How to Clean a Garbage Disposal to Get Rid of Bad Smells

These tips will help you quickly flush away that odor.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Skill Level: Beginner

You've cleaned the kitchen counters, emptied the trashcan, and washed the dishes. So, why is there still a funky smell? A likely answer: You probably need to clean your garbage disposal.

You've probably heard about some quick fixes, but getting rid of lingering garbage disposal odor requires a bit more than flipping a switch and tossing in some lemon peels. The good news is you probably have all of the supplies you need on hand in your pantry and doing an effective deep only takes about 15 minutes.


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How Often to Clean a Garbage Disposal

The best way to keep garbage disposal odor at bay is to make sure you flush the food away with a strong flow of running water each time you turn on the disposal. The tip of tossing in citrus peels also helps freshen the air, but doesn't do much to actually clean the disposal.

Cleaning frequency depends on how often you use your disposal. If you use it daily, give it a thorough cleaning at least every month—but every two weeks is even better!

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sponge
  • Rubber gloves


  • Baking soda
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Hot water


How to Deep Clean a Garbage Disposal

  1. Practice safety.

    A garbage disposal is a powerful appliance and safety is the first step. Before you begin cleaning, unplug the disposal at the connection under the sink or turn off the electrical breaker that provides power to the disposal. Yes, you could just use the on/off switch, but accidents happen and part of the process involves putting your hand down in the disposal. So, we recommend being as cautious as possible.

  2. Scrub the baffle and drain opening.

    The baffle is the flexible covering in the drain above the disposal. Each time you turn on the disposal the blades whirl to grind up the food, spattering particles onto the underside of the baffle. These residual particles are often the cause of odors.

    Sprinkle some baking soda on a damp kitchen sponge. Use the abrasive side of the sponge for even better cleaning. Slip on some rubber gloves, if you'd like, and use the sponge to scrub the underside of the baffle and all around the drain opening. Rinse the sponge frequently with hot water and add more baking soda after each rinse.

  3. Scrub the disposal grinding chamber.

    Once the baffle is clean, move your hand further down into the grinding chamber and scrub the walls. Again, rinse the sponge frequently and apply more baking soda each time. The baking soda acts as a gentle abrasive to remove stuck-on food.

    Work carefully and slowly as you reach the bottom of the chamber where the blades are located. Once the chamber feels clean, you're ready to move to the next step.

  4. Rinse with baking soda and distilled white vinegar.

    If you ever made an erupting volcano in elementary school, you're about to do the same thing in the garbage disposal. Follow these steps to get the best cleaning results.

    • If you have a two-basin sink, you'll get the freshest results if you clean the other drain as well. Start on the disposal side and immediately follow the same steps with the baking soda and vinegar on the non-disposal side.
    • Add one-half cup of baking soda straight to the disposal.
    • Slowly pour in one cup of distilled white vinegar.
    • Use a stopper to cover the disposal drain so the foaming reaction will be contained in the drain system.
    • Wait 10 minutes.
  5. Reestablish power to the disposal.

    While you're waiting for the baking soda and vinegar to clean the drains, reestablish power to the disposal by plugging it back in or turning on the breaker.

  6. Flush the disposal drain.

    When the foaming stops, flush the disposal (and the other drain, if applicable) with a full-force stream of hot water. Let the water run for at least two minutes.

Tips to Keep Your Garbage Disposal Smelling Sweet

  • For quick cleaning (if you don't have time to do a thorough scrub), fill the disposal chamber with ice cubes and add one cup of vinegar. Turn on the water and let the disposal run until all grinding stops. The ice helps scrape away food from the sides of the chamber.
  • Grind citrus peels and ice to freshen a stale drain.
  • Avoid pouring cooking grease or oil down the disposal because it can harden and cause clogs and odor.
  • Always run the disposal a few seconds longer after you stop hearing it break up food to be sure that smaller particles are flushed away.
  • Use a strong water flow each time you turn on the disposal so the drain is cleared quickly.
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