Drinking Glasses Smell Bad? How To Fix It.

Clean

Do your drinking glasses smell bad after washing? Maybe your glassware comes out of the dishwasher stinking like fish or a wet dog? It’s bad enough when you’re thirsty and get a whiff of something not right. When guests notice that odor, it’s downright embarrassing.

Do Your Drinking Glasses Smell Weird?

Woman in background with closeup of her hand holding a glass of water

Why Your Drinking Glasses Smell Bad

Ever since the EPA required soap manufacturers to remove phosphates from dishwasher detergent, many of us have noticed our drinking glasses smell bad even after washing them. Some liken the smell to fish; others say it’s more like rotting meat or a wet dog.

Some Detergents Make Dishes Smell Bad

As if the smell wasn’t enough, you might also see your glasses don’t look clean after washing. Instead, they have a cloudy haze that makes them look grimy. Over time that film builds up, and your once clear drinking glasses look etched. If you do nothing, that can become permanent.

Even if it’s not built up sufficiently to be noticeable yet, that haze is the source of the smell. Unlike perfectly smooth glass, the film left behind by our phosphate-free detergents is rough enough to hold onto bacteria. And where bacteria breeds, odor breeds. People using detergents with built-in drying agents seem to notice this problem the most. There’s a reason for that.

Sometimes It’s Also Your Rinse Aid

Drying agents or dishwasher rinse-aids work by leaving a thin layer on your glasses, silverware, and dishes. This slick layer helps water bead and roll off the way raindrops roll off of a properly waxed car. But this layer can also trap bacteria between it and the surface of your glasses or dishes. And, as explained above, where bacteria breeds, odors occur.

Why Dishes Smell Worse When It’s Humid

Many people notice their dishes smell the most when it’s humid or when they’ve got their windows open. That’s because warmer, humid air provides an ideal breeding ground for the bacteria causing the problem. Add warm ambient temperatures to the heat of the dishwasher, and the problem gets even worse. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for cold weather to get rid of the stink on your dishes.

How to Fix Smelly Drinking Glasses and Dishes

So, there are a couple of ways to treat this problem, depending on whether you hand-wash your glasses or stick them in the dishwasher. Giving up detergents containing sheeting or drying agents to leave dishes spot-free isn’t really an option since manufacturers don’t disclose all of the ingredients they use.

But you can minimize smells on your drinking glasses and dishes, first by getting rid of any buildup then by keeping buildup from growing on them again.

In the Sink

  1. Line the bottom of your basin with a thick towel and arrange glassware on it.
  2. Add 2 cups of distilled white vinegar, then run the hot water until the glasses are completely submerged.
  3. Wait 20-30 minutes to give the vinegar time to dissolve and remove the odor-causing haze, then scrub, wash, and dry them thoroughly.

In the Dishwasher

  1. Pour 2 cups of white distilled vinegar into the bottom of the machine.
  2. Let the dishwasher run for a minute or two and pause the cycle for 20-30 minutes to give the vinegary water time to dissolve the haze. (In most dishwashers, this involves popping the door open.)
  3. Close the door and allow the cycle to continue as usual.

Tips To Keep Drinking Glasses From Smelling

• To prevent hazing in the future, fill your dishwasher’s rinse aid reservoir with white vinegar — it works just as well as Jet Dry or similar products and saves money, too.

Deep clean your dishwasher monthly, so it’s not circulating bacteria-filled water or growing hidden mold. Remove and rinse the filter at least once a week since food residue and other grime build up in there.

• Or try a dishwasher cleaning product. Some get added to your empty dishwasher, and then you run it with just the cleaner inside. Others like Affresh can be added along with a load of dishes.

• Skip the dishwasher now and then in favor of washing dishes in the sink. Use regular dish soap, then rinse them in a sink of water with a cup or two of vinegar added. This will help clear away any haze and bacterial buildup, so your dishes don’t stink again.

More How-Tos:

44 Comments

  1. Gayle from Boston says:

    I finally figured out why my glasses smelled after being washed in the dishwasher. I was over filling the soap. They never rinsed properly. I now fill to the line inside the soap cup and no smell. And I’ll save some money by not wasting soap!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Good point, Gayle! Using too much soap in the dishwasher or the laundry makes things dirtier, not cleaner. Thank you for visiting!

  2. I’ve never had this happen in a dishwasher, only when handwashed dishes are allowed to air dry. It’s worse if windows are open.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      How odd! It happens for many in the dishwasher, but you’re the first to let me know it occurs when glasses are hand washed, too. Thank you.

  3. This problem is caused by leaving used dishes to soak in lemon detergent for some time wash right away without using too much detergent rinse and air dry.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Well, I’ve never bought lemon-scented detergent in my life and yet have had this problem in the past. So….

    2. I use dawnx2 and dishes smell everything smells like wet dog what to do

    3. Katie Berry says:

      Ugh, that smell! Put them in a sink filled with hot water and 2 cups of white vinegar and let them soak, then rinse them.

  4. Hi
    I have the same problem with plates and cups too. I noticed that if I rinse them from washing up liquid with my clean hands and while I’m rubbing them they make that squeaky noise under runny water then I know they won’t smell fishy. But if I don’t rub them while rinsing them they all smell bad. This makes my hands really dry.
    I will try the vinegar soak, hopefully it will help my hands.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That makes sense — rubbing them until they squeak means you’ve gotten rid of any soap or food residue which causes the odor. Thanks for sharing that tip!

  5. JD @ Honest Mom says:

    Thanks for this! How do you figure out when your first rinse cycle kicks in so you can add the vinegar?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      When your dishwasher is done with the wash cycle it’ll start draining before adding fresh water for the rinse. That’s when you catch it. Alternatively, you can add it to your machine’s “Rinse Agent” compartment — if it has one — and it’ll take care of the work for you.

  6. Dean Safris says:

    Thanks for this info. When we opened the cupboard doors the dog smell would just hit you. I made my wife throw away the mat she had on the bottom of the shelf. We rewashed all of them but as you say, they have looked crappy and etched for ages before they started to smell. We can’t wait to soak them and get rid of the wet dog smell that gags me when I drink out of them. We were about ready to buy a new dishwasher.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m happy to have helped!

  7. Jessica Carlton says:

    The too much soap thing is good to know! I throw a pack in the bottom and one in the dispenser during the extra long cycle.
    I have tried everything.. changing detergents, rinse aids, deep cleaning the washer with vinegar, deep cleaning it with a “special made cleaner”, Rinsing prior with cold water, rinsing prior with hot water, pre soaking dishes (we usually load as we cook and wash immediately after eating). I have even tried cutting the load in half and spacing things out more(I am a freak about how things go so I don’t over load it anyway). I have tried all the cycles/lengths. Hand washing our knives they were soooo gross smelling after. If using less detergent does not help then I am beginning to think it is our city water!! I am almost to the point of throwing our dishes away b/c they smell so bad!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’ve never heard of adding a second pack to an extra long cycle. Since there’s not a rinse midway through, it seems to me like adding more shampoo halfway through washing your hair — I mean, you’ll get more suds but they’re not getting rinsed away before adding more, so maybe the rinse cycle can’t get rid of it all? I think I’d try cutting back to one pack in the dispenser, period. The extra long cycle is about giving the water more time to work on the grime, and that should be enough — with one pack — to get your dishes cleaner.

      But before you toss everything out, give that vinegar soak a chance on your glasses, utensils, and dishes. Good luck!

    2. Rachelle Monchik says:

      We are also going crazy with this horrific odor. We, also find, when our windows are open, everything smells worse. My kids won’t let me serve on anything but paper.

    3. Katie Berry says:

      How odd that it’s stronger with the windows open. I really have no idea why, but if I had to hazard a guess it would be that the added humidity from outdoors is interacting with the buildup on your glasses and dishes. I’d strongly encourage you to thoroughly clean your dishwasher, and soak everything in a sink filled with 50-50 water and white vinegar then rinse and dry it all well with a lint-free towel. That should knock out the funk in the dishwasher and on your dishes. After that, don’t go overboard with detergent and keep your rinse-aid topped off. Best of luck!

  8. Lynn Owen says:

    I get these smells mostly on plates and often when I have had eggs. Sometimes the plates smell ok until I put food on it and then they smell. Drives me mad, I smell the plates everytime I get one out of the cupboard. I will try the white vinegar I bought some the other day. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Lynn,
      Hope this helped!

    2. I have read countless blogs and comments on the smelly glasses and dishwashers as we were struggling with our glasses always smelling. I cleaned hoses, changed hoses, cleaned filters and the garbage disposal. I used baking soda, vinegar and switched from Cascade to Finish. NOTHING was working! My whole family could always smell when I opened the dishwasher. We ended up buying a new dishwasher and I couldn’t believe it…the same smell after using it twice!! I was so frustrated! I then tried running the dishwasher without the heat dry and then opening the door right when it was done with the cycle. Still a smell but a little fainter. On a whim, I bought a box of Ecover automatic dishwasher tablets – citrus. Today is the 3rd day that I have run the full cycle on the dishwasher at night and opened it in the morning with NO SMELL at all from the dishwasher or the glasses!! I can’t tell you how happy I am!! Just wanted to put it out there if it might help someone else with this VERY frustrating problem!

    3. northvibe says:

      In reply to MB.

      I ordered Ecover citrus auto dishwasher tablets. We are on our 2nd to 3rd day, with a few loads of dishes. Usually when I would open the dishwasher door, within 5 ish minutes the smell would come through. The first load, the wet dog smell came from the dishwasher, but the dishes never did smell. The second load I have not noticed the smell anywhere yet. I have Ecover rinse aid to try as well, along with trying vinegar. This is the best step to better smelling dishes so far!

      Thank you!

  9. Pamela Cawthorne says:

    We have dealt with the wet dog smell at times for years. Through 3 dishwashers and many types of detergents and cleaning of the dishwasher with many different cleaners. What we have discovered over time is that the smell occurs mainly in the times of year when you open your windows. We believe it’s humidity interaction with the dishes and glassware. We have even had it happen that they smell fine when you take them out then you open the windows and boom there it is ! I don’t know if it’s because of the lack of phosphates or what but after reading endless stories about maybe it’s your dishes, maybe it’s eggs, maybe it’s your water. Stories from all over the world there was never anything common. As long as we keep our windows shut we’re fine.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      How odd. I can’t think of any reason why that would affect it, but I’m glad you’ve found a solution that works for you!

    2. northvibe says:

      We found this same thing! If we leave our windows shut we don’t get the smell, so the winter is fine, but without AC in the summer we have to open our windows.

    3. I’ve noticed water in a newly clean glassware smells like wet dog within a short amount of time. I can’t even drink the water it smells so bad. I use tap water and filter it thru a Brita pitcher. I’ve checked everything short of having my water tested. You think it’s the dishwasher?

  10. Julie Goldstein says:

    I am so happy I have found this blog because I thought I was going wacky from the smell. The fishy wet dog smell is awful but it’s not just limited to our dishes. Strangely the outside of our open plastic bottled water bottles begin to stink just after we started opening up our windows in spring and that is why I’m here because I’m wondering what in the world this odor is caused from. We definitely notice the smell worse when the windows are open, definitely agree. But bottled water has absolutely nothing to do with dishwashing or soaps without phosphates. Which leads me to wonder if it’s the water itself and when it mixes with air it causes this horrible smell. By the way it’s also happening when we drink from our glasses and cups so I’ve got issues with both our bottled water and our dishes.

  11. Packer Country says:

    I’m interested to know if MB and NorthVibe still have found resolution with the Ecover product line. I have a brand spanking new dishwasher. The second one, (true story, house burned down when I was a month into this problem and I unreasonably didn’t think it was the dishwasher but thought it was the hookup and was going to have a plumber come out) and I can’t get rid of the smell. Using only a tablespoon of Finish powder helped, but 1) the dishes didn’t get clean at all and 2) it wasn’t consistent. Any feedback from the folks who had the problem previously? Please!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I suspect the acidity of the citrus is why ecover helped them. Like vinegar, it removes the “drying agents” left behind by dishwasher detergents or rinse-aids. Those are supposed to reduce spots, but they work by leaving behind a thin film. That film traps a layer of moisture between itself and the glasses or dishes. As I explained above, that moisture also contains bacteria that produce the odor. But that’s just a theory. 🙂

  12. This happens to us when we have the windows open as well. What’s strange is that it never happens when we use a crystal tumbler (which is rare!) but I’m not sure why that is.

  13. I am soooooo happy I’m not the only one who deals with this. I have this happen at least once a week with my dishes in the dishwasher. I have also had this happen for years. All three dishwashers, brand new in new homes. It’s hit and miss. No rhyme or reason. I just cannot figure it out. It’s always a ”Let’s see what this load smells like” after every load. Sometimes everything stinks, sometimes nothing stinks. If they stink, they’re in for another wash. Most times, they do not smell after that second cycle. I have pre-washed, pre-rinsed and neither of the two, for ‘test cases’ for loads. Again….no rhyme or reason. Sometimes they stink and others they don’t. I about barf with this wet dog smell. Sometimes, the dishes will smell fine out of the dishwasher, then after sitting in the cupboard for a few days, there’s that smell. It’s so frustrating for me. It’s mainly on the flatware, glasses, plates and bowls. Nothing plastic. Although……at times, I can smell that same odor coming from water bottles that I drink out of. It’s so gross. For what I have experienced, it has nothing to do with having windows opened. Most of the time, I open the dishwasher and pow! There’s the odor. —I do clean my dishwasher once a month with bleach. I run my dishwasher on hot wash and sanitizer rinse even. This odor is so disgusting!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Amy,
      You’re right — it’s a disgusting smell. It’s even more disgusting when you remember that it’s caused by bacteria trapped by detergent ingredients on the very dishes or glasses you’re using. Ew!

  14. Pauline Coady says:

    I noticed this problem a few years ago when I was served a sandwich on a plate in a brand new restaurant and the smell nearly knocked me over. After that, I noticed it with my brand new dishwasher and have tried everything. I have scrubbed the inside of my dishwasher, cleaned out my sink SBend in case water was held there to no avail.

    I was running and rerunning my dishwasher to try and remove the smell – now, I just put the cycle through. I put the dishes away and each time I take a dish I run it under cold water and dry it with paper towel – no smell. It’s a pain but it works.

    I agree about plastic water bottles. I noticed the smell today on a Starbucks Frappuccino bottle from the fridge, ugh!

    I will, of course, try the Ecovo tablets which are very expensive but worth it if the problem gets resolved.

  15. The smell is terrible! We tried everything to fiix this dead fish smell. We even tried a whole new dishwasher! It ONLY happens when the windows/screen doors are open. This is maddening! I ended up purchasing Melamine products for the summer, which are much better. Glassware and plates are just gross! Where is the outrage and the scientific explanation about the new detergents and this smell!!!????

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Isn’t it annoying? I think your solution of using Melamine in the warmer months is a smart one, Marie!

  16. OMG! Thank God I found this blog with all of these comments! This has literally had me in TEARS for so long, I’ve cleaned and taken apart the dishwasher so many times, insisted it’s because of windows being open, dirty dishes being in the sink while dishwasher is running, our water supply, dishwasher tabs…. I can go on and on, nothing has helped, this is infuriating! Has anyone found an actual solution that has stopped this from happening? I’m thinking of switching back to the liquid cascade to see if that helps at all. But it’s so strange that this only happens when the windows are open here too, and only glass or ceramic or silverware, plastic is not affected as much!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I have had the most success by switching to a detergent that doesn’t include a rinse aid. As convenient as those are, they work by coating dishes with a thin layer that helps repel water. But, in the meantime, they also trap humidity and bacteria between the dish and the coating. And that leads to the weird smell. So, I add straight white vinegar to my rinse aid compartment — it helps speed up drying-time without leaving that coating. And — boom — there’s no smell once the dishes are dry!

  17. I really haven’t noticed the smell, but it seems when I touch my tongue to the inside of a clean glass, there is a terrible taste that apparently comes from the rinse aid, and I feel this can’t be healthy. If it’s on the glasses, it’s on everything that came out of the dishwasher. My Bosch dishwasher will not operate without a rinse aid. Suggestions?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I put white vinegar into my rinse aid dispenser. It helps dissolve any lingering detergent film and speeds up evaporation, so things come out spot free.

  18. Katherine says:

    I live in hard water area and struggling with cleaning the dishwasher. I must clean the machine every second week, otherwise dishes come out stinking. Is there a way or filter that I can use to prevent so much cleaning?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Katherine,
      You could look into a whole-home water softener, but that’s a pretty big expense. You could also try installing a water filter for the line running to your dishwasher. Or just rinse the dishwasher filter every few days under the tap — it’s not hard — and run an Affresh pod through it weekly. Then you probably won’t need to deep clean more than once a season.

  19. Hi. I may have the answer, well I have for me anyway. I followed the advice to do a ‘Superwash’ as opposed to ‘Normal’ wash and ok it uses a bit more water and power but it ALMOST completely worked ie not quite. Here is the simple process I added to COMPLETELY fix it-
    Once the cycle has finished, I empty ASAP and with a single sheet of kitchen roll, I quickly wipe around the rims of glasses and cups as I put them away. I wonder if being upside down some traces of water/bacteria run down and dry on the rims if left in the machine for too long.
    As I said, it’s a 100% fix for me. Good luck.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Great tips, Ian. Thank you for sharing them!

  20. Hi everyone. I too had a problem with a smelly dishwasher. I was using Finish Powerball detergent and everything was fine. One day, I bought the Finish tablets that were in a biodegradable wrapper that you are just supposed to put the whole thing in the dispenser. Not sure why, but my dishwasher really started to stink with these things. I switched back to the Powerballs with the throw-away wrapper, and the smell was immediately gone. If you are using the tablets with the biodegradable wrapper, get rid of those if your dishwasher smells.

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