As convenient as garbage disposals can be, removing bad smells can be downright challenging. Wondering how to clean a garbage disposal that smells bad? Remove any clogs before cleaning with soapy water, ice cubes, and coarse salt. Follow these steps to clean a smelly garbage disposal and learn how to prevent odor from returning.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal That Smells in 4 Simple Steps

Though garbage disposal odor can overwhelm your kitchen, some basic ingredients and simple techniques can get rid of the smell. The following steps detail how to clean a garbage disposal but, first, we’ll answer, “Why does my garbage disposal stink?”

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Stink?

Any appliance that deals with food can be prone to odor if not cleaned regularly. Garbage disposals, in particular, are predisposed to bad smells when food sticks to their blades and starts to break down. Clogs only compound this problem as food continues to collect and decompose without draining.

While removing clogs and food particles can address the source of the smell, odor tends to linger in the disposal’s small, contained environment. Here’s how to clean a garbage disposal that smells with just a few kitchen supplies.

1. Unclog Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal smells are often the result of a clog. Whether it’s one large item or a collection of food particles, the first step in how to clean a garbage disposal is to remove any clogs.

Here’s how to unclog a garbage disposal safely:

  • Unplug the disposal
  • Use a flashlight to locate blockages
  • With tongs or tweezers (never your hand) remove the clog
  • Restore power 
  • Run the disposal and water for 1 minute
how to clean a garbage disposal that smells

Image from Home Stratosphere

2. Soak Garbage Disposal in Soapy Water

Even though the clog has been removed, the disposal still needs to be cleaned to rid it of lingering odor. Soaking and scrubbing can loosen stubborn food particles while attacking bad smells.

Follow these steps to soak and scrub the garbage disposal:

  • Plug the disposal drain
  • Fill the sink with 4 inches of water and add 2 teaspoons of dish soap
  • Swirl the water to create suds
  • Unplug the drain and turn on the disposal to process the soapy water
  • Pour dish soap on a dampened scrub brush
  • Scrub the garbage disposal’s sink rim and drain

3. Clean Disposal Using Salt and Ice

Once the outside and drain are cleaned, the blades themselves require a good scrubbing to remove stubborn food particles.

Here’s how to clean garbage disposal blades with salt and ice:

  • Place at least 10 ice cubes in the sink
  • Cover them with ½ cup of coarse salt
  • Turn on the disposal and push the ice and salt down the drain
  • Continue running the disposal until all the ice and salt is gone
  • Flush with cold water for 1-2 minutes
garbage disposal maintenance

Image from Everyday Cheapskate

4. Deodorize Your Garbage Disposal

Just as our dishwasher cleaning tips use baking soda and vinegar to remove odor, these ingredients can also deodorize a disposal.

How to use baking soda and vinegar as a final odor-removing step:

  • Pour 2 cups baking soda down the disposal drain
  • Slowly add ½ cup white vinegar
  • Let sit for 1 hour
  • Run the disposal and water for 1 minute

How to Prevent Garbage Disposal Smells

Once the odor is gone, regular garbage disposal maintenance and proper use and care can prevent its return.

Follow these tips to avoid garbage disposal smells:

  • Process the right foods:  Avoid putting starches like pastas, rice, and potatoes down the disposal, as they can expand and cause clogs. Also, avoid fibrous foods such as banana peels and corn husks that can wind around impeller blades.
  • Monitor quantity and size: Cut large items into small pieces and add food in small quantities to prevent clogs.
  • Always run water with the disposal: Cold water helps process and drain food. Continue to run the water for at least 5 seconds after turning the disposal off.

Knowing how to clean a garbage disposal that smells can maintain function but won’t prevent every problem. When you need a garbage disposal repair, call Callahan’s Appliance for fast and professional service.