Stop your garbage disposal smelling with these 5 simple techniques

Discover the most practical ways to stop a garbage disposal from smelling

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Garbage disposals are one of the most useful additions to any kitchen; they work like pure magic, grinding and incinerating our food waste in minutes. Making post-dinner kitchen cleaning an effortless task. 

This kitchen staple encourages a sustainable and hygienic way of managing food waste that would otherwise be rotting in the bin or clogging up the main drain in our sinks. But what can you do when your garbage disposal starts to smell?

Many different factors contribute to a smelly garbage disposal. Thankfully, these can be easily fixed by incorporating specific cleaning methods, altering the way you use your disposal unit, and avoiding putting certain items down it.  

How to make your garbage disposal smell fresh and clean again 

No matter what the source of the smell is, these simple and effective strategies will allow you to put your bad smelling garbage disposals behind you for good.  

Reasons why your garbage disposal smells 

Garbage disposal

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There are three main reasons why your kitchen garbage disposal smells. This is usually due to leftover food particles, bacteria growth on the inside of the unit, infrequent use or not cleaning your garbage disposal properly.

Depending on what types of food you are putting down the disposal, food particles can be left sticking to the inside, where they will gradually decompose and start to smell. 

Bacteria growth is inevitably one of the reasons your garbage disposal will smell as well, as the disposal pipe is often a moist place where bacteria can thrive and fester. 

Infrequent use can also be an issue, as when you don’t use your disposal in a while, stagnant water can build up in the pipes. After about three days of sitting there, this will start to give off an unpleasant odor. 

How to make your garbage disposal smell better

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1. Baking soda and vinegar

'One of the all-time favorite methods for removing strong odors from your disposal is to use baking soda and vinegar in combination. When these two ingredients are mixed together they form the perfect solution to absorb harsh smells and bacteria, this is due to the chemical reaction they make,' says Lina DaSilva, cleaning expert and Founder of Toronto Shine Cleaning. 'I use this method once a month inside my garbage disposal to keep the smells at bay.'

Start this process by measuring half a cup of baking soda to one cup of vinegar, put the baking soda down the disposal first and let it sit for a full 30 minutes (to absorb any food particles that are stuck to the inside of the unit) after 30 minutes has passed pour in the cup of vinegar. You can leave this on until you use the disposal next or even overnight. However make sure that you run plenty of cold water down the unit before you use it again.

2. Scrub your disposal with a mixture of rock salt and ice

The combination of rock salt and ice creates a rough surface that works great when placed inside of your garbage disposal, scraping off the interiors of the disposal and dislodging any food particles that may have been stuck. This not only eliminates the smell but the ice cleans and sharpens the garbage disposal blades at the same time, win-win.    

3. Use citrus peels

Citrus peel is a great natural odor eliminator due to the oils stored in its skin. These oils are great at eradicating strong smells, especially when they come from other food sources.  

Daniel Brown, cleaning expert and CEO of Handy Cleaners, suggests that the best way to use citrus peels to clear smells from your garbage disposal is to put the peels of lemons, limes, oranges or any citrus fruit you have down the disposal and run cold running water down the unit while it is turned on. The citrus fruits will break down, and all the oils will come out of the skin and coat the inside of the unit. 

The citric acid from the fruit then creates a foaming reaction in the system that will provide an effective disinfectant from any leftover food residues. 

5. Put essential oils down the disposal

After cleaning your garbage disposal, drop 10-15 drops of your preferred essential oil and wash it with warm water. Scents, such as peppermint, eucalyptus, or lavender, will work well.

Essential oils are known for their powerful scents and strong ability to kill bacteria and other microbes. They offer a long-lasting fragrance that neutralizes bad kitchen smells and conceals other obnoxious odors, besides having antibiotic properties. You can also incorporate essential oils with your baking soda and vinegar mixture.

6. Replace the rubber collar

Sometimes, parts of the garbage disposal unit itself may need to be replaced, and because they have not in a while, it may be a contributing factor to why your disposal is smelling. If you have tried all the other steps and your garbage disposal unit still gives off an unpleasant odor, think about replacing the rubber collar. 

'The rubber collar should be replaced periodically,' says Brian Davis, CEO of Handy Rubbish. ‘Replacing the collar works by preventing mold and bacteria from building up, as the collar is the perfect breeding ground for this to form”  

Always make sure that you are checking your rubber collar for wear and tear or any kind of residue build up on its surface. If it does seem damaged or badly stained, then it’s time to replace it. 

Investing in a magnetic drain cleaner from Amazon that also works with garbage disposals can also help eliminate bad odors. These cleaners typically come with instructions on how to insert them into the disposal to attract and remove any metal particles or debris that may be contributing to unpleasant odors. While it may require a bit of upfront cost, the long-term benefits of a cleaner, fresher-smelling disposal make it a worthwhile investment. 

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.