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How to Get Rid of Garbage Disposal Smells: 7 Methods

Clearing out these odors can freshen up your entire kitchen. 

Garbage disposals deal with a lot of food and drink waste, grinding it up to eventually blast it away. Although it doesn’t leave behind scraps of food, it can often leave behind unwelcoming smells.

We’ve researched the best ways to get rid of garbage disposal smells so that your whole kitchen can smell fresh and clean once again.

Keep reading to check out our seven favorite cleaning methods. Then stick around for some more top tips for making the most of your garbage disposal.

Key Takeaways

  • Clean garbage disposal with baking soda and vinegar: pour ½ cup of each, wait an hour, then run disposal with cold water for a minute.
  • Use commercial cleaners like BioWonder or Plink Freshener and Cleaner for effective odor elimination and clog prevention.
  • Remove food waste with a garbage disposal brush or use ice cubes to sharpen blades and reduce odors.
  • Prevent smells by using citrus fruits, kosher salt, or regular cleaning, and avoid putting wrong foods into the disposal.

How to Get Rid of Garbage Disposal Smells

There are plenty of ways to clean out your garbage disposal and get rid of nasty smells. We have seven options so if one doesn’t work for you, just try out another.

Use a Commercial Cleaner

There are lots of commercial garbage disposal cleaners on the market. We have a few favorites that are absolutely brilliant at tackling bad smells. BioWonder is one awesome option. It attacks odors and clogs so that your garbage disposal functions and smells better than ever before.

Another option to consider is the Plink Freshener and Cleaner. These are designed by plumbers to fight bad odors in your garbage disposal. They break down fatty deposits and food particles to really get rid of the source of bad smells.

Brush Out the Unit

A brush, you might ask? Yes, a brush. Using a garbage disposal brush can remove food waste which will, in turn, help with bad odors since you’re removing the source of the odor.

Top Tip

Use the brush plus a cleaning solution for maximum effectiveness.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you want to go down a more natural method using ingredients you may already have in the cupboard, then check out this method.

  1. Lift up the rubber flaps on the entrance of the garbage disposal and pour down ½ cup of baking soda.
  2. Pour ½ cup of distilled white vinegar in next. This will fizz up so don’t panic.
  3. Leave for one hour.
  4. Turn on the garbage disposal and run cold water for a minute.

Check This Out

Vinegar has the power to break down rubber seals so check with your manufacturer if vinegar is acceptable with your unit. If it’s not specified, use this method sparingly.

Ice Cubes

Chill out and put some ice cubes in your garbage disposal. Fill up the garbage disposal with cubes and turn on your garbage disposal. Keep it on until all the ice has been ground up. This can get rid of smells and buildup as well as sharpening the blades so that it can do a better job at grinding up food in the future.

Chuck in Some Citrus

Cut up some citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, or grapefruits. Put this in your garbage disposal and turn it on. Not only will this add a nice scent to your kitchen, but it can also kill or absorb bad odors in the garbage disposal. We recommend doing this every few days or once a week to stay on top of bad smells.

Kosher Salt

If you have slimy residue inside your garbage disposal, pour in some ice cubes and turn it on. While it’s on, add ½ cup of kosher salt. This combination will grind away the residue since it’s slightly abrasive.

Again, you could do this every week or so to stay on top of the residue inside your garbage disposal.

General Cleaning

Sometimes it’s lingering bits of food or general dirt that are causing the bad smells.

Firstly, remove any big chunks of food that may be stuck in your garbage disposal. Make sure your unit is switched off when you do this to prevent injury.

Next, clean out the rubber seals and entrances as food particles can get stuck in the hidden corners.

Lastly, make sure to always run water for a few minutes when using your garbage disposal. This ensures you’re properly flushing out all the leftover food.

How to Prevent Garbage Disposal Smells

Sure, you can tackle smells when they arise. Or you can do a bit of maintenance to prevent them in the first place. Here are our top tips for preventing garbage disposal odors:

  • Don’t put the wrong foods into the garbage disposal: If you do, you could end up with clogs but also food residue that’s hard to get rid of.
  • Clean your garbage disposal regularly, once a week if you have the time: The maximum you should leave it between cleans is two weeks.
  • Check it regularly for clogs and food debris: You can shine a torch inside to check or regularly brush the garbage disposal to get rid of food residue.
  • Always flush with water for the recommended amount of time: While you may hear that your garbage disposal has stopped grinding up the food waste, that doesn’t mean you should turn off the water. Run the water for as long as the user manual suggests.
  • Invest in a good cleaner. Choose one that can deal with bacteria, mold, and other nasty odors. This will help to maintain great garbage disposal and minimize the risk of smells.

FAQs About Garbage Disposal Smells

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Smell So Bad?

There are many reasons your garbage disposal might smell so bad, including:

  • You’re putting the wrong food in your garbage disposal and it can’t break it down. Therefore, you’re left with nasty food residue. Some things you should never put in a garbage disposal include grease, oil, coffee grinds, rice, oatmeal, pasta, and much more.
  • You haven’t cleaned it recently and food is rotting inside of it.
  • There is mold growing. It’s a warm wet environment — mold’s favorite — and so it needs regular cleaning.
  • Sewer gases are creeping up. This is most common when the sink’s trap isn’t working properly. If you smell sewer gases, let a professional know immediately because this can be hazardous.

Is It Ok to Put Lemons in the Garbage Disposal?

Most sources say yes, it’s okay. But here are some precautions you should take:

  • Don’t put a whole lemon into the garbage disposal.
  • If possible, remove the seeds first.
  • If you’re worried about your garbage disposal not being able to grind up the peel, just squeeze some lemon juice into the garbage disposal.

How Often Should You Clean Your Garbage Disposal?

Once a week, or once every two weeks at the very most. If you’re going out of town, clean it before leaving, even if you cleaned it a few days ago.

Can You Put Drano Down a Garbage Disposal?

Yes — Drano has a few products for cleaning your garbage disposal. We recommend the Drano Max Gel Drain Clog Remover.

Can I Use a Plunger on a Sink With a Garbage Disposal?

If the clog is in the disposal drain pipe, you can use a plunger. But if it’s in the unit, you need to clear the clog before plunging the drain.

Your user manual will have advice on how best to remove clogs. If nothing is working for you, call a plumber and they will help.

Seven Methods to Freshness

Don’t let nasty garbage disposal smells get you down. Use any of our seven methods to restore your garbage disposal and bring back a lovely aroma of freshness in your kitchen.

We do recommend investing in a good commercial cleaner to tackle the most heavy-duty stenches. However, you can always opt for a homemade method such as ice cubes, citrus, baking soda, and vinegar, or even salt.

The bottom line is: keep your garbage disposal fresh by cleaning it once a week, keeping an eye on clogs, and using it properly.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism, and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!