How to Freshen a Smelly Garbage Disposal

updated Sep 10, 2020
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Have you ever noticed a phantom stinky odor in your kitchen? You do some investigating and learn it’s not the trash. It’s not the fridge. And then you finally trace it to your smelly garbage disposal? Here’s what I’ve learned — through experience — about getting it clean and keeping it fresh.

Garbage disposals are theoretically self-cleaning, but occasionally sludge can build up on the sides of the disposal and particles of food adhere to the grinders. When this happens — and you’ll know because you’ll notice a phantom stinky odor, too! — the first step is to give the disposal a really good flush.

Read more: How To Clean a Garbage Disposal

Credit: Cat Meschia

Put a stopper in the sink and fill it with several inches of hot water. Add a squirt of dish soap. Turn on the disposal and unplug the sink to let the water flush through. This is different than simply running the tap like we usually do, as the disposal will actually fill with water.

Credit: Cat Meschia

Next, I throw a few ice cubes and a handful of kosher salt down the disposal. The ice helps knock food off the grinder while the salt scrubs the sides.

For good measure, I like to repeat the flushing and then run a few lemon peels through the disposal for freshness.

Voila! This seems to do the trick every time. If the smell persists, I’ve heard that you can add a half cup of baking soda down the drain, then pour on a cup of vinegar. Let it fizzle for about ten minutes and then flush everything out with some boiling water.

A plumber also once told me that most people don’t run their disposals long enough. If we cut it off as soon as it sounds like the food is done grinding, sludge and particles can be left behind. He said the best way is to run water from the faucet, turn on the disposal, and don’t turn anything off for about 5 seconds after it sounds like the food has finished grinding to be sure it has flushed through.

Do you have a good method for dealing with a stinky garbage disposal? Tell us in the comments below.