How to Get Rid of Garbage Disposal Smells

A garbage disposal with a foul odor can quickly make the kitchen an unpleasant place. However, there are several effective methods to eliminate garbage disposal smells and keep your kitchen smelling fresh.

Clean the Garbage Disposal

One of the best ways to get rid of garbage disposal odors is to thoroughly clean the unit. Food particles and residue can build up along the walls and grind ring of the disposal, causing foul odors over time. Here are some tips for cleaning the garbage disposal:

Use ice cubes and lemons – Freeze some ice cubes made with lemon juice or lemon wedges. Turn on the cold water and turn on the disposal. Drop the ice cubes down the drain one at a time. The ice will help knock off residue, and the acid from the lemon will help break down buildup. Run for 30-60 seconds after all ice is through.

Make a baking soda and vinegar treatment – Pour 1⁄2 cup baking soda down the drain, then follow with 1⁄2 cup white vinegar. Let the mixture foam and bubble for 5-10 minutes. This will help break down odor-causing grime. Flush with hot water.

Scrub with a disposal cleaning brush – Use a long-handled brush made specifically for cleaning disposals. Scrub the perimeter of the grinding ring thoroughly. This will remove stuck-on gunk.

Clean with dish soap and hot water – Squirt 2-3 tablespoons of liquid dish soap down the drain. Turn on the hot water and let it run for 3-5 minutes as you grind up the soap with the disposal. This will help wash away greasy residue.

Repeating these cleaning methods on a regular basis, such as every 1-2 months, will help prevent future odors.

Freshen with Baking Soda and Vinegar

For a quick freshening, use baking soda and vinegar to neutralize odors. Pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain, then follow with 1 cup vinegar. Let it fizz for 5-10 minutes then rinse with hot water. The baking soda absorbs odors, while the vinegar dissolves gunk. This can be done as needed between deeper cleanings.

Grind Citrus Peels

Citrus peels contain fragrant oils that can help to mask foul garbage disposal smells. Occasionally grind up leftover lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit peels to make the disposal smell citrusy fresh. Run the peels through the disposal with cold water.

Grind Ice Cubes

Turning on the garbage disposal while crushing ice is an easy way to banish odors and keep your sink smelling clean. The ice also helps remove any gunk or grease stuck to the grinding components. Let the water run and drop 4-5 ice cubes down the disposal one at a time, allowing the disposal to grind each one before adding another.

Flush with Baking Soda and Salt

For a potent odor-removal combo, pour 1⁄2 cup baking soda and 1⁄2 cup salt down the drain. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then flush thoroughly with hot water to rinse away deodorized grime. The baking soda neutralizes odors while the salt scours away residue.

Sprinkle with Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds can be repurposed to make your garbage disposal smell better. The grounds absorb tough odors lingering in the drain. Simply scatter 1⁄4 cup fresh grounds down the drain and let sit for 5 minutes before running the disposal and rinsing. This is a great quick fix for particularly smelly drains.

Clean with Kool-Aid

For a sweetly scented garbage disposal, make a homemade cleaning solution using unsweetened drink mix. Dump a packet of Kool-Aid down the drain and run very hot water for a minute to dissolve the powder. The citric acid will help break down gunky buildup, while the fruity fragrance leaves a pleasant scent.

Use Essential Oils

Natural essential oils like lemon, lime, orange and peppermint have cleansing properties that can freshen a stinky garbage disposal. Add 5-10 drops to water in the sink before running the disposal. Alternatively, soak cotton balls with your chosen essential oil and tuck one in the disposal drainage opening.

Check for Clogs

A clogged garbage disposal can cause dirty water to back up, creating unpleasant sewer smells. Use a sink plunger to try and dislodge the clog. You can also use a wire coat hanger or an auger (drain snake) to reach down into the drain and pull out stuck debris. Calling a plumber is recommended if DIY attempts are unsuccessful.

Run Disposal Regularly

Letting garbage disposals sit unused for extended periods allows food particles to accumulate, eventually causing rancid smells. Make a habit of grinding up food scrap leftovers each day to keep things clean and flowing properly. Run cold water during use to flush away particles.

Avoid Certain Items

Some items should never go down the garbage disposal as they can get stuck and lead to clogs, jams and burnout. Avoid putting the following down the drain: eggshells, coffee grounds, rice, pasta, bones, potato peels, onion skins, celery, fruit pits and corn husks. These can accumulate and putrefy, causing nasty odors.

Update Old or Damaged Disposal

Garbage disposals endure a lot of grinding over the years. Older units may have worn out components that allow gunk and grime to build up more easily. A disposal beyond repair can emit a sewage-like stench. Have a plumber inspect your unit if cleaning methods aren’t eliminating persistent smells. Replacement is likely needed for very old disposals.

Use Enzymatic Drain Cleaners

If DIY treatments don’t eliminate lingering smells, use an enzymatic drain cleaner. These break down organic matter and dissolve odors on a molecular level. Look for products containing ‘bio’ or ‘enzyme’ on the label. Follow product instructions carefully. Avoid harsh chemical drain cleaners, as these can damage the disposal.

A foul odor coming from your garbage disposal is a common problem, but there are many remedies you can try at home before calling a plumber. With regular cleaning and maintenance, you can keep your kitchen sink smelling fresh and prevent unpleasant garbage disposal odors from taking over your kitchen.

FAQs About Eliminating Garbage Disposal Odors

What causes bad smells in the garbage disposal?

Bad smells usually come from a buildup of food debris, grease, and grime along the inner components of the disposal. As particles accumulate they rot and decay, releasing foul odors. Lack of regular cleaning allows smelly residue to grow.

Why does my disposal smell even after cleaning it?

If smells return shortly after cleaning, there are likely particles trapped in difficult to reach areas under the splashguard or deep along the grinding ring. Use a long-handled cleaning brush to scrub hidden areas. Check for clogs preventing proper drainage. A damaged or worn out disposal will be prone to lingering odors.

How do you clean a smelly disposal with baking soda?

Dump 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain then slowly pour 1 cup hot vinegar over it. Let the foaming and fizzing action work for 10 minutes before rinsing with hot water. The baking soda absorbs odors while the vinegar dissolves gunk. Repeat weekly.

What should you not put in a garbage disposal?

Avoid these clogging items: grease/oils, egg shells, bones, coffee grounds, rice/pasta, potato peels, onion skins, fruit pits, corn husks, artichokes, celery stalks, flower blooms, soaps/cleaners. Letting these accumulate causes rancid odors.

Why does my disposal smell like rotten eggs?

A sulfur or ‘rotten egg’ smell usually means there is sewer gas escaping from the plumbing pipes and drains. Cracked pipes or dry drain traps allow gases to leak into the disposal. Have a plumber inspect the lines and repair any cracks allowing gas to escape.

How can you tell if your garbage disposal is clogged?

Signs of a clogged disposal include: slow draining water, leaking from the bottom of the unit, a humming sound, bad smells, and food particles collecting in the sink. Try using a sink plunger first. Baking soda and vinegar can help clear minor clogs.

How do you unclog a smelly garbage disposal?

For a clogged disposal, first turn off power to the unit. Use a sink plunger vigorously for several minutes while holding a rag over the drain opening. Bend a wire coat hanger to reach down into the drain and dislodge debris. Or insert an auger in the drain opening and twist to pull up stuck particles.

When should you replace a garbage disposal?

Replace disposals older than 10 years that have recurring issues like clogs, leaks, rust, cracking, and loud/labored operation. Very worn disposal blades will become less effective at grinding, allowing smelly buildup. Persistent bad odors even after thorough cleaning indicate an aging disposal.

How much does it cost to replace a garbage disposal?

The average cost to replace a garbage disposal ranges from $185 to $450, including labor and materials. Higher horsepower commercial units cost more. Old wiring or plumbing repairs can drive up costs. Professional installation is recommended, but handy homeowners may do DIY replacement for less.

Replacing a worn out garbage disposal is usually the best solution for eliminating unpleasant odors permanently. With regular cleaning and maintenance, your new disposal should stay fresh smelling for years to come. Avoid trying to mask garbage disposal odors with air fresheners or room sprays. Tackle the source of the smell through thorough cleaning and take steps to prevent future buildup and clogs. With a few simple fixes, your kitchen can smell clean and pleasant again.


A foul odor coming from the garbage disposal is never pleasant, but fortunately there are many effective DIY remedies to banish bad smells quickly and easily. With a combination of cleaning methods using baking soda, vinegar, lemons, and citrus peels, you can break down gunky buildup and neutralize nasty odors caused by food particles and residue. Checking for clogs and avoiding items that can get stuck will also help. For severe odors or older disposals, replacement may be required. But in most cases, with regular care and maintenance, your garbage disposal can be kept free of unpleasant smells. Taking the time to employ these tips and tricks will keep your kitchen smelling fresh and clean.