How to Repair a Moldy Dishwasher

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I keep finding mold in my house at every turn – first it was the
sippie cups that for over a year had been mold-free. Next, my
dishwasher. I ran it with a mug of vinegar in the top rack in an
otherwise empty dishwasher but it is still dirty and is becoming a hotbed
for the growth. The appliance is less than two years old in a
less-than-two-year-old house.

Any thoughts?


Desiring to be growing things other than mold

mailbag.JPGIvy says:

That’s right, I was so impressed with our dishwasher repair skills that I had to break out in l33t speak. Sad thing is, it’s not even my dishwasher repair skills, it’s Heather’s. Heather’s out on sick leave today (leave lots of sympathetic comments for her!), but in order to answer this question, I had to bug her in an IM. So, as you read this post, keep in mind that this is Heather’s vast store of knowledge, not mine.

The first thing you’re going to want to check is to make sure your dishwasher’s drain line is not kinked or clogged. Where is my dishwasher drain line, you ask? Why, it’s right here:

Kinky people, good. Kinky drain lines, bad.

This is the drain line that comes out from your dishwasher and hooks into your garbage disposal, if you have one. If your drain line is kinked or clogged, this may cause your dishwasher to be slow to drain and water will pool in the bottom of your dishwasher, causing mold.

If all seems to be well there, check to make sure the thingy at the bottom of your dishwasher that catches food is not clogged. It’s a darn good thing Heather’s sick today, because my thingy almost always has food trapped in it, thanks to my 12 year old being the person who loads and unloads my dishwasher. Let’s open my dishwasher and see. dishwasher-001.jpg

Lo and behold, it is. Once again, I’m the horrible warning and not the good example! It’s best to rinse the big pieces of food off your plates prior to washing the dishes. If you have a 12 year old that can’t be bothered with such minutiae, clean out the food trap every time you run your dishwasher. Anyway, make sure that’s not clogged with food.

If that’s all kosher, consider your gasket. If it is in bad condition, replace it. If it is gunky, just clean it. Here’s where your gasket normally is:


Once you’ve got these items all sorted out, take a glass of bleach (glass only, no metal or plastic) and put it in the bottom rack of your dishwasher and run it with nothing else. Once that cycle is finished, put a glass of vinegar in the bottom rack and run the the dishwasher. Your dishwasher should be all clean and fabulous again.

If the mold problem continues, you may need to call an appliance repair person.
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  1. Grrrlfriend Jess says

    Ahhhhh, it gives me a secret little thrill when folks are confounded by their dishwashers while I am standing at my sink sweating, handwashing the upteenth sinkfull of dishes for the day. :)

  2. Tom Carito says

    Greetings : The dish washer smells terrible every
    time we do dishes. It even smells the whole house up before the washer is done washing the
    dishes. Please – Any suggestion we will try it.
    Many Thanks – Respectfully Tom

  3. says

    tom: did you try to put vinegar and run the dishwasher like this article says? my personal ‘solution’ is to put concentrated lemon juice to get rid of the bad smell. i also use lemon juice for my microwave oven.

  4. "Home Shop James" says

    Basic dishwasher maintenance should include the “Tang Treatment” a few times a year. Take a container of Tang and dump it into the empty (no dishes), already filled with hot water dishwasher and run it through the longest cycle possible.
    The citric acid in the Tang will remove the soap buildup in all the jets and fittings. You won’t believe what a difference it will make! This soap buildup feeds molds and bacteria, so removing it will go a long way to removing odors.
    Just a note: The advice to get rid of the “kinky” drain line is right on the money!

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