Dishes smell 'fishy' after dishwasher

michelle_phxazAugust 26, 2008

All my dishes and flatware have a funky sort of odor after they are clean, sort of a fishy smell, no matter what was eaten off of them. I use Costco's Kirkland powder detergent and Jet Dry. How can I get this smell to go away?

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graywings123

I would start by getting out the owners manual for the dishwasher and see if there were some maintenance procedure that you have missed. Some dishwashers require you to clean out a filter.

If there is no filter to clean, get a flashlight and take a look at the drain in the bottom of the dishwasher. I found slivers of wood in mine once, and food had been catching on the wood and hanging on. I pulled them out with long tweezers after trying unsuccessfully to take the machine apart.

Check the temperature of the water at the sink and make sure you are using hot enough water. You may have to raise the temp on your water heater.

Is it possible your water has an odor?

Clean the inside of the machine. The owners manual will explain how, or maybe it would help you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dishwasher cleaner

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 7:55AM
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lindac

I suggest its your water? Where does your water come from?
If its a lake or a river, they sometimes get low this time of the year and get excess vegitation which leads to the water having a bit of a fishy odor. In the closed dishwasher it becomes magnified.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 11:16AM
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michelle_phxaz

I will look at the manual, there very well might be stuff gunked up in it but the dishwasher has a built-in garbage disposal that is supposed to clean it out. I will check it out though.

Our water is fine, it is drinkable and on a soft water loop.

Thanks for the hints, I will give it a try!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 3:09PM
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kec01

Are you having any funky smells with clothes going into the washing machine as well?

We got funky smells and after much probing, learned that the anode in our water heater had gone bad and that caused the smell. Had to get a new water heater even though we still had hot water.

Just an idea...

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 5:13PM
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michelle_phxaz

No, clothes smell fine. I am off to look for my manuals.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 10:08PM
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michelle_phxaz

Well, this is a load of crap. From the manual:

Are dishes washed only once every 2 or 3 days? Run a rinse cycle once or twice a day until you have a full load.

Seriously? It is just my husband and me and we run it about once a week! I am not wasting water running a rinse cycle twice a day. There is a troubleshoot for a plastic smell to use vinegar, I think I will try that. But really, does anyone run their dishwasher daily unless you are Jon and Kate Plus Eight!?!?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 12:27AM
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graywings123

Actually, a few month ago, I started running my dishwasher every night, and there are just two of us here plus the dog.

I was handwashing the coffee pot and filter every day, as well as the dog's bowls, and wanted to reduce the amount of twisting and turning I was doing to my forearms. I was doing a lot of wall painting at the time, and my forearms were sore.

Between the arm motion and the amount of water I was using to hand wash, I came to the conclusion that running the dishwasher was a better way to go. It is an increased use of electricity, but I don't use the heat dry button.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 8:59AM
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michelle_phxaz

I would prefer to not waste water like that, but maybe I will give it a shot.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 8:00PM
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moroseaz

I found a rubber thing that's supposed to keep your dishwasher from becoming smelly. Think I found it at Albertson's although I haven't found another one since. It hangs from the top rack and looks like an air freshener. It stays in the dishwasher when it's run. Wish I could remember what it was called but it works. Another option is to cut a lemon in half and leave it in the dishwasher. A box of baking soda will work, too, but you have to remember to remove them before running the dishwasher.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 8:19PM
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mc_hudd

Michelle~ I would buy some of the dishwasher cleaner that graywings linked to. It works great! Our DW was in the mobile home we just bought. The MH is a 1985 model. I found the manual for the DW & it's a 1984 model! (PS, this DW works great, maybe better than some of the new ones I've seen in action, they just don't make 'em like they used to!) I used the DW cleaner & it made my DW look brand new inside & smell very clean. If yours is really bad, maybe try one right after the other. Also, it's just me & DH at our house too & I only do dishes once a week also. My sister said I should run my DW every couple of days regardless of it needing to be ran or not. I thought this sounded ridiculous, so I don't do that & haven't noticed any problems as of yet. However, I do use the heated dry, so maybe drying the machine out after use helps... I don't know.

Moroseaz~ What you're talking about sounds like the solid Jet Dry basket, made for older DW's that don't have the dispenser. I have to use these, but I don't notice them making the DW smell any different.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 11:40PM
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cindermaid

All of our glass, china and stoneware dishes smell fishy after we run them through the diswasher. It is not our water which was tested by the village and they said it was good. Also, washing by hand or getting water out of the tap does NOT smell fishy at all.

Our dishwasher does not have any filters that need to be changed and no special instruction on maintainence. I have cleaned it out with detergent and I've tried running a cycle with viniger. The smell goes away but by the second load of dishes it is back.

Does anyone know what besides bad water and old filter or not cleaning your dish washer can cause a fishy smell? Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 7:30PM
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Rusty

Running a dish washer once a day on a rinse cycle does not waste water. It takes several days here to get a full load, and there is no way I would leave the dirty dishes in there for days on end. That alone would cause quite a smell, I would think. Not to mention dried on food particles. REALLY dried on! One quick 'rinse only' cycle late in the evenings is well worth the little bit of water it uses to prevent odor and dried on food and who-knows-what in the bacteria department. Nor does it use as much water as rinsing by hand to get rid of food particles before loading into the dish washer.
Rusty

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 9:59AM
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sewhappy_2007

I live alone and sometimes it is many days between dishwasher loads. Knowing this, I do rinse off all food particles before placing anything in the washer - especially my morning bowl of oatmeal. I never have any bad odors or problems getting my dishes clean.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 8:49AM
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beaglenc

Just a thought, is your dw plastic inside or ss? Plastic tends to absorb odors. I've never had any odors and never prerinse and go for 3 to 5 days before running the dw.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 10:08AM
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shiver

Yes! By golly, I had this same problem for many, many years and couldn't figure it out---I thought the problem was that I ate too much fish, but no. If you "heat dry" your dishes in the dishwasher, that's when that yucky smell comes out. Once I switched to "air dry" (quite by accident at first) the smell was gone and never came back. I don't know if heat mixed with certain kinds of water makes this smell, or what the problem is, but you are not imagining it. It was the same way at my mom's house...fishy semlling dishes with heat-dry, and non-stinky dishes with air-dry. :)

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 11:23AM
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blairgirl

There are only two of us, and I never run the dishwasher without a full load. I also don't rinse dishes, but just scrape off food scrapes and in they go.

I never had a "smell" problem.

I also use only Cascade Complete (the powder, not the liquid and not the little packets) and Jet Dry. No problems with dishes, glasses or odors.

I came across a pretty good means of cleaning the dishwasher. I think was a Hints from Heloise trick. I tried it, and the interior look and smelled like new.

"Put a cup of bleach in bottom rack. Run through wash cycle; do not let go to dry cycle (just let water empty.) Fill bowl again with a cup of vinegar. Run through entire cycle.

You can wash dishes with this regimen; do not put in silverware, glassware, or gold-rimmed dishes if you do this."

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 7:04PM
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busylizzy

The best products to use to clean a dishwasher are Tang powdered drink mix,or Kool Aid Lemonade drink mix. Just put in the detergent cup and run on regular cycle.

I am anal about cleaning my dishwasher, it took 3 of us 2 days to remove and install the current one. Gotta love "this old house projects."

In the house it is just my daughter and myself, so unless I am cooking, baking or canning up a storm I only run the washer 1 or 2 times a week and I have no odors. I rinse the dishes though, as old habits die hard. I have well water. Only use Cascade, tried others and they don't seem to clean as well.

This dishwasher is a Sears closeout plastic tub one, had all the bells and whistles, china, heavy duty, rinse, light, normal, sanitize cycles 2, 4, 6 hour delay etc... 2 utensil baskets and stemware holders on the top rack for $249.00

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 10:47AM
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jannie

It's just my husband and me and I run my dishwasher thru a full cycle once a day, I clean everything I can think of in there, including my dog's dishes and my bathroom cup. I'll run it even if it isn't full because I want to have a supply of clean glasses, coffee mugs and silverware (actually I have a set of stainless steel. A Sears repairman once told me, scrape the dishes completely before loading them in the DW.Don't let food sit on the dishes to rot, smell, dry out and get crusty. One money-saving measure I use is I fill the rise aid dispenser with clear white vinegar rather than a professional rinse aid product. And occasionally (weekly) wipe off the rubber gasket around the edge. It must remain clean and pliable to work properly. One final thought- Consumer Reports magazine says Cascade Complete is the best DW detergent. It's the only thing I use. My DW is nine years old.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2010 at 11:08AM
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tomedwards

"Shiver" got it right! It's when you heat dry, or in my case, steam sanitize. Brand new Jenn Air washer. Has nothing to do with food residues or anything else posted by the well meaning folks above. The weird thing is I always had this problem (like 8 dishwashers. We move a lot), but nobody else notices it!
That, I think, is the whole thing; the smell is there, but most people can't smell it. The downside of a fine tuned nose i guess.
Suggestion is: Don't heat dry!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 5:55PM
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ruthie51

I can't believe I saw this post. Last Saturday I was cleaning out our dishwasher and smelled that fishy smell for the first time. I asked my husband if he could smell it, but he has sinus problems and can't smell anything. Well, I'm glad I found out that other people have noticed this issue as well. I always use "heat dry"...I'll stop now. Thank you!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 7:14PM
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nickdarvas

I just moved into a new place and wham, smelly dishes from the dishwasher right from the start. Didn't have the problem at the old place.

I've looked around the web and others with this problem say it smells fishy, like dog breath, like a wet dog, and like a swamp. Yep, that's the smell.

I tried unselecting "heat dry", but that didn't help me. I'm not sure why that would be the source of the smell anyway.

I stuck my head in the dw and noticed the smell around the drain, although it was faint. It seemed to me that it had to be some sort of decaying bacterial sludge in drain/exit pipe area. (The fact that the dw had lain dormant for months prolly plays a large role here.)

The drain is at the bottom, but the exit tube goes way up high before coming down to meet the plumbing under the sink. Sounds like a recipe for nasty microbe growth.

I noticed around the web people were suggesting a variety of things: Use high water temp, use Dishwasher Magic, use vinegar, use chlorine. All of these make sense if bacteria/waste are indeed the source of the problem. I decided to use the pots/pans setting (a long cycle that wheels out all the artillery: high temp, heat dry, sanitize) along with Dishwasher Magic. That worked! Smelly dishes gone! I'm now using the light wash setting but make sure "high temp", "heat dry" and "sanitize" are all chosen.

I hope that smelly dishes are all in the past now.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 4:27PM
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rozilla

Well, this is a first to me. Oh yuk, fishy smelling dishes. I wonder what it is about the heat drying? Seems to me this would sanitize and kill more bacteria that air drying, thus have the opposite effect. Stick your head in there and see if anything is clogging the drain (like maybe a fish, lol) That fish smell is a a sign of fungus, and you don't want that on your dishes.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 7:18PM
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albert_135

With my very old dishwasher minerals, no doubt containing bits of other detritus, build up on the heating coil when not using heat drying. Then if heat drying is used it stinks.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 12:10PM
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nickdarvas

"Then if heat drying is used it stinks."

What stinks? The dw, or the dishes? We're really talking about the dishes. I had a godawful swampy doggy smell on my dishes (mostly bowls, cups, plates, not so much the glasses and none on the silverware), but the dw didn't stink too much. I had to remove the lower rack and stick my head in the thing near the drain to smell anything in the dw.

I would guess, but am not sure, that smell from the heating coil is different from the fishy dog smell we're talking about here. How would ou characterize the smell?

By the way, I guess I can see how "heat dry" might make the smell worse on the dishes - moisture in the steam might just press the smell into the dishes. I just can't see how heat dry could be the source of the smell we're complaining about here.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 12:26PM
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cruisedirector

I've had the fishy smell in my 2-year old SS dishwasher almost since it was new. I asked my DH to check the drain pipe to make sure it was high enough so it wasn't trapping dirty water. He said he moved it up a couple of inches. Then I ran an empty load with a cup of bleach through it on the heat and sanitize cycle. The smell seems to be gone now.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 11:44AM
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WalnutCreek Zone 7b/8a

I found the mention of Lemi-Shine over on the Appliance forum and did some research on it. I am absolutely going to purchase some after having read the rave reviews. Evidently, you can purchase it at WalMart from what several reviewers said.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lemi-Shine

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 11:41AM
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karinmarie

I have that gross smell too...notice it when you are drinking out of a glass that has been through dishwasher. Hard to describe...just gross smell and if you are drinking milk, makes you think the milk is starting to spoil.

I had heard about running the dishwasher with Tang so I am going to try that and I had also heard that there is some cleaner you get that has ornage oil in it.

I have tried bleach but do not like the idea of having to do that every time I run a load of dishes.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 1:01PM
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moroseaz

Well, it's taken me a long search to find the 'plastic thingy' I mentioned two years ago. It's called Glisten Dishwasher Deodorizer & Rinse Aid, distributed by Phelps Industries, LLC. I found it at Ace Hardware, Tatum & TBird, in Phoenix. Apparently it's only supposed to be good for 21 washes, lol, and the only one I ever had must've been in there for at least 3 years.

While it may indeed be a rinse aid I still use Rinse Aide or Jet Dry in the dispenser. Old habits die hard, I guess.
Since I've never used heat dry on my Maytag, I have no idea if it even works. Heat drying anything in Phoenix is redundant.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 1:05PM
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livebetter

I can vouch for Lemishine. The interior of your dishwasher will sparkle after you use it. I use it every two months (roughly). I cant say I know what this fishy smell could be. I have a very keen sense of smell and I dont smell anything from my dishwasher.

I run a load of dishes daily - I'm a stay at home mom with two kids so lots of dishes here daily.

I have a Kitchen Aid SS dishwasher. I use green options like Ecover or BioVert tabs instead of Cascade. No rinse aid. I use the "Energy Saver" dry option which (I believe) cycles heat on and off - although often I'll open it up when it's done washing and dry things myself and put away. They are not very wet as the heat of the water dries them almost immediately. Some European washers (ie. Miele) dont even have an element for heat.

It took me awhile to get a good system that didnt involve chlorine (Cascasde) to wash dishes well. I actually have better results now than I did using Cascade. Everything is squeaky clean with no residue, smell or many spots/streaks.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 1:58PM
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eileen2rt_gmail_com

I have a brand new LG dishwasher and I run mine everyday. 5 in family. This is my 5th dishwasher in my lifetime and first ever problem with bad smells. I have always used Cascade. The very first load in this new dishwasher smelled fishy. I am still trying to figure this one out. I read the manual but nothing about this in troubleshooting, there is no food stuck anywhere. I am going to try hitting the "sanitary button". I have tried extra scrub and normal, to no avail. Maybe sanitary is hotter water.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 12:42PM
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teresatree

I've heard that running an empty load with lemon koolaid helps keep a dishwasher clean and fresh, but I haven't ever tried it myself.
We are a family of 4 and have a full load every day.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 12:20PM
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ppieman_yahoo_com

Eggs cause wet dog smell in my dishwasher. Prewash anything that has come in contact with either raw or cooked eggs before putting it in the dishwasher. I haven't had the smell since I figured this out.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 6:03PM
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MinnieC

Imagine the worst foul wet dog smell that you can. Now imagine it on a fork as you are about to take a bite or on your glass. I have had to dump my dinner down the disposer because the smell on the plate was so bad. The weird thing was that it only happened for a few days or a week and then disappeared only to return some time later. It took me a year to figure out that it only occurred when the rinse agent needed refilling. Problem solved... for me at least.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 4:34PM
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beanwabr

I think I may give the lemon kool-aid a try. Does anyone know how much is supposed to be used? Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 9:40AM
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cynnamama

Funny, not many of you mentioned about cleaning below the door inside the dishwasher! It is a place where it collects the debris and deposits and it is GROSS! I clean mine once every 6 months pending how often you use your dishwasher.
Clean with mild soap and water (will stain your cleaning rags so use old ones!)
Also, check all the spinning arms. Look to make sure all the holes are open so that water can run through them freely.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:08PM
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kellyjoezzyk_hotmail_com

i've had this problem for years- but not everytime. i thought it was the dryer thing too so i turned that off, and it helped...for awhile. i think Paula has it absolutely right! i think i had eggs in there the other night. I breaded some chicken and put the bowl in there without rinsing it off. boy did it stink! now i will never do that again. thanks!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 1:53PM
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avadoone

This may be a long shot but, I have heard that melting plastic can smell like fish.

It reminds me of a cabinet repair job. There was water damage on the box of the wood cabinets because the dishwasher was getting so hot it melted the plastic lining on the inside of the dishwasher. If it's plastic, it worth taking a good look for any discoloration, warping or other signs of melting plastic.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 6:06PM
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Jimmynsonja_q_com

I know the smell well and nothing worse than taking a drink of milk and smelling wet dog. I have tried many things to no avail. I now believe it is due to having the "heat dry" on. I opened the DW the other day while dishes were heat drying to get a bottle and gave it a quick whiff before putting milk in for my baby; and, it smelled great. Hmm.. that's good I thought. However, when the dishes were totally dry and cooled off, they smelled awful. So, try this out and smell dishes as soon as they are clean and still a little wet, or just haven't had time to dry long. I believe that the heating does cause the fishy smell for some reason. After exhausting everything else, look into this reason.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 5:58PM
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noname_sbcglobal_net

Okay -- My dishes have the stank. I tried washing egg off first. Tried no heat dry. Neither worked! We have an air gap. What else could it BE?? It's the same nasty dog/fish smell as described above. I recently noticed the smell was also present in the sink on the ground floor, after I washed out a litter box! New piece to the puzzle. Soap not rinsed completely off? Or something in the water? Someone must know!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 7:56PM
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davidro1

to me, what is fishy is that nobody has mentioned their brand of dishwasher.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 6:40AM
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ghatta

I have a Bosch dishwasher with a stainless interior. It is less than a year old and I have this problem as well. I am very glad to find out it isn't just me! I cleaned the filter and it didn't help. I am hopeful one of these ideas will fix the issue. I am afraid to offer anything to a guest that I don't hand wash first just in case it stinks.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:54AM
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cjc123

I also have a bosch dishwasher, the fishy smell was driving me crazy, I noticed my sisters dishwasher was doing the same thing, so after a ton of research(tried vinegar, taking it apart,...) I switched back to plain old Cascade powder and jet dry in the rinse area. Super Clean, NO odor!! I only fill to the lowest line in the dispenser. The racks slide in and out with NO effort, and the dishes are drier then ever before. (I don't use heat cycle, use the short cycle 90% of the time) I just had to share as it is such a simple change and really works!!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 8:51AM
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kacy27

I also did the bleach thing. Ran the empty washer once with bleach (the splashless kind) and once without anything. Got the funk outta there (for now)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 1:54PM
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newjerseybt

I thought I had the same problem with an awful stink worse than fish. I never used the almost new DW as there is only two of us and decided to give it a try for the first time and hope the stench would disappear with use.

I turned on the DW with a few "test" dishes and glasses for just a short while and opened the door to check things out and noticed a white film on the glasses along with the stench!

Rubbing by fingers on the glasses it looked like skim milk.

Earlier that day I washed out some white latex paint from rollers and somehow the paint ended up in the DW and on the dishes. The bottom of the DW was white with paint!

Taking a closer look underneath the sink, I traced the DW hose and noticed it was connected fairly close to the bottom of the sink trap which also has a food disposal unit installed. I reasoned out that the DW drain hose needed a loop 14" higher than where it connected on the sink drain pipe to prevent flowback.

A hook with a built in wood screw raised the hose just below counter level. This little adjustment worked well and solved the paint and stench problem. I'll bet the previous homeowners had no clue.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 4:27PM
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jeeperaz

Just curious... can anyone with the odor completely rule out eggs as the source (as in you don't consume them)?

Our 1 month old LG washer just produced this odor for the first time on it's most recent load. Our previous GE dishwasher also occasionally had this smell.

Each morning, I eat 2 eggs 'over-easy'(paleo/primal diet). I'm pretty good about prewashing my plates and utensils before they go in the DW but sometimes I slack a little and also you know how egg yolk can be stubborn at times.

Is it eggs/egg yolk causing this smell?

Or another theory... those of us with this odor problem, is your water hard?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 1:00AM
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graywings123

I eat an egg every day and put the dirty dish in the dishwasher and I don't rinse it first. It sits there until evening when the dishwasher is turned on. There are no eggy smells in my kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 5:36PM
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jeeperaz

anyone WITH the smell:

do you place dishes in your DW which may have eggs or egg yolk on them?
do you have hard water?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 6:57PM
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dukedad

If you scramble or otherwise prepare eggs in a bowl for cooking and then fail to rinse the raw-egg-coated bowl welll before putting it in the dishwasher, all of your dishes will become coated with a micoscopic layer of raw albumin which will impart them with a fishy smell.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 11:25AM
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emma

We used to have algae blooms in our water supply and the water smelled musty for a month or two. I think they have found a way to stop that now. If you drink bottled water you might not know it tastes bad.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 11:33AM
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Harshada

No matter you clean your dishes daily or weekly.
I think the problem is with your detergent. Try a detergent that contains lemon extract which will clean all the dirt & oiliness from your dishes.
Hope it helps.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 4:06AM
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brenda32041

I have a new GE DW. Same smell om my dishes. It's not the DW I can take the dishes out of the cabinet and the will stink to high heaven.tryed all the different soaps rinse aids and they still smell. Even sent my Lenox dishes back to Lenox . They said nothing wrong with them. We don't eat a lot of eggs. So that's not the problem. I had a DW since 1976. And had no problems like this till a year or two ago. Help

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 12:05AM
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housefairy

Since this seems like it appeared after getting a new dishwasher I would examine the installation. Brenda if you have a looped installation check under your cabinet and make sure your loop is above the garbage disposal connection. I would also want the hose connected to the disposal to be going upward. So you want the loop to be higher then run DOWN and connect to the disposal. Basically make sure that the food from your disposal is not running down the drain pipe and contaminating your dishwasher water. If this is your problem you might want to run your dishwasher for a short cycle and clean out the hose before using again.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 11:14AM
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vickievern

This has happened with my old dishwasher as well as my brand new one. I finally figured out that I don't get the odors in the dishes when I do not use the heat dry. Every time I use heat dry the odor comes back. No explanation for why. I now just crack open the door when the final cycle is done and let them air dry.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 11:59AM
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jeeperaz

vickievern has nailed it... at least in my case.

We have now done 3 loads without 'heat dry' and each time, no fishy odor.

We run the DW at night and the dishes are perfectly dry and spot free by morning.

Thanks Vickie for posting!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 12:24PM
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