4 Ways to Clean Up the Rotting Smell in Your Garbage Disposal

These cleaning tricks will banish that stench ASAP.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Katie Teague
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Lemons in a bowl

Use lemons to clean your garbage disposal.

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For all their usefulness, garbage disposals have a major downside: They stink sometimes.

To really give your garbage disposal the good clean it needs, it's not enough to just flip the power switch and turn on the faucet every time you cram food into it. All that's doing is blending up the food so it can flow through the pipes. Food particles can be left behind, allowing it to rot and bacteria to build up, which can cause an awful smell to arise.

We'll share some tips for clearing up the bad smell coming from your disposal. For more kitchen tricks, here's how to clear a clogged drain without using chemicals.

Try the ice cube method

If your blades have food particles or other grime stuck on them, it makes them less efficient at grinding up the food going down the drain and can cause bad smells. Pour a cup of ice down the disposal, followed by cold water to clean the blades (and even sharpen them). Keep the disposal and water running until you don't hear a grinding sound anymore.

Note that the ice cube method only works for garbage disposals with blades. 

Lemons make everything smell fresh

Lemons are great to use for cleaning just about anything in your kitchen. For your disposal, grab a full lemon, then slice it in half and quarter each half -- you should have a total of eight lemon slices. Try to remove the seeds if possible. Next, turn on the cold water and the disposal and begin placing the lemon quarters (one at a time) into the disposal. 

You may not need to place all eight lemon slices into the disposal, so save any leftovers for the next time you clean it -- or use them to start a pitcher of lemonade.

A half of a lemon in front of a bottle of white vinegar and a carton of baking soda

You likely have many of these cleaning items stored at home.

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Baking soda and vinegar can freshen it up

Baking soda and vinegar can accomplish quite a lot when combined together. Start by pouring half a cup of baking soda into your disposal. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour to give it time to absorb the odor. Next, pour a cup of vinegar down the drain and let it work its magic for about five to 10 minutes. Lastly, turn on the cold water and disposal and let it run for 15 seconds.

Clean the rubber splatter-proof flap

Have you ever wondered what the rubber thing is that sits in your sink drain? It's there to help prevent food from splattering when it's getting ground into tiny bits. That also means it's a hoarder of bacteria as food can and will stick underneath it. 

How can you clean what you can't see? Fortunately, some of the flaps are removable and you can soak them in dish detergent and water -- or run them through the dishwasher. For those that aren't, you'll need to get creative. 

What we don't want is for you to stick your hand in the disposal, so grab a toothbrush and dish soap. Gently pull each flap up one at a time and give it a good scrub. 

Voila! Your kitchen should be back to smelling fresh in no time. Repeat these methods once a week. For more, here's how to kill and prevent mold growing in your washer and this hack that unclogs your showerhead in just one hour