While a garbage disposal conveniently eliminates food scraps, lingering odor can be the price you pay for this convenience. Fortunately, a thorough cleaning with the right techniques and supplies can attack and prevent bad smells. We’ll detail how to clean a garbage disposal from removing clogs to deodorizing, as well as how to keep odor at bay.

Banishing Bad Smells: How to Clean a Garbage Disposal in 4 Simple Steps

Given its design and location, knowing how to clean a garbage disposal properly can present some challenges. We’ve broken down the safest and most effective cleaning methods into 4 simple steps that get the job done. But before discussing proper procedure we’ll answer the question, “Why does my garbage disposal stink?” 

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Smell Bad?

A garbage disposal uses blades or grinding components to break up food waste, forcing it down the drain with impellers and running water. However, even the most effective disposal can leave food particles behind. Your garbage disposal smells bad as these particles rapidly decay in its warm, moist chamber.

If decaying food accumulates over time, or a large particle is stuck in the chamber, it can cause a clog that exacerbates odor. This clog can even cause water to back up into the dishwasher, creating another source of unpleasant smells. The first step in how to clean a garbage disposal details safe clog-removing tips that also prevent dishwasher odors.

#1. Unclog Your Garbage Disposal

Always unplug the disposal before beginning your work. Shine a flashlight down the drain to locate potential clogs and use tweezers or tongs to remove them (never your hand). After restoring power, run the disposal with a steady stream of water to dispel any lingering particles.

#2. Soak Garbage Disposal in Soapy Water

When your garbage disposal stinks, a good soak in soapy water can start to break down the odor. Plug the disposal drain and fill the sink with at least 4 inches of water. Add 2 tsp of liquid dish soap and swish the water with your hand to create suds. Unplug the drain and run the disposal to process the soapy water.

After soaking, use a soapy scrub brush to clean the disposal rim in the sink and inside the drain. Be sure to remove the rubber baffle to give it a good scrub and rinse as well.

how to clean a garbage disposal

#3. Clean Garbage Disposal with Ice and Salt

Persistent food particles can cling to disposal blades and impellers, even after soaking. Here’s how to clean a garbage disposal using friction from ice and salt:

  • Place at least 10 ice cubes in the sink
  • Cover the cubes with ½ cup of coarse salt
  • Turn on the water, run the disposal, and push the salted cubes down the drain
  • Continue to run the disposal until the ice cubes are gone

Once the cubes and salt have melted and dissolved, blast a steady stream of cold water down the disposal for 1-2 minutes. This will flush any remaining debris.

#4. How to Deodorize a Garbage Disposal

Once the disposal is clean, you may be wondering how do I get rid of the smell in my garbage disposal without using harsh chemicals? Here’s how baking soda, vinegar, and some fresh citrus can do the trick:

  • Pour 2 cups baking soda down the disposal
  • Slowly add ½ cup white vinegar
  • Allow mixture to sit for 1 hour
  • Run the disposal with water for 1 minute to clear the mixture
  • Peel any citrus fruit and cut the peels into 1-inch pieces. 
  • With the disposal and water running, feed the peels into the disposal

How to Prevent Garbage Disposal from Smelling

Now that the disposal is fresh and clean, follow these tips to prevent bad smells:

  • Avoid putting starchy food (i.e. pasta, bread, potatoes) down the drain. Water can cause them to swell, creating clogs.
  • Don’t put fibrous foods like banana peels or celery in the disposal, as their fibers can wrap around the blades and impellers.
  • Start running the water before turning on the disposal and continue to run it while the disposal operates. This will help flush food particles down the drain.

If persistent smells remain a garbage disposal repair or replacement may be necessary. Call Oak Valley Appliance to address any and all disposal needs!