How to clean a smelly garbage disposal

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If you have a garbage disposal at your home you probably know that a garbage disposal can develop a rancid smell when not cleaned properly. In this article we tell you everything you need to know about cleaning a garbage disposal. How often should you clean your garbage disposal? What should you use to clean your garbage disposal? How do you prevent a garbage disposal from developing a smell? We answer all of these questions and more!

Why do you need to clean your garbage disposal?

Why should you clean your garbage disposal? If you are up in a home with a garbage disposal you probably know the answer to that question. Garbage disposals start to smell if you do not clean them! The smell in garbage disposals is commonly caused by rotting bits of food that have become lodged in the garbage disposal. In order to remove the smell from your garbage disposal you need to dislodge these bits of food. 

How often do you need to clean your garbage disposal?

How often should you clean your garbage disposal? The answer to this question is nuanced because there is a difference between a light surface level clean and a targeted deep clean. You should clean your garbage disposal by running soapy sink water through it each time you use the garbage disposal. You should deep clean your garbage disposal at least once a month or when the garbage disposal develops a smell that cannot be  removed by running sink water through the garbage disposal. 

The exact amount of time you can wait between deep cleans depends on what kind of garbage disposal you have and what kind of foods you run through your garbage disposal. Dense and sticky foods are more likely to get stuck in your garbage disposal and start to rot than other types of food. 

How often to clean your garbage disposal

How do you clean your garbage disposal?

Before you can clean your garbage disposal you will need to make some ice cubes out of lemon juice and water. You will also need to mix together a slurry of baking soda, salt, and water. 

  1.  Mix together 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup lemon juice then freeze in ice cube trays. 
  2. Mix together 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/2 cup baking soda. 
  3. Turn your garbage disposal on and run cold water down the drain for about 30 seconds. 
  4. Turn the garbage disposal and the water off then add your lemon ice cubes to the garbage disposal and let them sit for 2-5 minutes.
  5. Finally, add your abrasive slurry to the garbage disposal. Then turn the cold water on low and run your garbage disposal for 2 minutes or until the ice cubes all fall down the drain. 
If you do not have time to freeze lemon juice ice cubes you can also use standard ice cubs and add the lemon juice to the abrasive slurry. For more information in how this garbage disposal cleaner works and tips on how to make it work even better check out our dedicated page for this homemade garbage disposal cleaner. 
How to clean a garbage disposal with homemade cleaner

How to prevent your garbage disposal from smelling?

How do you prevent your garbage disposal from smelling? The easiest way to prevent your garbage disposal from developing a smell is to run warm soapy water through the garbage disposal for about 30 seconds after each use. Soapy water is enough to remove a lot of the debris that collects in the garbage disposal when you use it, especially when this debris is fresh and has not had time to cake onto the walls of the garbage disposal. Preventing debris from collecting in the garbage disposal is the best preventative step you can take to keep your garbage disposal from smelling because most garbage disposal smells are caused by rotting debris in the disposal. 

Can you put bleach in a garbage disposal?

Can you put bleach in a garbage disposal? This is a question I get asked often. The answer to this question is that you should probably not put bleach in your garbage disposal. The bleach will not harm the garbage disposal itself but it may cause damage to your pipes in the long term. 

Can you freshen a garbage disposal with a lemon?

Can you freshen a garbage disposal with lemon? This is another question I get asked fairly often. The answer to this question is no, you should not freshen your garbage disposal with a lemon – at least not by potting a whole lemon or half lemon in the garbage disposal. Using lemon juice is a different story and I fully recommend using lemon juice to freshen up your garbage disposal. 

The reason that I do not recommend freshening up your garbage disposal by grinding half a lemon is that kitchen pipes are notoriously small and bad for water flow. It is easy for large chunks of food to get caught in your kitchen pipes and start to rot deep within the pipes. I do not ever recommend putting large chunks of food in your garbage disposal, only small leftover bits. 


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