Garbage Disposal Smells: Ways to Eliminate & Prevent Them

A woman plugging her nose in the kitchen

Nothing can spoil your time in the kitchen worse than constant bad smells. Reducing your food waste is important, but when your kitchen sink is reeking from garbage disposal smells, it can be hard to get anything done at all. Thankfully, there are some fairly quick and easy ways to get rid of garbage disposal smells. In this article, we'll not only go through how to get your kitchen smelling great once again, but we'll also leave you with some great tips on preventing your garbage disposal from smelling in the first place.

Let's get started with the basics. Before you can go about fixing the smelly garbage disposal, you need to know why it's smelling so bad.

Why does my garbage disposal smell?

A garbage disposal

Garbage disposals will begin emitting a terrible smell when food bits get stuck on the blades or in the pipes. That food will start rotting and decaying, leaving your whole kitchen smelling like a compost bin. To get rid of the smell, you need to somehow clean all that junk out of the garbage disposal.

How to get rid of garbage disposal smell: 8 quick methods to try

Although just running water alone won't cut it, there are multiple quick and easy ways to clean your garbage disposal. Here's a list of 8 ways you can try and get rid of that smell:

1. Clear out any visible clogs

Vegetable peels clogging up the garbage disposal

Your first course of action should always be to check for a visible clog in the garbage disposal, as that's the most likely culprit of garbage disposal stink. You should be able to easily find any clogs by shining a light into the disposal chamber. If you spot some blockages, just grab some tongs or pliers and use those to pull out the mess.

Once you've cleared the disposal chamber, run the garbage disposal with cold water for about a minute. If the clog was the source of the smell, it should clear up on its own after a bit. However, it might be a good idea to try one of the other cleaning tips to ensure a nice smelling kitchen as soon as possible.

Pro tip: Please be safe when messing about with your garbage disposal. Always unplug the disposal before going near it with your hands, a flashlight, or some tongs/pliers.

2. Clean everything with soap and water

Water running down the garbage disposal

This one may seem a bit obvious, but if there aren't any clogs, the first thing to do is just clean the whole area with warm soapy water. The issues that are causing the smells might not actually be lodged deep down in the disposal chamber, but may actually be grime that builds up near the surface.

Getting a scrub brush and going at it with dish soap and water may be all you actually need. Make sure to pay close attention to rims and grooves where food particles can easily get stuck. Once you're done, you can then run that soapy water down the garbage disposal to help clean the insides as well.

Pro tip: While it may seem like the garbage disposal will get clean with everyday use of your sink, some of those food particles can build up in small and tight areas. Regularly scrubbing the outer part of the garbage disposal with dish soap and water can help prevent bad smells in the future.

3. Crush ice and salt together

A few ice cubes lined up next to each other

A mix of ice and salt can actually do double duty by both cleaning and sharpening the garbage disposal's blades. The ice will do a great job of getting rid of slimy residue and food scraps while the salt will deodorize the blades. Place about 10 ice cubes in your sink with about half a cup of salt. After that, just run your garbage disposal until it's completely taken care of the ice. Once that's done, use cold water to flush out any remaining ice and salt.

Pro tip: Coarser salt works better for this than fine salt. If possible, add some rock salt to your sink, but kosher or table salt will still work okay.

4. Mix baking soda and vinegar

A bottle of baking soda tipped over with some spilling out

For a thorough cleaning and deodorizing of the disposal system, you can also use a mix of baking soda and vinegar. All you need to do is pour half a cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal, followed by half a cup of vinegar. Just like your middle school science experiments, this will result in a fizzy reaction that will get into all the grooves of the disposal chamber you wouldn't be able to get to yourself. Let that mixture sit for at least an hour before draining it and rinsing out the garbage disposal with cold water.

Pro tip: After removing any unpleasant odor, you can take extra steps to make your garbage disposal have a pleasant odor instead. For example, you could process some bits of lemon peels so it emanates a nice citrus scent.


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5. Try some citrus

A variety of citrus halves on a table together

Using up some citrus fruit to clean your garbage disposal is a great way to not only get rid of bad odor, but to replace it with great scents instead. The juice and oils in citrus fruits are acidic and antibacterial, making them an ideal choice for garbage disposal cleaning. All you need to do is slice up the citrus of your choice (lemons are a popular option) and run them through the disposal. Once again, rinse the disposal with cold water when you're done.

Pro tip: You don't need to wait for garbage disposal smells to appear before running some fresh citrus through the disposal system. Anytime you want your kitchen to smell great, get to grinding some citrus fruits.

6. Pull out the bleach

A bottle of Clorox standing on wooden planks

If you're really struggling to get rid of the bad smells from your garbage disposal, you can also try using some bleach. Only use the bleach if you have a mild product, and be sure to have cold water running the whole time you're putting bleach down the garbage disposal. The bleach should really dissipate any bad smells while also helping to dislodge food scraps that would be stuck in the garbage disposal.

Pro tip: Even with mild bleach products, be sure to wear non-porous gloves (such as rubber) and eye protection if possible. Bleach products can easily irritate your skin and hurt your eyes, so just be safe.

7. Buy a specialty cleaner

Specialty cleaner being used to clean garbage disposal

If none of the home remedies are working for you, or you just want to go straight to something you're sure will work, you can always buy some specialty cleaners for your garbage disposal. You should be able to find cleaners dedicated to garbage disposals at grocery stores or hardware stores. Just follow the instructions on the cleaner to get a nicer-smelling kitchen!

Pro tip: If you find your garbage disposal is often getting smelly and you need to clean it more than you'd like, the specialty cleaner is probably your best bet. You don't want to go through a list of home remedies each time until you find the one that works. Sometimes it's worth the extra money just to have a sure solution on hand.

8. Get a professional cleaning

A professional taking care of the garbage disposal

Sometimes, when your home is smelling terrible and you're just a busy person, you really don't want to have to deal with the problem yourself. And you know what, that's perfectly fine. While it will definitely be the more expensive option, you can always hire a professional to do the cleaning for you. They'll be able to easily figure out what the issue is and effectively take care of it.

Pro tip: When it comes to appliances you don't understand too much, getting a professional to take a look at it is generally a decent idea if you have the budget for that. Not only can they take care of the immediate issue, but they can let you know how your appliance is doing and if it needs any other maintenance.

6 tips on how to keep garbage disposal from smelling

Lomi set up near the kitchen sink next to a woman chopping vegetables

The best way to keep your kitchen smelling great is to prevent the bad smells from occurring in the first place. Here are some tips to prevent food particles from building up in your garbage disposal and causing unpleasant odors.

  1. Avoid especially fibrous or starchy foods: Fibrous vegetables can easily jam the motors while starchy foods like bread can easily expand with moisture. Both of these effects, especially in tandem, will fill up the garbage disposal and create blockages.
  2. Chop or shred waste into smaller pieces: Even though the garbage disposal is built to shred your food waste, it can still struggle with larger pieces of food, which will get caught in the blades and create clogs. Chopping your food scraps into smaller pieces before using your garbage disposal will help prevent any blockages.
  3. Run cold water while using the garbage disposal: Solid food waste can struggle to get down through the disposal on its own. Running cold water down the disposal will help the blades chop up the waste as well as rinse any food particles down through the disposal when it's done working.
  4. Avoid oils and fats: You should never straight up pour oils and fats down any drain as that'll clog up pipes faster than anything else, including your garbage disposal. It would also help to avoid throwing in especially fatty or oily foods.
  5. Run the disposal for longer than you think necessary: Don't turn off the garbage disposal as soon as it sounds like it's done chopping things up. You never know if there's something further down that's stuck on the blades and could use a bit more grinding. Just keep the disposal running or about 5 seconds after you think it's done to ensure it catches absolutely everything.
  6. Try using something other than the garbage disposal: The only way to be absolutely certain your garbage disposal isn't going to start stinking up the kitchen is to not use it. Thankfully, there are actually far better solutions than your garbage disposal for both your kitchen and the environment.

Try Lomi - a better way to get rid of your food waste

Lomi surrounded by a variety of food against a blue background

If you're looking for a quick, simple, and odor-free way to get rid of your food waste, there's no better option than Lomi. Lomi is a small countertop kitchen appliance that breaks down your food waste and turns it into nutrient-rich dirt in less than a full day. You can either throw that dirt into your compost or waste when it's done, or you can use it to feed your gardens and indoor plants. If you're not sure Lomi is right for you, here are just a few reasons you might want to consider Lomi over a garbage disposal:

  • You don't need to worry about garbage disposal smells: While garbage disposal smells are a fairly common issue, unpleasant odor is never something you'll need to worry about with Lomi. Not only is Lomi designed to reduce any scents created by decaying food, but it also has a carbon filter to ensure no bad smells can escape the appliance.
  • Lomi is even easier to use than the garbage disposal: Lomi is definitely the easiest way to dispose of your food waste. All you need to do is drop your waste throughout the day into Lomi's bin, then push a button and let Lomi do all the work for you.
  • Garbage disposals are expensive: Garbage disposals are an expensive option considering what they offer you. They're pricy to purchase and install, but it can also be expensive to keep them maintained if they ever break or have problems.
  • Lomi can take on more waste than a garbage disposal: While you're quite limited in what you can put through a garbage disposal, Lomi can take on a wide variety of food waste, and even Lomi approved bioplastics.
  • Lomi is better for the environment: While a garbage disposal is still better than food waste being thrown in the trash and going to a landfill, that food ends up in wastewater, which isn't amazing. On the other hand, the end result Lomi provides is a dirt full of nutrients plants can use to grow healthier and stronger.

When your garbage disposal smells bad, being in the kitchen just sucks. Thankfully, it can be pretty easy to get rid of the smell in your garbage disposal. What's even easier, though, is preventing any bad smells from occurring by using an alternative like Lomi. If you've decided Lomi is right for your kitchen, you can easily order one online. In the meantime, you can check out our blog to learn all about composting indoors with Lomi, and how easy it can be!

Written by: Sereana Simpson