The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Smelly Garbage Disposal

Water flowing from a sink into a garbage disposal.

Your garbage disposal works hard grinding and flushing leftover food down the drain. When you don’t follow best practices like running cold water during and after you run your garbage disposal any remaining bits of food can build up and eventually lead to foul odors. When you detect that raunchy smell and don’t know what to do, Molly Maid is here to help guide you to a clean, good-smelling kitchen sink.

Garbage Disposal Basics

Before we jump into practical steps of saying goodbye to that sink stench, let’s cover some safety basics to help avoid injuries to you and prevent causing damage to your garbage disposal. With everything Molly Maid does, safety always comes first!

Proper Tools to Clean Your Garbage Disposal

When cleaning your garbage disposal, it is important to keep your hands away from the blades. Instead, opt for long-handled brushes or tools designed specifically for garbage disposal cleaning. Never put metal objects into the disposal! They damage the blades and–worse–can lead to injury. Also, avoid harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners, as they aren’t designed to tackle garbage disposal grime.

Fast, Easy Methods for Cleaning Your Garbage Disposal

Cleaning your garbage disposal won’t take much effort. With a few common household items, you can get your kitchen sink smelling great again.

Ice Cube Technique

A simple yet effective technique for cleaning and sharpening the blades of your garbage disposal involves ice cubes. Grinding up ice cubes in the disposal helps dislodge any food buildup and other debris clinging to the blades, keeping them sharp and clean.

The Power of Baking Soda and Vinegar

A baking soda and vinegar solution is one of the best natural cleaning solutions for a clean garbage disposal. Pour half a cup of baking soda into the disposal and let it sit for 30 minutes. The properties of baking soda will tackle the odors. Next, pour a cup of vinegar into the disposal. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, then rinse with hot water.

Citrus Peels for Freshness

Citrus fruits are naturally aromatic. Grinding up slices of lemon or orange peel in your garbage disposal helps clear buildup and break down grease and grime.

What Not To Put Down Your Garbage Disposal

Person pouring oil from a pan down a garbage disposal.

One rule of thumb is to only dispose of biodegradable items in your garbage disposal. Limiting what you put down the disposal to food scraps like fruits, some vegetables, and small amounts of leftover cooked food in your garbage disposal will help prevent malfunctions, jams, or breakdowns. Non-biodegradable items like plastic, metal, and glass should never be put down the disposal. Oils, grease, paint, starchy foods, onions, corn husks, and celery are also not recommended items – it’s best to throw them in the trash or your compost bin rather than risk damaging your garbage disposal. Also avoid putting hard-to-grind items like eggshells, coffee grounds, or stringy items down the drain. These materials and textures tend to stick to the sides of the disposal and create blockages over time (which means more work for you!). Eggshells, in particular, have membranes that can cling to disposal blades and those fragile shell pieces are hard to flush out. Coffee grounds clump together in water, leading to clogs in sink drains. Also, avoid putting large amounts of food, fibrous, and hard objects like bones and fruit pits into the disposal, which can cause clogs and damage the disposal.

When to Call a Professional

While regular maintenance and DIY methods can help to keep your garbage disposal clean, sometimes it is time to call a professional. Reach out to a plumber if there’s a persistent foul odor from your garbage disposal or a clog that is particularly stubborn even after thorough cleaning. Plumbers have the experience and specialized tools to handle these specific problems more effectively, and can quickly provide targeted solutions that help reset your disposal’s performance.

Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal

We know that prevention is key! Cleaning your sink and garbage disposal on a regular basis is not just about keeping your kitchen smelling fresh; it's also about your sink and garbage disposal working properly and keeping bacteria and other health hazards at bay.

One key practice to maintain a fresh garbage disposal is to run cold water during and after each use. This simple, yet effective step, will help clear out any remaining bits of food and prevent scraps from building up and foul odors from developing in the first place.

Molly Maid: Cleaning Help When You Need It

Whenever you face a tricky cleaning situation, don't stress and let the experts at Molly Maid take care of it for you. Our professional, fully vetted, and highly trained house cleaners can tackle nearly any task. We provide a range of services, including one-time cleanings, recurring cleaning services, special event cleaning, and more. What’s more, we stand by our Neighborly Done Right Promise® and our commitment to outstanding service. Reach out to your local Molly Maid today and get a free house cleaning estimate!

FAQ About Cleaning Your Garbage Disposal

At Molly Maid, we pride ourselves on our extensive training and dedication to excellence. Have questions about our services or any cleaning techniques and tips? Rest assured, we're here to help. With our wealth of experience and commitment to customer satisfaction, Molly Maid is your go-to resource for all things cleaning. Trust the experts who have been setting the standard for cleanliness for four decades. Choose Molly Maid and experience the difference firsthand.

Can I use toilet bowl cleaner to clean my garbage disposal?

No, toilet bowl cleaners often contain harsh chemicals that can be highly corrosive and damage your drain and sink. It is better to opt for more natural solutions like ice, citrus peels, or a baking soda and vinegar solution.

Why should garbage disposals be cleaned out?

Garbage disposals need to be cleaned out because leftover bits of food can cause bacteria or mold growth and unpleasant odors, leading to health risks. Food residue buildup can also lead to clogs and mechanical errors over time, so it’s important to clean your garbage disposal regularly.

How often do you need to clean your garbage disposal?

Garbage disposals should be cleaned once a week if used daily. If you don’t use your disposal often, you can get by cleaning them every two weeks or once a month.

Is there a deodorizer for garbage disposal?

Although there are some deodorizers available for purchase, the best deodorizer for a garbage disposal is a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. This solution helps to break down any food buildup and neutralize odors. Another natural deodorizer is citrus fruit peels like orange or lemon peels.