Does your garbage disposal stink? The convenience of a garbage disposal unit is just terrific and it makes kitchen work a lot easier. However, with time, heavy use without regular maintenance can affect the operation of the disposal unit and create an unpleasant smell. Many homeowners counter this issue by calling a plumber. However, a plumber is only required in extreme cases. If the problem is not too severe, then you can clean up your garbage disposal and get rid of the garbage disposal smell by yourself. 

How to clean the garbage disposal

Follow these steps to clean your in-sink garbage disposal unit.

What will you need?

  • Rubber gloves
  • Towels
  • Kitchen brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Vinegar 
  • Baking soda

1. Power off the system

Depending on the type of your garbage disposal system, power it off. If you have a plug-in system, all you need to do is to unplug it from the electric outlet. If it is a built-in system, you can shut off the power for your garbage disposal area from the electrical panel. Turning power off at the source is important because if someone (including yourself) hits the switch at the wall or it powers on accidentally on its own, serious bodily harm can occur. 

2. Inspect the impellers

Examine impellers closely to find any obvious issue. Use a flashlight, pull back the flaps, and look inside. This can help you with locating any large object such as metal pieces or trapped fibers in the disposal, so you can remove them immediately. Make sure there is no power to the disposal first, then use a pair of pliers to pry out stuck objects from the disposal. These are still blades, so use caution when removing debris.


A thorough look at impellers also allows homeowners to gain a basic understanding of how their garbage disposal works. 

3. Treat the disposal with ice and salt

Apply a combination of ice and salt. Drop 15 ice cubes into the disposal. Take around a half-cup of table salt (or rock salt) and add it to the disposal. Next, turn on your disposal and allow it to run for 20 seconds or so. 


The purpose of the ice is to pulverize and smash any sticky pieces of matter while the salt acts as a catalyst to melt down the ice and helps clean up the dirt in the disposal unit.

4. Create a chemical reaction

The acidic nature of vinegar is powerful enough to kill germs whereas baking soda is a common scouring agent. Mix them well so that the resulting chemical reaction produces foam to allow the vinegar to spread deeper into the disposal. To do this, trickle-down a cup of baking soda down the drain and pour a full cup of vinegar immediately afterward.

5. Scrub off the dirt

Don’t clean the vinegary foam from the last step. Hold a toothbrush and scrubbing brush. Now, scrub down all the rubber folds and crannies, rinsing when required. Wash off all the grime and reach out to any reachable part of your garbage disposal. If you feel that your cleaning is inadequate then you can use baking soda and vinegar to make a paste. Dip your brush in the paste and scrub the unit with it. 

6. Flood the disposal with water and soap

Lastly, you have to wash your disposal thoroughly. Plug up the sink on the disposal side. Fill hot water in the side and add some dish soap to make suds. Next, free up the drain to allow the water to flood the garbage disposal. The water will carry away all the dirt and debris, fully cleaning your disposal unit. 

How to get rid of garbage disposal smell

Even if your garbage disposal works perfectly, it can fill up your kitchen with a rancid and awful stench. This happens when food particles become stuck under the blades, in the drainpipes, and on the machine sides. As a result, the garbage disposal becomes a breeding ground for mold and other bacteria that produce foul odors. Even after you clean up your garbage disposal, it may not necessarily remove the smell. Here are some tips for deodorizing the garbage disposal. 

1. Freeze Vinegar with Ice

Combine ice cubes and vinegar to deodorize your disposal. Take out an ice tray and fill it up with vinegar. Let the “vinegary cubes” freeze overnight. In the morning, take out the cubes and pour all of them into the drain of the disposal. Turn on the disposal and allow a low stream of water to run into it until all the cubes melt. 

2. Feed lemon peels

Citrus peels do not only work excellently as cleaners but they come up with a refreshing smell. To ensure your disposal smells great, squeeze the juice out of a lemon and store it separately. Now, grab a knife to cut down the peel into 1-inch chunks. Power on the disposal, turn on the water, and feed a few lemon peels at a time. 

3. Pour Bleach

If you have mild bleach, then use it with running water. Pour bleach with cold water to wipe out the scent. It is also effective for dislodging any sticky food particles. 

How to Prevent Future Issues?

Not all food items are supposed to go down into the garbage disposal. Here is how to extend the lifespan of your garbage disposal unit. 

1. Avoid fibrous foods

Avoid passing fibrous foods in the disposal. Wrong foods may clog the drains, jam the motor, and leave an awful smell in the drain. These foods include corn husks, onion skin, celery, artichoke, and banana peels.

2. Avoid starchy and expandable foods

Starchy foods or foods that expand upon water contact are a strict no-no for the garbage disposal. This is because they can get sticky and thick and may damage the impeller. So, don’t let food such as pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes to pass through your garbage disposal. 

3. Cut down chunks of food

Large pieces of food don’t pass easily in the drain and can cause a clog in the disposal, creating foul odors. Cut down these chunks of food into smaller pieces so they can easily pass through the disposal. Ideally, they should be around 1-inch in size or smaller. On a similar note, pushing extensive amounts of food at once may lead to a malfunction. So, pass food in small quantities in the disposal. 

4. Use cold water

Whenever you process food, run a steady stream of cold water to dispose of the food. After you power off the disposal, let the water run for an extra five seconds. 

Pro tip: Don’t use hot water for your garbage disposal unit.

5. Clean Blades

Use hard materials to clean your blades once a week. Some of the materials used for cleaning the blades include ice cubes, fish bones, small fruit pits, chicken bones, and eggshells. 

Final Thoughts

Clean your garbage disposal at least once a week to prevent it from malfunctioning and keep it odor-free. While using your garbage disposal, make sure to run hot water to keep debris flowing through and out.

About the author

Meet Go-Go-Gadget Renee'. Her passion for #kitchen gadgets is matched only by her love for tech. A real #foodie, she's all heart for red wine and delicious meals. #CookingChewTribe

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