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9 Tricks for Getting Rid of Garbage Disposal Smells

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Have you ever walked into a kitchen and smelled something that was just “off?” That foul or sour smell, like rotting food or even sewage, is probably coming from the garbage disposal.

If you’re constantly battling funky smells in your disposal, you’re in the right place! Unless your fridge is full of rotting food or you dropped something under the stove and it’s been there for weeks, your garbage disposal is likely the culprit.

sink waste filter with trapped food waste

Thankfully, you can do a few things to get rid of garbage disposal smells before you tear about your kitchen or call an expensive repair person to take care of the problem.

We’ve put together this list of tried-and-true ways to eliminate disposal smells and get your kitchen smelling fresh again!

Here are nine of the best tricks for getting rid of garbage disposal smells you can start using today.

Food waste after peeling vegetables on the sink

Keep the Disposal on Longer

Sometimes smells come from food scraps that haven’t been ground down enough yet.

There may be small bits of rotting food sitting deep in your disposal. Depending on what you made for dinner the day before, it could start to smell faster than you think.

If you want to get rid of the strange smell, turn on the disposal with the water running directly into the drain, if possible.

Leave the disposal and the water on for several seconds to give the appliance the time it needs to get rid of all the food scraps down there. It may clear up the smell and leave your kitchen odorless again.

cleaning scrub steel sink with sponge

Buy a Brush for Your Garbage Disposal

Did you know that you can clean the inside of your garbage disposal? Most people avoid sticking anything in there, typically for a good reason. Garbage disposals can be dangerous, but that’s usually only when they’re on.

Even if it’s off, you should avoid sticking fingers and hands down into the disposal. There are sharp edges in there that are hard to see. Instead, you can buy a scrub brush that’s built in the shape of a regular garbage disposal drain.

Douse the brush in some soap and insert it into the drain. Scrub around for a few minutes to get rid of any grime on the drain walls or in the appliance before you take the brush out and flush the drain with water. If the smell is still there, keep trying to see if scrubbing it will help.

Swap the Rubber Drain Guard

Sometimes the solution to your garbage disposal smells is simple. For example, it could be that your rubber drain guard, also known as the drain collar, is old and smelly. After years of use, the smell of old food scraps simply seeps in too deep and can’t be flushed out anymore.

You’re lucky if this trick works because it’s an easy fix and an affordable replacement. You can switch out the collar by yourself after a quick trip to your local hardware store.

Take a picture or bring your rubber piece to the store to make sure you get the same model.

wrong food waste clogging on kitchen sink drain

Stop Putting the Wrong Foods in the Disposal

OK, this one’s not so much of a trick rather than just some good old common sense.

If you have a garbage disposal, you need to use it correctly. Unfortunately, a lot of people think they can flush anything they want down a disposal.

The appliance may not be capable of processing certain foods, so they’ll end up on the drain walls and leave a terrible smell.

In addition, make sure you teach everyone how to use the disposal, if you live in a house with other people. It’s frustrating if you’re going to lengths to avoid putting anything wrong in there, but others are shoving scraps down there that end up stinking.

plumber fixing sink pipe in kitchen

Replace Pipes Under the Disposal

Frequently, it’s the plumbing that stinks, and not your disposal.

No matter how good your disposal is and how fine it can grind down food scraps, some of it will end up on the pipe walls. When there are enough small particles that dry and cling to each other, you get foul odors coming from your disposal.

To fix this, you may want to replace the pipes just under the disposal. These small plumbing projects are easy enough for most homeowners. You usually need a wrench and a replacement pipe with some fasteners.

Plenty of YouTube tutorials will walk you through removing a sink pipe and installing a new one. Just be ready for some rotten food film to spray around when you finally get the old pipe off. It’s nothing a quick cleaning won’t fix, though.

Cleaning agent to remedy foul odor

Try Natural Cleaning Solutions

If you’re dealing with foul odors, chances are you’ve tried to pour some dishwashing liquid detergent down the drain. If that doesn’t work, one neat trick to try is to use some natural remedies to see if they will dispel the funky smell.

One good option is to pour baking soda and white vinegar down the drain.

Dump about a quarter of a cup of baking soda into the disposal, and then trickle in a cup or so of white vinegar slowly afterward. Give it a few minutes to build up a good foam, and then run hot water into the drain for a while.

A cool home remedy that works for some homeowners is to pour Scope or some other mouthwash down the disposal.

Crystal clear ice cubes

Use Ice Cubes to Clean the Blades

Occasionally, the smell from your disposal comes from grime stuck on the blades. It’s hard to clean them when you can’t see them, so using ice cubes can do the trick. Ice cubes will work sort of like how you see them when you add them into a blender.

The blades spin the cubes at high speeds and toss them around before they strike again. The force from the cubes can knock grime and clingy food scraps off your blades and deeper into the drain where they belong.

cleaning products for cleaning and unclog a kitchen sink

Soak Your Disposal in Citrus

Never underestimate the cleansing power of citrus. The powerful cleaning effect of lemon juice or orange juice is usually enough to overcome the strongest odors.

In addition, citrus fruits are strong anti-fungal cleaners. If you squeeze a good amount of lemon juice into your disposal and let it sit, it will slowly clean off any grime on the blades, walls, and other parts of your appliance.

Upgrade Your Disposal

If you’ve switched the rubber collar and tried several other tricks on this list, it could be time to replace your disposal. Of course, no one loves to hear they should replace an expensive kitchen appliance, but even garbage disposals have a finite lifespan.

Sometimes there are smells you can’t get rid of, so you’ll need a new garbage disposal to eliminate the odor.

In Conclusion

Garbage disposals are wonderful features in any kitchen. However, anything that processes old foods will sometimes smell. Drains smell, pipes smell, and garbage disposals can definitely smell.

Knowing what to avoid putting in the disposal and regular cleaning can help reduce the chances of lingering odors and keep your kitchen smelling lovely.


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