A garbage disposal is great for eliminating smelly food waste, but without regular maintenance, it becomes the source of bad smells. Why does my garbage disposal smell bad? Food particles or clogs can cause foul odors if allowed to linger inside. Learn how to clean a garbage disposal and prevent odor with these maintenance tips.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal and Prevent Odor

It should come as no surprise that a device that deals with discarded food needs regular cleanings. But, given a garbage disposal’s hard-to-reach design, the right tools and methods are essential. We’ll detail how to clean a garbage disposal with simple steps and supplies. But, first, knowing why your disposal is prone to an odor can help keep it at bay.

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Stink?

Even with regular usage, food particles can cling inside the disposal drain or on the blades. As these particles linger, they start to break down, developing smelly mold and mildew. Without regular cleanings, the smell can remain even after these particles are gone.

When your garbage disposal smells really bad it usually indicates a clog. These blockages are often the result of accumulated food particles or one large object that can’t fit down the drain. The longer the clog lingers, the smellier it can become, to the point where it permeates the whole kitchen.

Here’s how to clean a garbage disposal to eliminate the clogs and food particles that cause persistent odor.

1. Unclog Garbage Disposal

If you suspect that a clog is causing disposal odor, the first step is to remove the blockage. To ensure your safety, make sure the garbage disposal is unplugged before you begin working, and never place your hand directly inside.

These tips can help identify and remove clogs:

  • Shine a flashlight into the disposal to locate the clog.
  • Use tweezers or tongs to carefully pull it out of the disposal opening.
  • Restore power to the disposal.
  • Run the water and disposal for 1 minute.

2. Soak Disposal in Soapy Water

Once the clog is removed, the disposal can be cleaned to remove any lingering food particles.

Here’s how to clean a garbage disposal, starting with a thorough soak:

  • Plug the disposal drain and fill the sink with at least 4 inches of water.
  • Add 2 tsps of dish soap and swirl the water to form suds.
  • Unplug the disposal drain and turn it on to process the soap suds and water.
  • Moisten a plastic scrub brush with water and add a generous amount of liquid dish soap.
  • Use the brush to scrub inside the disposal drain and around its rim in the sink.

3. Use Salt and Ice to Clean Garbage Disposal

What’s an easy garbage disposal cleaning hack to eliminate hard-to-reach particles? A little salt and ice creates the necessary friction to remove the last lingering remnants.

This is how to use salt and ice as a final cleaning step:

  • Place at least 10 ice cubes in the sink basin and cover them with ½ cup of coarse salt.
  • Run the kitchen faucet so it produces a slow stream of water and turn on the disposal, slowly pushing the salted cubes towards the drain.
  • Run the disposal until all the salt and ice cubes are processed.
  • Turn on the faucet full blast with cold water. Aim it directly into the disposal for 1-2 minutes to dislodge any remaining particles.

garbage disposal cleaning hack

4. Garbage Disposal Deodorizer Tips

Odor has a way of lingering even after your disposal is clean. Fortunately, a little baking soda can absorb bad smells while vinegar acts as a natural disinfectant.

Here’s how to deodorize your disposal with basic kitchen ingredients:

  • Pour 2 cups of baking soda down the disposal drain.
  • Follow with ½ cup of white vinegar.
  • Allow the mixture to sit for 1 hour.
  • Turn on the water and disposal and run it for 1 minute to dispel the mixture.
  • Slowly add 1-inch pieces of citrus peels to the running disposal to create a fresh scent.

Ways to Prevent Garbage Disposal Smells

While regular cleanings should be part of garbage disposal maintenance, the right daily use and care can prevent bad smells.

Use these daily tips to avoid odor:

  • Know what shouldn’t go in a garbage disposal: Fibrous foods, like banana peels, corn husks, and artichoke leaves, can jam the motor and quickly create clogs. Also avoid putting starchy food down the disposal, as pasta, bread, and rice expand when wet, creating blockages.
  • Process food slowly and in small pieces: Cutting food waste into 1-inch pieces and feeding them slowly into the disposal reduces the risk of a blockage. 
  • Always run cold water with the disposal: For proper food processing, the disposal requires a steady flow of water. Always use cold water to prevent grease from coating disposal components.

Knowing how to clean a garbage disposal can keep it running properly for years to come. However, even the cleanest disposals can malfunction, requiring the help of a kitchen appliance repair service. Call Moore Appliance Service for all your disposal and appliance needs!