Smelly Garbage Disposal Problem Can Be Fixed

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Dear Home Ec 101:
How do you de-stink a garbage disposal?
~Gagging in Glendale

stinky garbage disposal

girl212.jpg Heather says:

If you Google the problem you’ll find 101 different remedies for your stinky situation. The problem is then deciding which ones are effective and which are a waste of time or potentially dangerous to your appliance.

Tim, at Ask The Builder, suggests the smell may be coming from hardened bits of food sticking to the disposal’s walls. When you run the disposal to rid yourself of scraps, they don’t magically disappear. The food particles are mashed into a soupy mixture that gets splashed all over the inside of the machine. If enough water is not run, those bits are left behind and that is what is perfuming your kitchen. Some food matter may also be sitting in the drain pipe, if it was not flushed all the way out of the house. Yum-O!

It is important to always run the water while using the disposal to help flush the food away. After using the disposal, Tim suggests filling the sink 2/3 full with soapy water and simply pulling the drain and running the disposal to wash out any remaining bits of water. It’s a great idea, but sounds a little wasteful to me. If you’re going to fill the sink with soapy water, you might as well go ahead and wash any leftover dishes and the counters while you’re at it. The food won’t adhere permanently in that space of time and you’ll be killing two birds with one stone. Sometimes it’s hard to be frugal. ::dramatic sigh::

The added pressure from the sinkful of water should push any nasties lurking in your drain on out to the sewer, too. If after trying this method a few times you still have an odor problem you may have to go a few steps further and give your garbage disposal a good internal scrubbing. The good thing is this should only be a one time operation, provided you practice the good disposal hygeine outlined above.

Visit your friendly neighborhood plumbing supply store, or one of the big box stores, if you’re like me and the curmudgeonly old men just glare at you for entering their domain. Hopefully you have most of the supplies in your toolbox, anyhow.


On to the fun part. You will need to remove the pipe connected to your disposal. This is where the channel locks come into play, use them gently to avoid cracking the pvc. Your bucket should be immediately under your work area to catch any drips. Attach the test cap to the pipe exiting the disposal and make sure it’s tight.

Fill the unit with hot, not boiling, water just to the sink drain. Add the oxiclean and let it sit for approximately an hour. Then, turn on the disposal and allow the blades to agitate the water for a minute. (Stop if you’re making a foamy mess.)

Remove the test cap and allow the water to drain into the bucket. Carefully reattach the pipe, again being careful to not crack the pvc. Leave the bucket in place until you are absolutely sure the pipe has been correctly reattached and tested. Plug the sink, fill part way with soapy water, then drain with the disposal running.

how to clean appliances
Click the picture for more tips!

Check for leaks and put all your toys tools away. Now take a minute and enjoy your stink free kitchen. You did clean out the fridge last week, right?

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18 thoughts on “Smelly Garbage Disposal Problem Can Be Fixed”

  1. OMG, you ladies make me laugh:) Yes Heather I was one that had done it right before, what are the chances. Do you think I could just call the landlord and tell him my sink stinks? ::sigh:: I guess I could sneek into the tool store, kind of hard with two crazy kids always atatched to my side, but it sounds like it is worth a try. Thanks for all your help…you ladies are GREAT!

    • One time I had an odor from the garbage disposal that was horrendous. I poured a bottle of pines ol down it. It didn’t work. I poured a bottle of drano down it but it didn’t work. I poured a bottle of clorox down it didn’t work. I went to a store where they sell essential oils and asked the owner what gets rid of odor. She pointed me to a book on the benefits of oregano oil. I bought a bottle went home took a bowl of ice from the icemaker. I poured oregano poil all over the ice. I put the ice down the garbage disposal a let the blades chop up the ice. This cleaned the blades very good. The drawback to that is the smell of the oregano. It is not very pleasant but within a day the oregano smell is gone and so is that horrible odor.

  2. Always save your citrus peels to throw down there too. The citric acid will help get the stuck on stuff to loosen up so that it can go down the drain and the aroma of the citrus is usually strong enough to cover the unpleasant smell of the garbage disposal.

  3. I’m with Nina on the citrus peels. Martha Stewart also has a solution that I’ve never tried: freeze white vinegar into ice cubes and let the disposal chew them up.

  4. Great job Heather! I have tried using lemons and other citrus peels in the past but they just mask the problem without actually solving it. Sort of like changing a dirty diaper without using a wipe…the crap is still there…Now I can fix it myself without having my husband thinking he needs to play Mr. Fix-it.

  5. i also usually use the citrus and occsionally dump a box of arm and hammer down it but we just bought our disposal and it doesnt have the gunk some older ones may have.

  6. Pingback: Nashville is Talking » Zoinks and Zingers
  7. The Pampered Chef sells these Sink Fizzie things that kill the funk in your sink, I haven’t tried them, but my sister-in-law says that they’re GREAT. My husband eats lemons…(yes, I know, he’s just ODD that way)…and I put the peels through the disposal. But, the Home-Ec ladies are right once again…you’ve GOT to make sure you run plenty of water!!! I’ve even heard that you’re supposed to use COLD water…never Hot. I dunno, that’s what my plummer said and I’ve been doing it ever since.

  8. Every few months, I make a science fair volcano in my disposal: I dump in a small box of baking soda and add white vinegar until the foam is visible right at the entry of the disposal. I let it go until the reaction ends on its on, then run the disposal with some ice while running warm water to get it all cleaned out. I could probably get good results with less of the baking soda/vinegar combo, but since I can see that it’s working, I feel more confident.

    Of course, most of our waste products that could go down a disposal go into our compost instead. If you don’t compost (and I’d think especially if you’re disposing meat waste) you’d probably need to do this more often than I do.

  9. Don’t ever use oxiclean in your drain! Bad, bad idea! I did it, and it became as hard as concrete and got stuck in the drain. Don’t do it!

  10. I make my own disposer cleaning tablets. I also give them as housewarming gifts! Toss in a few, while the disposer+water is running, and voila!

    The recipes are simple (baking soda+epsom salt+lemon peel+lemon dish detergent). Here is a link to one:

    I also make some that use coffee grounds+epsom salt+vanilla extract, though I find these aren’t as pretty as the lemon ones, for gifting.

    I started making these after getting drain flies at a condo I rented. Ick.


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