What’s That Smell Coming from My Garbage Disposal?

When it’s time to eat and you walk into the kitchen, it is awfully unappetizing to be greeted by a bad smell from the garbage disposal. How can you remove this smell for your own comfort, or quickly before guests arrive? In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to get rid of the gross smell from your garbage disposal. Plus, we will show you how you can avoid making this unpleasant odor in the future.

Tools and Materials

Here are the tools and materials you can use to clean out your garbage disposal. They might not all be necessary, depending on what kind of clean you want to give the disposal. So, give the instructions a read before you gather all of this up:

  • Sponge
  • Stiff-bristle brush
  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Ice
  • Lemons
  • Candles
  • Baking soda
  • Deodorizing spray

Step One: Safety

When cleaning out the garbage disposal, it’s always a good idea to turn it off and unplug it. You don’t want to just turn it off because you could accidentally flip the switch. Or, more likely, a child or pet could. You don’t want to have your fingers anywhere near the blades when the garbage disposal could turn on.

Step Two: Scrubbing

Start with your sponge and work up a lather on it. Scrub all of the parts of the garbage disposal that you can see, including the flange and where it meets the sink basin. Any foodstuffs that are stuck here, even microscopic ones, are exposed to water all the time and are likely to rot and grow mold. This could be the cause of the smell.

Step Three: Soak and Spin

When you run the garbage disposal, water passes through it and could leave behind food bits everywhere. These could also be the source of your smell. There is a quick way to rinse them all out, with the added benefit of the scrubbing power of vinegar.

Plug your sink and fill it with warm water, about three-quarters of the way. While it runs, add dish soap to make some bubbles. You can also add up to half parts vinegar to help clean things out. Make a point of ensuring the sink isn’t full all of the way, or what you’re about to do next will be messy.

Plug the garbage disposal back in. Unplug the sink and then turn the garbage disposal on. The water will run into it and be propelled through the housing by the moving blades. It may sputter up a bit and should do a good job of cleaning out the far corners of the disposal.

Step Four: Ice and Salt

Did that not quite do the trick? You can follow the water flush with something a little more serious. First, place your ice into the garbage disposal. Salt running it, and then begin to pour in about a half cup of kosher salt. The salt abrasive and the ice helps it make an impact, without risking making a clog in the garbage disposal, as it will melt.

Step Five: New Smells

You have almost certainly removed whatever cause the smell. But, the molecules will still linger in the air for a little while. What should you do to get rid of the smell in the short term? You can run lemons or another citrus in the garbage disposal to make a more pleasant smell. Or you can try to absorb the smell with baking soda or a deodorizing cleaning spray (like Febreze). If you don’t have any of those, you could also light a candle in the kitchen and use that scent to mask the remaining smell.

How to Prevent Smells in the Garbage Disposal

While you can do major cleans like this to handle smells that develop in the disposal, it is probably more convenient to just follow a few simple tips to keep the disposal smelling good all of the time. Here’s what you can do:

  • Run the disposal for longer than you might normally. Running it for about five seconds more than is absolutely necessary will help clear out gunk and prevent smells.
  • Only use the disposal for what it’s designed for; soft foods. Starchy foods, peels and other tough objects won’t go down easily. They may make smells or even clogs.

Do you have other garbage disposal woes? If you live in Rock Hill, SC, you can call us at Full Spectrum Plumbing Services. We’re happy to help answer your questions and keep your garbage disposal running smoothly.

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