How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

how-to-clean-garbage-disposal

Have you noticed an unpleasant odor emanating from somewhere in your kitchen? Has the stench become so overpowering that it’s permeating the entire room? Have you had the uncomfortable experience of watching your houseguests crinkle their noses in revolt as soon as they set foot inside your kitchen? Have you pinpointed the origins of the nasty smell to your in-sink garbage disposal?

A stinky garbage disposal is especially unnerving when you consider that it’s located in the area where you store, prepare and consume food. And if you allow the problem to linger, the smell will only get worse over time and make you want to avoid the kitchen altogether — although that’s not a viable option if you and your family still wish to eat!

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Stink?

You might wonder why your garbage disposal is producing such an awful smell. After all, a garbage disposal is designed to pulverize and remove food and other kitchen waste — so shouldn’t this also prevent the development of unpleasant odors?

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There are several factors that contribute to a smelly disposal. For one, it is impossible for even the most powerful disposals to destroy all the food that gets dumped down the drain. It’s easy for food particles to become trapped in the machine’s nooks, crannies and crevices. This “entombed” food will eventually begin to decay, which will create nasty odors.

Your culinary style and tastes can also have an impact on the way your disposal smells. For example, if you use a plethora of pungent spices in your cooking or other heavily scented items such as onions or garlic, these materials are bound to collect in the bowels of your garbage disposal. The combination of these aromas can make a harsh smell even stronger.

Also, the pipes and inner-workings of a disposal are typically located underneath the sink — an area that is always dark and is prone to moisture accumulation. This fosters an environment that facilitates the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew — along with the nasty odors that they produce. Mold growth can also cause respiratory stress in some individuals.

The good news is that you don’t have to live with a stinky garbage disposal. There are numerous options for cleaning a disposal that will get rid of garbage disposal smell. And if you clean your disposal on a regular basis, you can keep the stench from coming back.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal That Smells

Ways to clean a malodorous garbage disposal include the safe application of household chemicals such as chlorine bleach. You should avoid using drain cleaning products, though, as these contain harsh chemicals that can corrode the innards of your disposal. However, some manufacturers offer products specifically designed for both drain and garbage disposal cleaning.

If you’re trying to limit the use of chemicals, there are also many effective natural cleaning solutions using items that you probably already have in your home.

Before You Start Cleaning

Before you attempt any disposal cleaning method, you’ll want to see if there are any items (bottle caps, pull tabs, etc.) stuck inside the unit. Disconnect the electrical supply by pulling the power cord from the wall outlet (or cut the electricity to the circuit if the outlet is inaccessible).

Use a flashlight to look down into the unit and identify any trapped objects, and remove them with needle-nose pliers or tongs. NEVER place your hand inside a garbage disposal!

How to Clean a Smelly Garbage Disposal With Chemicals

There are several chemical-based commercial garbage disposal cleaners that require little manual labor. One such product is Liquid-Plumber Disposal + Drain Foaming Cleaner. To use this product, you simply toss a small “Power Pack” into the drain and start the disposal.

The pack produces a thick foam that penetrates deep into the disposal and cleans its piping and inner workings. It also leaves a pleasant citrus aroma.

The active ingredients in this product are citric acid and sodium lauryl sulfate — two strong chemicals that you must use with extreme caution. They may also react with any chemical residue left by drain cleaning products. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly if you touch the foam or get it on your skin and to rinse with water if the product splashes your eyes.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal With Bleach

Most homeowners already have a gallon or two of liquid chlorine bleach around the house for performing a wide range of common cleaning and disinfecting chores. Bleach will kill germs, which will also eliminate odors.

However, you should only use a little bit of bleach, as an excessive amount will cause accumulated grease inside the disposal to harden, making it more difficult to remove.

To use bleach to clean your disposal, simply dilute a tablespoon of liquid bleach into a gallon of water and slowly pour it down the drain. Wait a minute or two, then turn on the hot water to flush the bleach away.

As you probably know from working with bleach, you should avoid splashing it on your skin or in your eyes. It’s also advisable to open the window above your sink (if applicable) to ventilate the bleach fumes.

Using Chemicals to Clean Under the Splash Guard

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Your garbage disposal’s drain should contain a splash guard at the top. The underside of the splash guard will accumulate odor-producing food residue over time. A simple way to clean the splash guard is to dip a toothbrush into an antibacterial grease-cutting kitchen product and thoroughly scrub each flap. Rinse the flaps with cold water, and you’re done!

How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal Naturally

If you’re like many homeowners these days, you’ve made “going green” a top priority. And that means replacing chemical-laden household products with less toxic, more eco-friendly alternatives.

Take a quick inventory of your home. Do you own a fridge with a built-in ice maker or a freezer filled with ice cube trays? Do you have containers of baking soda or vinegar in your kitchen or pantry? Do you keep fresh lemons around for cooking or adding flavor to your favorite beverages? If so, you already have some natural garbage disposal cleaning solutions within easy reach.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal With Lemon and Ice

Have you noticed that many household cleaners on the market these days now feature a citrus scent? In addition to masking the harsh smell produced by the chemicals that serve as the active ingredients in many of these products, citrus leaves a fresh scent that lots of folks find appealing. You can use this same approach to eliminate that nasty smell coming from your garbage disposal — and it’s so easy to do!

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To clean your disposal with lemon and ice, grab about a dozen cubes from your ice maker or freezer trays. Make sure the cubes are small enough to fit down the drain (you can use crushed iced as a substitute).

Turn on the disposal to grind the ice, which will clean the blades deep down inside the machine. Then, cut up some lemons and toss the rinds into the drain to produce that wonderful citrusy aroma. If you don’t have lemons, orange rinds will work well, too.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal With Baking Soda and Vinegar

Another natural way to clean your garbage disposal is by applying a combination of baking soda and vinegar (either white or apple cider vinegar will do). Pour a half-cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar into the drain and let the mixture fizz and foam for about 15 minutes.

This will produce an acidic reaction that will kill bacteria and eliminate unpleasant odors in the process.

You can also use these same two ingredients to clean the splash guards. Mix baking soda and vinegar in a small cup to create a paste-like material. Dip a clean toothbrush into the paste and scrub the scratch guards to remove caked-on debris.

The final step in the baking soda/vinegar cleaning process is to perform a flush to remove any remaining materials. Begin by plugging the drain opening and filling the basin with water until it is approximately three-quarters full. Add a small amount of liquid dish detergent (a teaspoon should be sufficient) and pull the plug to allow the water to swirl down the drain while running the disposal.

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Other Chemical-Free Ways to Clean a Garbage Disposal

You can also clean your garbage disposal without chemicals by using a combination of ice cubes and rock salt. The latter will provide additional scrubbing power. Just run cold water and add about a cup of rock salt to the ice cubes as you pour them down the drain.

A combination of hot water and dish detergent can work well if the smell coming from your disposal isn’t overpowering. Even pouring boiling water down the disposal can help to alleviate odors, as it can loosen food particles deep down inside the unit.

How to Prevent a Stinky Garbage Disposal

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to get rid of an unpleasant garbage disposal smell is to take proactive steps that will prevent it from occurring in the first place. Keeping your disposal clean will eliminate the buildup of decaying food particles that are a primary source of bad odors.

It can also keep the disposal free of clogs that can prevent it from functioning properly.

Be Careful What You Dump Into Your Disposal

A lot of folks are in the habit of dumping any leftover food items into the disposal due to convenience — it’s much easier to toss something into the drain than create extra household trash that requires additional handling.

However, if you make a practice of placing smelly foods into the disposal, you’ll be rewarded with a stinky odor for your efforts! Items such as shrimp and egg shells, meat and fish will produce an unpleasant smell as they decay inside the unit. A better alternative is to throw them out with the rest of your curbside trash.

Also, avoid dumping gooey food items such as honey or syrup into the disposal, as they will adhere to its inner-workings upon drying. Cooking grease is another material that you should never pour down your disposal, as it will trap other food particles. Congealed grease is also extremely difficult to remove and can cause clogs within the unit.

Properly “Prepare” Food for the Disposal

Preparing food before placing it into the disposal can help to keep it clean. For instance, cutting large items into smaller pieces will make them easier to grind and reduce the likelihood that they will adhere to the unit. This will also create a scouring action along the walls of the disposal’s grinding chamber.

You should also run a strong stream of cold water when grinding food waste. The cold water will cause any grease or oils in the food to harden so the blades can chop them before they reach the trap. Adding a small amount of liquid dish detergent as you run the water will provide additional cleaning capabilities.

Ice Cubes as a Preventive Measure

While ice is an effective cleaning method, it can also help prevent nasty garbage disposal smells. It doesn’t require a lot of time and effort, either — just dump a few cubes into the disposal once or twice a month and turn the unit it on.

The grinding of the cubes will sharpen the blades and remove food residue. Coating the ice cubes with vinegar before placing them into the disposal will enhance the ice’s cleaning power. The vinegar will kill bacteria produced by decaying food particles.

Citrus “Now and Then”

The occasional use of citrus items will help to maintain a pleasant smell in your disposal and throughout your kitchen. As with the ice cube method, you don’t have to exert effort or adhere to a tight schedule. Whenever you use a lemon for cooking or preparing beverages or enjoy an orange as a snack, just toss the rinds into the drain and activate the unit.

The “Baking Soda Overnight” Method

Do you keep an open box of baking soda inside your refrigerator to stop smells? You can also use baking soda for odor prevention in your garbage disposal’s drain. While it won’t make the disposal smell like citrus, it will keep the drain clean, fresh and odor-free. Place a cup of baking soda in the drain before you go to bed and remove it first thing in the morning.

DIY Garbage Disposal Cleaning Is Easy!

As you can see, keeping your garbage disposal clean and preventing unpleasant smells isn’t difficult. You can manage it by yourself with minimal effort and with the help of items you probably already have around the house. Knowing how to get rid of garbage disposal odor on your own can also prevent the need to call a plumber — or, worse, replace the disposal.

However, if you’ve tried several of these methods and you still can’t rid of the garbage disposal smell, there may be a mechanical issue preventing the unit from functioning properly. If you live in Davis or Weber County in Utah, contact the pros at Haynes Plumbing.

We can perform diagnostics that will detect and troubleshoot many disposal problems. We can also conduct expert repair work to have your disposal working like new. Contact us to learn more about our garbage disposal services today.

 

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