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4 Ways to Clean Up the Smell in Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are a handy kitchen tool, making cleaning up after meals a breeze. However, this convenience can come with a downside – unpleasant odors. These odors, often the result of food waste not completely broken down or cleaned out, can permeate your kitchen and disrupt the otherwise pleasant ambiance of your home.

Keep your garbage disposal fresh and functional with simple, natural cleaning methods! Discover how everyday household items like baking soda, vinegar, citrus peels, ice cubes, and salt can banish unpleasant odors. Learn what’s safe to put down your disposal, and how often you should clean it.

4 Ways to Clean Up the Smell in Garbage Disposal

How Do Garbage Disposals Work?

Garbage disposals work on a simple principle that might surprise you. When you turn on the unit, an electric motor powers up and spins a grinding mechanism, often called an impeller, at a high speed.

The food waste you’ve put down the disposal gets caught in the impellers and is ground into tiny particles. These particles are small enough to be washed away by the running water you use during operation.

This process is efficient and mostly thorough, but not perfect. Sometimes, small particles of food can stick to the walls of the disposal or get caught in the nooks and crannies. Over time, these particles can start to decompose, emitting a less-than-pleasant aroma. That’s why regular cleaning of your garbage disposal is essential.

How Do Garbage Disposals Work

What’s Safe To Put Down A Garbage Disposal?

To keep your garbage disposal running smoothly and to avoid unnecessary odors, it’s important to be mindful of what you’re putting down it.

Soft Foods

Soft foods are generally safe for your garbage disposal. This includes leftovers like pasta, vegetables, and small amounts of meat. They can be easily ground up by the disposal’s impellers without causing any damage.

Soft Foods

Cold Water and Dish Soap

Using cold water and a little dish soap while running the disposal can help grease and oil break up more efficiently. This prevents build up and keeps your disposal running smoothly.

Cold Water and Dish Soap

Small Bones and Eggshells

While large bones should never be put down a garbage disposal, small bones from fish or chicken, as well as eggshells, can help clean the disposal. They act as a scrubbing agent, cleaning off any food that may be stuck to the impellers.

However, always remember the golden rule: when in doubt, throw it out! Not everything is meant to go down the garbage disposal, and being cautious can save you from potential problems down the road.

Small Bones and Eggshells

What Causes Odors In A Garbage Disposal?

The leading causes of odors in garbage disposals are primarily related to the nature of the waste and how often the unit is cleaned. Here are some common culprits:

Decomposing Food

The most common cause of unpleasant smells is decomposing food that has not been entirely ground up and washed away. This residue can stick to the walls and under the blades of the disposal. Over time, it breaks down and releases odors.

Decomposing Food

Fatty or Oily Foods

Fatty or oily foods can stick to the disposal’s walls and blades and start to smell as they decompose. They can also leave a film over the disposal unit, trapping food particles and amplifying the smell.

Fatty or Oily Foods

Infrequent Use

If your garbage disposal is not used regularly, water in the unit can evaporate. This leaves behind food particles that can then decompose and cause smells.

Infrequent Use

High Fibre Foods

High-fiber foods like celery, corn husks, or onion skins can wrap around the disposal’s blades. This can prevent the disposal from grinding up food effectively, leading to accumulation and subsequent odors.

High Fibre Foods

3 Methods To Clean A Smelly Garbage Disposal Naturally

Everyone loves a clean, fresh-smelling kitchen. It is, after all, the heart of the home where meals are prepared and families gather. However, if there’s a foul odor wafting from your sink, it’s likely coming from your garbage disposal. Over time, food waste can accumulate and decompose, causing unpleasant smells that are hard to ignore. But don’t fret yet!

1. Baking Soda And Vinegar

This dynamic duo of household cleaning is known for its effectiveness, and it’s no different when it comes to cleaning garbage disposals. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Pour Half A Cup of Baking Soda into the Disposal: Start by pouring half a cup of baking soda into the disposal. Baking soda is excellent for absorbing odors.
  2. Follow It Up With A Cup of Vinegar: Pour a cup of vinegar into the disposal. The reaction between baking soda and vinegar helps to loosen grime and food particles.
  3. Let It Sit for 15-20 Minutes: Allow the mixture to fizz and work its magic for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Rinse With Boiling Water: After allowing the mixture to sit, flush the disposal with boiling water. This will help to wash away the loosened grime and food particles, leaving your disposal clean and odor-free.
Baking Soda And Vinegar
Baking Soda And Vinegar

2. Citrus Peels

Citrus peels not only clean your garbage disposal but also leave a refreshing, natural scent in your kitchen. They contain strong natural acids that help break down food waste and grease, while their rough texture helps clean the walls of the disposal. Here’s how to use them:

  1. Collect Your Citrus Peels: Save peels from oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruits. You can store these in your refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.
  2. Run the Garbage Disposal: Turn on your garbage disposal and the cold water.
  3. Feed the Citrus Peels into the Disposal: Slowly feed the peels into the disposal. The grinding action will help to clean the blades while the citrus oils released freshen up your sink.
  4. Continue to Run the Disposal and Water: After all the peels have been ground up, continue to run the disposal and the water for a few more seconds to ensure everything is washed down.

Citrus Peels


3. Ice Cubes And Salt

Ice and salt together form an abrasive, scouring mixture that’s perfect for cleaning the grinding elements in your garbage disposal.

  1. Fill the Garbage Disposal with Ice Cubes: Start by filling your garbage disposal about half full with ice cubes. The ice serves as a scrubbing agent to dislodge stuck-on grime.
  2. Pour A Cup of Salt into the Disposal: After loading the ice, pour in a cup of coarse salt. The salt further aids the abrasive action, helping to remove any stubborn residues.
  3. Turn on the Garbage Disposal: Turn on the unit and let it run until all the ice is ground up. The salt and ice combination will scrub the inside of the grinding chamber, removing food particles and any potential smell sources.
  4. Rinse with Cold Water: Once you’ve finished grinding all the ice, rinse the garbage disposal with cold water to wash away the salt and any loose debris.

Ice Cubes And Salt


4. Clean The Rubber Splatter-Proof Flap

The rubber flap at your garbage disposal entrance acts as a splatter guard, but it can also be a hiding place for food particles and can lead to odors over time. Here is how to clean it:

  1. Wear Gloves for Protection: Before starting, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from any sharp elements inside the disposal.
  2. Lift the Flaps: Lift the rubber flaps and inspect the underside. You’re likely to find accumulated food particles and grime.
  3. Scrub with a Brush: Use an old toothbrush or a scrub brush to thoroughly clean under the flaps. A little dish soap can help cut through grease and grime.
  4. Rinse with Warm Water: Once you’ve scrubbed it well, rinse it with warm water. Be sure to flush out any soap or loosened debris.
  5. Inspect and Repeat if Necessary: Check the flaps again. If you still see any residue, repeat the process until it’s completely clean.

Rubber Splatter-Proof Flap


How Often Should You Clean Your Garbage Disposal?

Regular cleaning of your garbage disposal is essential to keep it functioning optimally and odor-free. We recommend conducting a basic cleaning at least once a week using dish soap and cold water.

For a more thorough cleaning with methods such as baking soda and vinegar, citrus peels, or ice cubes and salt, once a month should suffice. However, if you notice unpleasant odors or poor performance, you may need to clean it more frequently.

Always remember to also clean the rubber splatter guard regularly to prevent food particle build-up. Remember, maintaining clean garbage disposal contributes to a healthier and fresher kitchen environment.

How Often Should You Clean Your Garbage Disposal

In conclusion

While garbage disposals can be a significant convenience in your kitchen, like every other home appliance, they require regular maintenance to stay fresh and effective.

Thankfully, with everyday household items like baking soda, vinegar, citrus peels, ice cubes, salt, and a bit of diligence, you can keep your disposal clean and odor-free.

Understanding what causes odors and being mindful of what goes down your disposal can further prevent unpleasant smells.

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