the cycle?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 8:16AM
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@cavimum, you may be right about the plastic color hiding any moisture. The bright shiny interior of the Bosch makes moisture very easy to see. I don't even know where the vent is.

My Bosch is one solid, insulated, sealed chamber. I can't rid myself of the notion that the culprit is the water sitting at the bottom of the filter. Plus, all it takes is a few crumbs or drips of food to work its way down there and we have a fetid petrie dish.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 10:00AM
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Also, bear in mind that the stainless surfaces are supposed to condense moisture in Bosch DWs.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 4:36PM
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Update on the ongoing not-so-scientific lab experiment a/k/a the odors emanating from our Bosch DW.

Since Tuesday morning (four days ago) all we've put in the DW are glasses, cups, and lunch plates from sandwiches, a few breakfast plates with egg (pre-washed by family dog). All plates are fairly clean-ish because of no sauces, fats and other type residue.

There have been no odors. In four days, since it was run on Monday night. (Am posting this on Saturday morning)

The only variable here is that there have been no dinner plates holding residual stuff from evening meals, the main/large meal of the day. I stand by my theory that the bad smells (at least, in our

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 8:54AM
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