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What to Do When You Have A Smelly Garbage Disposal

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There's nothing worse than a smelly garbage disposal! But you might be suprised to know that there's a good chance you'll be able to fix the problem yourself. In fact, you probably already have the supplies in your kitchen.

This article will give you 4 methods to help get your garbage disposal's odor under control, plus suggestions on how to keep new odors from developing. If after trying these methods, your garbage disposal still smells, you should contact a professional plumber.

Why Garbage Disposals Stink

Why Garbage Disposals Stink

There's  number of reasons why a garbage disposal may smell. It could be a serious problem where you'll need to contact a professional, or something fairly simple. Here are a few of the causes of a smelly garbage disposal:

  • Poor Sewer Ventilation - If you notice that your bathroom also smells like a sewer, there's a good chance that the ventilation pipe on your roof is blocked with leaves or other debris. You can try to clear it yourself or contact a plumber.
  • Dry P-Trap - If your P-Trap is dry, it won't be able to form the necessary seal to block the sewer gas from entering your home. Contact a plumber to have the P-Trap inspected.
  • Garbage Disposal Clog - You may have a clog in your garbage disposal. Any food that's inside your disposal will begin to rot, and stink over time. Follow our guide to unclog a garbage disposal HERE
  • Stinky Garbage Disposal - Sometimes garbage disposals just need to be cleaned. Bits of food and film build-up can develop inside the disposal without causing a clog. This article will show you how to take care of this problem.
A whole lemon and 2 sliced lemons

4 Methods to Fix a Smelly Garbage Disposal

Method 1: Citrus

Using citrus isn't going to solve a smelly garbage disposal that's caused by rotting food. However, it can resolve some minor problems, and it's a great way to freshen up the disposal's smell. Here's what to do:

  • Wedge a lemon or another citrus fruit.
  • Drop the lemon wedges inside the garbage disposal.
  • Turn ON the hot water tap.
  • Run the garbage disposal for about 15 seconds until the lemon wedges have been ground.

Since harsh chemicals should never be used in your garbage disposal, lemons are an excellent natural alternative. They won't harm your household plumbing and they're good for the environment.

The citrus in the lemon can help break-up odor causing particles within the grinding chamber. Best of all, lemons will leave your garbage disposal smelling fresh and clean. 

Although, citrus is not the strongest solution to disposal odors, it's an excellent method to use periodically, even when you don't have a problem.

Bottle of dish soap dripping on it's side

Method 2: Dish Soap

This simple method is a great task to complete, even if your disposal doesn't smell. 

Here's what to do:

  • Place the stopper into the drain.
  • Fill the sink with hot water until it reaches about 1/2 full. 
  • Add several squirts of dish soap.
  • Give the soap and water a couple good swirls to mix it together. 
  • Remove the stopper to allow the soapy, hot water to go down the drain. At the same time, turn ON the garbage disposal. 

The garbage disposal needs to be running when you remove the stopper. This will allow the disposal to draw in the hot, soapy water, which will loosen and flush away any food residue. It should also help clean the grind ring, which often develops food build-ups.

Holding a handful of ice cubes

Method 3: Ice and Salt

If the hot, soapy water didn't solve your stinky garbage disposal problem, you can try grinding ice cubes with salt.

Here's what to do:

  • Throw 8 to 12 ice cubes into your garbage disposal.
  • Add 1/2-cup of salt. Preferably kosher, but table salt will work.
  • Run a small stream of cold water from the faucet into your disposal.
  • Turn ON your garbage disposal and allow it to run until all of the ice is gone.
  • Then turn the water to a full stream to help flush the disposal. 

As the ice cubes are being ground, they break into thousands of tiny pieces that hurl against the sides and components of the garbage disposal. Together, with the salt, they break-up and scrub the upper tank and sides of the disposal. 

A jar of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar

Method 4: Baking Soda and Vinegar

If your garbage disposal still has an unpleasant odor, try using baking soda and vinegar. This trick has been around for years, and it's very effective.

Here's what to do:

  • Pour about a cup of baking soda inside your garbage disposal.
  • Then, slowly pour a cup of vinegar on top of the baking soda.
  • Allow the mixture to fizzle for about 15 minutes. 
  • Turn ON your disposal while hot tap water runs for 30 seconds.

When the baking soda and vinegar are combined, a chemical reaction takes place that causes them to fizzle. The reaction creates carbon dioxide and water, which will snap and pop thru food debris, causing it to break apart and loose it's grip.

When you turn your disposal on, and run hot water, it further disrupts the odor causing source and flushes it down the drain. This reaction helps loosen food built-up and/or the food debris that's causing the odor within the grinding chamber.

Prevent dominos from falling

Preventing Future Odors

It's always easier to prevent a problem than it is to fix one. The same is true with stinky garbage disposals. Here are a couple of suggestions to prevent future odors from developing in your disposal:

Let It Run

Many people think that the minute the food waste has been ground up they can turn off the disposal. But the truth is, there's still food debris inside. Even if the food was completely ground, it hasn't been flushed out of the disposal yet.

Often food sticks to the side of the disposal's grinding chamber or becomes stuck on the grinding plate. If you're done using your disposal for the next couple of days, the food that's still left inside can rot and begin to smell.

The best thing to do, is after you hear the grinding stop, allow the water and garbage disposal to run for another 15-seconds. Then, turn off the disposal and leave the cold water running for 60-seconds. This will flush all the food particles thru your disposal and drain, which will prevent odors from developing.

Use Bio-Clean

There's a product on the market called Bio-Clean that's recommended by many plumbers. Bio-Clean uses enzymes and natural bacteria that have not been genetically engineered. This video shows how it works:

Watch the Video

Simply pour Bio-Clean down your drains once a month, and let the enzyme concentration (the most powerful on the market) do it's work. 

Bio-Clean Ultimate Drain Cleaning Kit


Bio-Clean will not only prevent your garbage disposal from smelling, but it'll also keep your drains in good working order, by preventing drain clogs and unpleasant odors.


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