Metallic Smell in My Dishwasher

A dishwasher with an unpleasant metallic odor can be a sign of various malfunctions and issues.

Food Trap

Handwash all of the dishes in the dishwasher when the odor is detected.Handwash all of the dishes in the dishwasher when the odor is detected.
As long as the unit is functioning normally and there is no burning smell or signs of smoke, the best bet to remedy the situation is to attempt to clean the inside of the dishwasher, which can be accomplished through a few methods.

Typically a clogged food trap will smell more like rotting food or methane, but a metallic smell may nonetheless be caused by an issue in the food trap. The food trap is typically a small metal or plastic screen that covers the drain opening and catches large food particles and utensils, preventing them from passing down into the drain hose and causing a clog. Inspect the trap to ensure there are no utensils or clogs causing your issue.

Vinegar Wash

The inside of the dishwasher can be cleaned using ordinary household vinegar. Pour 2 cups of vinegar in a measuring cup, and set it on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Turn the dishwasher on, and allow it to run through a full cycle. The vinegar is a mild acid and will break down the bonds of any mold or mildew that may have accumulated in the unit, which may account for the odor.

Citric Acid

Citric acid crystals can be purchased from most home improvement stores and can be used to clean the inside of stainless steel dishwashers. Stainless steel can gather a thin film of mold or mildew that feeds on food particles. Citric acid crystals will help scrub the inside of the unit of any such buildup.

Heating Element

The snaking, curved piece of metal at the base of your dishwasher is a heating element. Ensure there are no breaks or bends in the bottom rack of the unit that may be leading to metal coming in contact with the element. See that there are no utensils trapped between the element and the dishwasher floor, and look for any signs of element malfunction, such as burns on the floor of the dishwasher or bottom rack. Repair or replace the element as needed.

About the Author

Andrew Leahey has been a writer since 1999, covering topics as varied as technology how-to guides and the politics of genetically modified organisms to African food supplies. He is pursuing his J.D. while renovating an 1887 farmhouse located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.