Why your Dishwasher has a Burning Smell – and How to Fix it

If your dishwasher has a bad smell, you may be wondering why the dishwasher has a burning smell. Is it normal? What should you do when you detect it?

A dishwasher can have a burning smell if plastic comes in contact with the heating element, it is brand new and burning off residual machine oils or residue, the power cord is faulty, or the model is faulty.

In this post, you’ll find common reasons for that burnt dishwasher smell and suggestions on what to do.

What Causes the Burnt Smell in a Dishwasher?

There are many reasons your dishwasher smells like something is burning. It could be something as simple as a plastic dish touching the heating element or as frustrating as a design flaw in your model.

New Dishwasher smell

If your dishwasher smells like burning rubber and it is new, don’t worry. Some new washers, on unpacking, may give off a strong rubber-like burnt smell, which fades with the usage of the washer. This is simply due to the manufacturing and distribution process.

The power cord is faulty

A loose wire in the top plug or wall outlet connection of your dishwasher can give off sparks that heat the insulation, causing a burning smell.

Remove the plug from the wall outlet and smell the plug. Does it give off a burnt smell? If so, a loose wire connection is likely not making a firm connection and giving off sparks.

Contact a qualified technician to support you on this, or if you have the skills, you may fix this yourself.

The heating element burnt some plastic

The hot heating element in the washer can come into contact with and melt plastic utensils or plastic accessories. Switch off the dishwasher, remove the racks, and wait for the element to cool down.

Check if a plastic dish has fallen off the rack and is in direct contact with the hot element.

If so, you’ll need to remove the plastic residues from the element when it has cooled down. If any part of the dishwasher is damaged, replace it with a new one. You should be able to use the washer after that without any problems.

The dishwasher is faulty

The dishwasher model may be part of a product recall. From time to time, model imperfections sneak by the manufacturer. These imperfections can cause a burning odor or otherwise cause your dishwasher to run poorly.

You can check if your dishwasher is listed in any product recalls on the US Product Consumer Safety Commission website.

A shortage in an electrical component

There are a lot of electrical components in your dishwasher that can fail. From solenoids to heating elements, if any of these components short out, they can create a burning smell.

  • Drain solenoid
  • Control board
  • Heating elements
  • Timer

If possible, inspect the components for scorch marks, burnt plastic, and breaks. The locations will differ based on model and manufacturer, so be sure to review your owner’s manual.

The motor is burning out

Another big element of your dishwasher is the motor. This is the part that pumps the water used when it runs. As it ages, this motor can wear down and eventually burn out. When your dishwasher’s motor burns out, it can create a burning smell.

This can also happen if the motor becomes clogged somehow. If you can unclog it before it becomes too damaged, you can salvage the motor. However, in many cases, you will have to replace it. Here is a quick video on how to replace your dishwasher motor.

Should You Be Concerned?

If it is a new washer and you have allergies, then yes, you should be concerned, as it can spark a reaction. Many people can’t stand the burning odor. That said, it normally dies down after a few washes.

If the washer has been in service for some time without any issues and then starts giving off a burning odor, then there is reason to be concerned.

Switch off the dishwasher and try to trace the source of the burning smell. Contact a qualified technician to support you on this if you are having a hard time troubleshooting burning smells.

What to do if your dishwasher smells like it’s burning?

Depending on the cause of the burning smell, it can be dangerous if your dishwasher smells like it’s burning. To prevent further damage to your dishwasher and stay safe, here are a few things you should do if there’s a burning smell coming from your dishwasher.

  1. Turn off the electricity. Unplug the dishwasher if possible. If not, find the breaker for the kitchen.
  2. Wait for the heating elements to cool down.
  3. Remove any dishes and racks.
  4. Inspect the dishwasher for the source of the smell.

How to Remove the Burning smell from a Dishwasher?

To remove the burning smell, try running the dishwasher with white vinegar. Consult your washer manual, but the general recommendation is to empty the dishwasher and start a regular cycle, letting it run until it is drained of all water.

Add the white vinegar to the dishwasher before it finishes, then resume the cycle until the end.

Make sure to wipe the dishwasher with a clean cloth and leave the door open to allow the free flow of air.

Summary of why dishwasher has a burning smell

Now you know the basics of why a dishwasher has a burning smell. If your dishwasher is new, it might have a burning smell that should die after several washes.

The dishwasher can also give off an electrical smell after being used for some time.

Switch off the dishwasher and check the plug/ wall outlet and the bottom of the washer. Inspect the power cord, top plug, or wall outlet for loose wire connections.

It is also possible that the heating element at the bottom of the dishwasher is heating a plastic utensil.

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