July 21

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal – No More Smell

Written by: Nadia El-Yaouti


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One of the most powerful kitchen appliances that’s also the most inconspicuous is your sink’s garbage disposal. Even if you keep your stainless steel sink spotless and your kitchen nice and tidy, if you don’t do a good job cleaning out your sink, you could be dealing with a very smelly kitchen. 

Today, we’re going to take a look at some quick and easy hacks that will not only get rid of foul garbage disposal odors, but will keep your disposal running smoother and stronger for longer. The best part? You probably have everything you need to clean your disposal right at your fingertips.

Let’s take a look!

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Smell Bad?

Your sink’s disposal is meant to break down food into small particles so that they can easily make their way down your sink. The problem lies with sticky and slimy food build-up that accumulates over time. If not cleaned properly, this food build-up can breed bacteria that will eventually lead to very strong and unpleasant odors.  

Getting rid of that gunk is key to removing funky kitchen odors. Because food build-up can hide underneath your disposal’s blades, underneath the rubber splash guard flap, and on the sides of your disposal, it’s important to follow routine disposal maintenance. Our tips will help you do just that.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal with Ice

Ice is a surprisingly helpful tool in cleaning away food and grime that’s stuck in your garbage disposal. Crushed up cubes also do a great job in getting underneath the blades to remove stubborn food. Not only that, but as you turn on the disposal, the rough texture of the ice can help to sharpen the blades. Here’s how to use this simple cleaning technique: 

1. Start by putting a handful of ice cubes directly into your garbage disposal.

2. Turn on the disposal and let it run for 10 seconds.

3. Next, turn on the cold water and let the disposal continue to run for another 30 - 45 seconds.

This cleaning hack has recently gone viral on social media. Videos show sinks flooding with dark, filthy water, and viewers are encouraged to rinse their disposals with hot water. It's important to keep in mind that while hot water helps lift away dirt, it will also melt oil and fat deposits in your disposal. Once melted, these deposits can run through your plumbing and clog up your pipes. By allowing your water to run cold, you can keep fat deposits in solid form so that they pass easily through your plumbing.

Pro Tip

If your blades need an extra boost, you can add in some salt once you throw in the ice cubes. The salt will work as a textured barrier to help sharpen up your blades.

Ice cubes can be super effective in helping clean out your garbage disposal and sharpen the blades, but if there has been food lingering in your disposal, then chances are you also have a foul odor. Unfortunately, this method does not help to remove odors. Let's take a look at some methods that do.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal with Baking Soda and Vinegar

If there's a build up of food and grease inside your garbage disposal, then chances are you are also dealing with funky odors. Cleaning out your garbage disposal using the ice cube and cold water method is helpful for getting rid of stuck food, but it doesn't do much to get rid of the odor. Here's what you'll need to do in order to deodorize your garbage disposal:

1. Start by adding half a cup of baking soda directly into the garbage disposal.

2. Next, add one cup of vinegar

3. Allow this mixture to sit for about 10 minutes. You will notice that it will immediately start to fizz and bubble up. This is the baking soda and vinegar working together to help get rid of lingering foul smells.

4. After about 10 minutes, flush out your garbage disposal with cold water and turn on the disposal so it can run while you drain it.

You can repeat this step a second time if there are any lingering odors. To keep your garbage disposal smelling fresh, you can use this method once or twice a month as a preventative measure. 

How to Clean Out a Clogged Garbage Disposal

Having a clogged garbage disposal can be as frustrating as having a smelly one. The main difference is that a clogged garbage disposal can cost you big bucks if you end up calling a plumber. Before you go that route, you might want to try this method to unclog your disposal

1. Start by turning off the breaker that gives power to your disposal.

2. Using a flashlight, inspect the inside of the disposal to see if there are any visible obstructions that might be causing the clog. If you can see any foreign objects, carefully use a long pair of pliers or tongs to remove the blockage.

3. Flip your breaker back on and turn on your disposal to see if the blockage has been cleared. 

If the blockage persists, then there might be lingering food residue that is keeping your disposal from draining. In this case, you will need to get a plunger to loosen up any lingering food. 

1. Start by ensuring that the power to your disposal is off. 

2. To plunge your garbage disposal, cover the drain with a plunger and allow some water to fill up over the plunger in the sink.

3. Plunge the disposal a couple of times and then remove it. If the water starts to drain, then you have removed the food blockage. 

4. Flip the breaker back on and run your disposal along with cold water to help flush out food particles. 

Little scraps of food that have not drained properly are usually the culprit for clogged garbage disposals. Once these are removed, your garbage disposal should continue working like normal. If the clog persists, then you may need to call in a plumber to take a closer look at your sink.

safety Tip

NEVER look directly over your garbage disposal when you turn it on. Scraps of food and even objects that should not be in there can fly out and injure you.

How to Clean a Smelly Garbage Disposal Using Citrus

Another great method for cleaning a smelly garbage disposal is by using citrus peels. You can use the peels of any citrus fruit, but we recommend grapefruit, lemon, lime, or oranges. 

1. Start by peeling your citrus fruit. Be sure to cut the citrus peels into smaller pieces so that your disposal does not have to do extra work.

2. Throw the peels into the disposal, turn on the cold water, and allow the disposal to run until the peels are chopped up. You will notice a nice citrus aroma instantly. 

What makes this citrus cleaning hack one of the best is that whenever you use lemons, limes, or other citrus fruits in the kitchen, you can throw the peels into the disposal instead of into your trash. This allows you to squash out any unpleasant odors, and prevent them from happening in the first place.

Prevention is Key 

As with any kitchen appliance, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keeping up with regular maintenance of your disposal is the best way to keep it running smoother for longer.

Your garbage disposal is meant to chop up and get rid of any large food particles that make their way into your sink after you clean up your dishes. It is not meant to eliminate large chunks of food. Because of this, you want to make sure that any large scraps of food go into your trash and not into your sink.

pro tip

If you are someone who gets rid of large chunks of fruit and veggie peels every time you cook, consider using a biodegradable trash bag that will serve you well in the composting process. 

When maintaining your garbage disposal, aside from keeping large chunks of food going in, keep an eye out for small kitchen utensils from falling in as well. Small spoons, bottle caps, and lids can sometimes find their way down into your sink, and if you run the blades, they can seriously damage your unit. Before you turn on your disposal, always make it a point to do a quick peek inside before you turn it on.


Although most of us have experienced an unpleasant odor coming from our sink at one time or another, we are so glad to have these quick, simple and effective cleaning methods to turn to. 

We hope this has been useful in helping to keep your kitchen clean and smelling great. Please don't hesitate to leave a message below with any questions or comments. 




About the author

Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and three kids. When she's not exploring new and improved ways of cleaning and organizing the kitchen on a budget, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.

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