How to Fix a Stinky Garbage Disposal Once and For All

Keep your sink odor- and bacteria-free with these seven methods to clean your garbage disposal.

Food waste left in a sink. CloseupPhoto: Shutterstock/Tolikoff Photography

There’s no denying just how handy a garbage disposal is. However, if not tended to properly, these machines that are designed with the sole purpose of making our lives easier can become quite the nuisance. It is vital, not only to keep your kitchen smelling fresh, but also for general cleanliness, that you tend to them often. More than that, it is wise to be preventative to avoid a stinky disposal before it becomes an issue.

1. Thoroughly clean the outside of the disposal.

Though it may seem a bit obvious, the first thing you should do to resolve your stinky garbage disposal situation is to clean all the visible parts. Take a sponge or scrubber wand with a decent amount of dish soap and scrub the heck out of it. Pay special attention to the rim where food particles can get lodged in the grooves. (Do not clean inside the unit! You must unplug and remove it from the sink if you want to clean it manually.)

Tip: try using a toothpick to scrape out that nasty grime that builds up in the groove.

2. Flush the system

As we know, running water into your disposal while it’s on will not fill the entire system. In order to completely flush the garbage disposal, you should fill your sink halfway with water. Add some vinegar (a cleaning superstar!) and pull out the plug while turning the garbage disposal on. This will cause the water-vinegar mixture to work it’s way through all the small areas of the unit that would be extremely hard to get to without dismantling the entire thing.

3. Use ice and salt

Pour two cups of ice cubes into the garbage disposal followed by one cup of rock salt. (We prefer rock salt for it’s course texture, but kosher or table salt will work just fine as an alternative.) Run cold water down the garbage disposal for 5-10 seconds while it crushes the ice. While being crushed, the ice will clean the blades of any slimy residue that has stuck to the blades, while the salt with help to deodorize it.

4. Use citrus as a natural deodorizer

Grab a couple lemons (left over from this delicious lemon bar recipe), or whatever citrus fruit you have on hand, chop them up and toss them in the disposal for 5-10 seconds while running cold water. The acid in the citrus will help break down the grimy slime, and will naturally deodorize your whole kitchen.

Still have citrus peels leftover? Use them to clean even more of your home.

5. Combine methods

If you really want to get serious with it, freeze vinegar with chunks of citrus fruits in an ice cube tray. Make sure you run cold water along with the disposal so no chunks of fruit get stuck to the blades.

6. Try a baking soda solution

We couldn’t talk about cleaning and leave our tried and true baking soda cleanser. Simply, pour two cups of baking soda into the garbage disposal followed by a half cup on vinegar. This will cause a fizzy reaction that somehow satisfies our urge to fully disinfect. Let the solution sit for one hour. When the hour is up turn on the garbage disposal and cold water and let it run for at least one minute.

Keep cleaning with baking soda using these tips.

7. Don’t forget about preventative care

The best thing you can do for your garbage disposal is to prevent it from becoming dirty and stinky in the first place. To do this avoid putting any fibrous vegetables down the drain such as celery, coffee grounds, egg whites and shells, pasta, fruit pits, potato peels, and of course, grease. (Here’s how to properly dispose of grease.)

You should also run cold water with your garbage disposal every time you use it to help it flush out any left over debris. As an added precaution, it is wise to run the cold water and disposal for 5-10 seconds longer than you think is necessary.

With these simple and easy tips, you’ll be able to keep your kitchen sink fresh and clean!

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Kaila Harmon
Kaila Harmon is a California native who has a deep passion for writing that has been with her from a young age. She owns a small business in which she creates various handmade home decor pieces and novelties that showcase the beauty and humor in everyday life. Before owning her small business, she obtained a Yoga Teacher Certificate and has taught both yoga and meditation off and on throughout the past ten years.