Drinking Glasses Smell Bad? How To Fix It.

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Discover why your glassware smells bad and how to get rid of that wet dog odor.

Seated woman holding a smelly drinking glass of water at arm's length

Do Your Drinking Glasses Smell Weird?

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 can be embarrassing.

You’ve probably noticed that it’s not just one glass, either. Maybe you’ve tried running all of them through the dishwasher again to get rid of the smell. Sometimes that helps for a while, but the odor returns after a few days in your cabinet. Or it’s there the next time you wash them. That’s because you haven’t treated the source of the odor on your drinking glasses.

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. Those phosphates softened water, which meant the other ingredients in your dish detergent could work better. But they also caused algae blooms in waterways, so they’ve been banned.

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. Again, that’s because removing phosphates lessened the detergent’s effectiveness, especially if you live in an area with hard water.

Over time that film builds up, and your once-clear drinking glasses look etched. If you do nothing, that can become permanent. Even if you don’t see the haze yet, it’s the source of the smell because the residue is rough enough to hold onto bacteria. And where bacteria breeds, odor breeds.

Sometimes It’s Also Your Rinse Aid

People using detergents with built-in drying agents seem to have the most problems with smelly drinking glasses. There’s a reason for that. Drying agents or dishwasher rinse-aids leave 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

So, you’ve got bacteria trapped between the surface of your glass and the haze or layer left by a rinse agent. Then you suddenly discover your drinking glasses smell even worse, especially if it’s humid or you’ve got the windows open. That’s because warmer, humid air provides an ideal breeding ground for trapped bacteria, and when bacteria breed, they cause odors. 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 with a dishcloth or a clean kitchen sponge, 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 then 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 about an inch.)
  3. Close the door and allow the cycle to continue as usual.

Tips To Keep Drinking Glasses From Smelling

Don’t overfill your dishwasher’s soap dispenser. Switching to dishwasher tablets helps control how much you use. Otherwise, take care that you only fill the dispenser to the indicator line.

Swap vinegar for your rinse-aid. 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.

Maintain your dishwasher properly. Deep clean your dishwasher monthly, so it’s not circulating bacteria-filled water or growing hidden mold. Then 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.

Give your glasses an occasional vinegar bath. Wash them with 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.

Where to Next?

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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. We are there too! Have done all the things and it seems to still happen both with the dishwasher and hand washing….only common denominator is the water…ugh what do we do!?!?!?!?

    4. I’ve already tossed one set of dishes due to the horrible smell. I’ve stopped using the dishwasher completely. We hand wash everything now and dry it right away. Now I’m stuck with a wast of space where my dishwasher sits and sadness that I can no longer use this luxury kitchen item. Did I mention I hate washing dishes. ?

  7. 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.

  8. 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. 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.

    2. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!!!????

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. Sometimes it’s just good to buy new glasses too.

  20. ron cummings says:

    before reading these comments i had tried all the things listed right down to a new stainless steel dishwasher–then I read that the outside air created the problem- and i laughed at that, a few days later I checked the dishes all was well I left a dish on the counter, one that had no smell, opened the window sat down to work on comp. and a breeze came across the room, I smelled something picked up the clean plate and could not even tolerate the stink! so I’m agreeing with the outside air hitting the dishes and creating the smell……have no idea how it happens but I hope someone can tell me…. Thank you, Ron

  21. I tried everything to get rid of the smell too. I always lightly wash the dishes in the sink before putting them in the dishwasher to rinse the food and crumbs off. Because I was getting the smell I tried running the “rinse only” cycle, without detergent, and then immediately afterward ran the dishwasher using the normal wash cycle with detergent. I noticed that when I opened the dishwasher after running just the rinse cycle, with no detergent, there was no smell. But then when I followed immediately with the normal wash cycle, with detergent, they came out smelly. That told me it’s the detergent. So today, as an experiment, I washed a full load using the normal wash cycle, but I didn’t add any detergent. There is no smell at all! They look and smell perfectly clean. And my windows are open.

  22. Karen Fleming says:

    A Bosch repairman just told us that if you leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher do not close it, leave it open a little crack. If it closes use a cup of vinegar on the bottom and run it. We’ve had 2 dishwashers with multiple plumbers and repairmen and if this solves the problem it will be a relief. My husband contemplated moving because of this issue.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Please let me know if it works! I’ve had readers say they experienced the issue even with brand new dishwashers on their first run, so I don’t know that moving would solve it.

  23. Scott Waldermarcen says:

    I’ve solved our issue with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and the rinse aid. You still get the high evaporation and clean dishes without the awful smell that the rinse aid alone either creates or traps.

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