strange dishwasher stink question

kate_caSeptember 22, 2011

Our dishwasher leaves our dishes stinky. I've tried everything under the sun and have given up and resolved to buying a new one this weekend. I'm not a fan of the thing in other ways, so it is time for it to go.

But... my husband brought up a question that has me worried.

The stink is a swampy, fishy smell. But, the stink only attaches itself to GLASS or PORCELAIN dishes.

You would think the stink would like plastic more, right? But, it's been going on for months and months and it is 100% only on the glass and porcelain. Glasses are just plain restaurant style heavy clear glass. Dishes are either plain white from pottery barn, or random mismatched porcelain. Nothing unusual.

My husband is worried I'll have my fancy new dishwasher with the same issue, he's just worried there's some odd reason why it is only the "hard" surfaces that are holding the stink that a new dishwasher won't fix.

I'll probably lose my mind if this continues. :) Any ideas why only certain items are holding the stink, and why those are the items you'd least expect? Or is it not weird that the glass and porcelain are the stink-holders?

(No other water-based appliances have any problems with smell.)


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I think you should call a plumber. It's gotta be something in your drainage/sewage lines.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 11:01PM
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I don't know why the plastic ones don't smell, but I would check to make sure the drain hose is looped properly before buying a new DW. It could be water from the sink drain is flowing back into the DW and the hose loop prevents that.

Also try different DW soaps if that's not it.

Here is a link that might be useful: DW hose loop

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 11:30PM
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In addition to checking on whether your DW has the correct high loop, check to see if your filter screens need cleaning. To further expand on Steff's suggestion about the detergents, make sure you are using a product that is enzyme based and not bleach based. Also, check the water temperature of your wash cycle. If you have an added heat was cycle on your DW, try doing a DW cleanout with a citric acid cleaner that you can find at an appliance store and the extra heat.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 2:00AM
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Circus Peanut

Is it a Bosch? There is a famous "Bosch smell" to their dishwashers that could be described as fishy-stinky.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 9:05AM
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I have a Bosch, and it does not have any smell whatsoever, unless I leave dirty dishes sitting in there for awhile. ;)

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 3:02PM
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Look in the Appliances forum--use Google to find DW and fishy smell. There's a cleaner you can pop into your DW that will get rid of the odor, but I've never used it so I can't remember the name.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 4:03PM
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What brand DW?
What brand DW detergent?
What brand Rinse Aid?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 4:31PM
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Circus Peanut

Alas, Meowzer, it's a common issue with possibly a few different causes. I still like my Bosch; it does wash well despite the fishiness, and we've never noticed the odor clinging to dishes.

"Bosch dishwasher fishy smell"

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 5:26PM
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Our Bosch dishwasher at work has the stinky fish smell (it's lovely; I find myself rewashing glasses before using them since I notice it a lot with water!) and it has been over two different dishwashers (both Bosch, but one circa late 90s and another new 2-3 years ago, replaced for unrelated reasons) so I'm 99% sure it's a drainage issue (or something else with the install that wouldn't change when the machine was replaced). The glasses definitely seem to hold the small more than plates/plastics/etc., for whatever reason---I've also always found that weird. But yes, definitely check the install setup since you could wind up with a new dishwasher with the same problem!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 5:43PM
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Before you buy a new dishwasher, you might want to try one thing first. It sounds ridiculous, but my dishwasher repairman told me about it: Empty your dishwasher, fill the detergent cup(s) with Tang (yes, the orange drink) or just dump 1/4 cup on the floor of the dishwasher, and run a full cycle.

He said the citric acid in the Tang cleans out the pipes. The newer low-phosphate formulas of dishwashing detergents just aren't able to breakdown the sediment that builds up in the plumbing. We never used to have this problem because the older, environmentally-unfriendly detergent formulas ate thru everything.) You can buy packets of citric acid for just this purpose from GE Appliances, but he said the citric acid in Tang works just as well and is much cheaper.

As I said, it sounds ridiculous but it worked in my case. He suggested I do this monthly. I only do it every couple of months but I haven't had a stinky dishwasher since.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 6:28PM
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cfire! I was just about to write about the Tang method and see if anyone had tried it. I brought up the fishy smell with the saleswoman who sold us our new Bosch and she suggested using Tang. She personally owns a Bosch and says that she is scrupulous about cleaning the filter and does the "Tang thang" once a month. I notice it is more pronounced if I don't pop it open after a cycle. Other than that I love my dishwasher. Of course after doing without one 5 months, anything would be great...

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 6:38PM
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Thank you, circuspeanut, for pointing out those threads discussing the smell in Bosch DWs. Gosh, I never knew. I have other problems with my Bosch, so if I also had to deal with the smell, I would be one very unhappy camper!

I have to use Glass Magic in every load along with the detergent just to get dishes clean (and even then they sometimes come out dirty or cloudy). I wonder if this additive is what is keeping the smell away . . . ?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 6:57PM
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Our dishes come our quite clean with our Bosch dw. We have been using it for 6 months with no smell. I do open the door after a load to let things air dry and use the energy saver wash to conserve on the dry cycle. I don't know if that is the difference in not having a smell.

I also do that with our front loader washer (6 y.o.). The washer is not a Bosch, but would get the swampy/fishy smell. We learned to let it dry out as much as possible with the door ajar and the detergent pullout open. The tight seals on the doors let water fester if you don't let them dry before closing.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 8:33PM
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Yes, I too have always opened the door on my Bosch according to the manual's instructions as soon as the cycle is done to let it dry. Mine does not have a dry cycle, but rather super high heat and then the recommendation to open the door at the end of cycle. With the high heat, dishes dry quickly with door ajar.

I would be interested to know if kate_ca has a Bosch.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 9:12PM
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I was just out looking at appliances. Of all the appliances I need, it was only the Bosch DW that is a "Consumer Best Buy" too that we thought great...until I started reading about this fish smell.

There was a review that did say the problem seems to stem from those that have hard water. From those here that have noticed the fish smell, do you have hard water?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 12:44AM
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@aloha2009, no hard water where I am. No one opens the door at the end of the cycle (and it runs twice daily, on average). Pretty sure it does have a dry cycle but not 100% on that. But, again, I don't think it's the dishwasher's issue---I strongly suspect it's an installation issue. So I wouldn't let that sway you in terms of the brand.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 1:45AM
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We have hard water; no fish smell.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 9:37AM
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I have 2 Bosch DWs and have used them regularly for almost 4 years. If I notice anything a little funky smelling, I do a cancel/drain or a quick rinse and then drain and clean the filters -- couple or few times a year perhaps. Not an every load issue at all. The only time I've had a real stinker was with stuff sitting in my disposal. I was about to make a service call when I did another round of filter and disposal cleaning. I stuck my hand down each to see if anything was stuck -- found a glob of mystery gunk which I suspect to have been chicken fat or something similar wrapped around the center of the prep sink disposal.

I have more faith in DW design engineers than I do installers and even half the repairmen. I've watched too many of them in action. There is a reason for the smell and you may need to play detective, do some cleaning (I've heard lemonade drink mix packets work too and you may have that rather than buy Tang) and check your installation and drain work. I've never used a DW cleaner or drink mix in either DW, but I'd try it before making a service call.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 11:12AM
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We just bought a new maytag with stainless tub and have used it three times since Saturday . We turn it on when we go to bed and empty it first thing in the morning. I noticed a smell when we opened the door from the first time and this morning it was stronger.
I don't see how it could be a build up as we rinse our dishes out of habit before loading. Now maybe I will try to open the lid right after it finishes and see if it helps.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 8:50AM
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