Smelly Garbage Disposal? Why and How to Get Rid Of It

Some traces of food and other wastes are left inside the garbage disposal making it smell really bad after decomposition. In some cases, the smell from a garbage disposal comes from outside the disposal unit, like the dishwasher or P-trap

inside a garbage disposal

A smelling garbage disposal is caused by decomposing food scraps trapped in the unit or drain trap. If your disposal is also connected to the dishwasher, the smell could be coming from the drain hose or dishwasher itself.

If your garbage disposal smells like sewage, there is a possibility that the water in the sink P-trap has evaporated, or the sewer line or vent stack are clogged forcing sewer gases through the kitchen sink drain

To get rid of smell from your garbage disposal, dump a bowl of ice cubes in the disposal followed by a squirt of dish soap, and then run it using cold water. Alternatively, pour a cup of baking soda and another of vinegar and let the solution sit for 30 minutes.

Cleaning a dirty dishwasher drain hose or sink P-trap will remove the odor as well.

How to Get Rid of Garbage Disposal Smells

To effectively get rid of smells from your garbage disposal, you should aim at removing whatever that is causing the smell and not try to clone it using something else smelling better. That will be a short time fix as the smell will resurface in a day or two.

The following are the best methods to clean a sticking garbage disposal:

1. Use Ice, Dish Soap and Lemon

What does ice really do to get rid of bad smell from a garbage disposal? Well, actually ice cubes will not only help remove the smell but they will also make its blades shaper, and therefore more efficient.

Garbage disposal blades have speeds of up to 2000 revolutions per minute. The moment you fill the disposal with ice cubes and start it, the ice cubes will be be spun round the disposal at very high speeds while being shredded at the same time.

As they are spun round the disposal, they will scrape off any food scraps inside the disposal and as they exit the unit in form of water, the food scraps will also exit as well leaving the unit sparkling clean.

There are 2ways to clean a garbage disposal using ice cubes. Here they are:

  • Dump a bowl of ice cubes inside the garbage disposal. Squirt about ¼ cup of dish soap inside the disposal and run it using cold water until all the ice has be shredded.
  • Add the ice cubes in the garbage disposal followed by a spoonful or 2 of sea or rock salt and some lemon wedges. Turn on the cold water and run the disposal until everything has cleared out. The ice and salt scrapes the inside of the disposal while the lemon leaves it smelling fresh.

You can actually grind lemon wedges in your garbage disposal even if it is not having a bad smell. The lemon keeps it smelling fresh at all times.

2. Use Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar have time and time again proved to be very effective cleaning agents. They not only clean but also deodorize which leaves your garbage disposal and other surfaces smelling fresh.

Another advantage of using this method is that apart from cleaning the garbage disposal, it is also very effective in cleaning the drainpipe and P-trap as well. You will therefore kill the proverbial 2 bards with 1 stone.

The sink P-trap and garbage disposal drain/hosepipe are a potential source of smell, which exits through the disposal sink drain. Your garbage disposal could be sparkling clean but if you have a biofilm in the drainpipe and P-trap you will always have terrible stench coming from your garbage disposal.


A sink P-trap is the U-shaped pipe under the kitchen sink. It holds potential drain clogs, preventing them from clogging your drainpipe further away where it would be harder to unclog. It also holds a little amount of water, which prevents sewer gases from coming up to your kitchen via the sink or garbage disposal.

By cleaning the garbage disposal with baking soda and vinegar, the same solution will also pass via the drainpipe and P-trap, where it will break down the gunk and in the process get rid of the smell.

Here is how to get rid of bad smells from a garbage disposal using baking soda and vinegar:

  • Pour 1 cup of baking soda inside the garbage disposal.
  • Add 1 cup of vinegar slowly, as it creates a fizzing reaction with baking soda.
  • Let the solution sit for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, blast cold water through the garbage disposal.

The hot water will not only rinse the garbage disposal but it will also help clear flush out the gunk from the drainpipe and P-trap. This method is also very effective in fixing a slow draining garbage disposal.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal Trap

If you need to deep clean the garbage disposal drain trap, you should disconnect it from the drainpipe and clean it out with vinegar. Here is how:

  • Place a bucket or small container under the P-trap to prevent spilling water on the floor.
  • Disconnect the the P-trap from the drainpipe, starting off with the lower connection. The connections are usually hand tight. If they are too tight loosen them up with a wrench.
  • Check the condition of the P-trap. If it is clogged (even partially) bang it against a hard surface to get as much gunk out as possible.
  • Drop it in a bowl full of vinegar and baking soda solution and for 30 minutes.
  • Clean the inside with a rag and screwdriver. Check of the drainpipe is dirty also. Clean it as well.
  • Connect it back. That should get rid of the smell.

3. Clean Your Dishwasher and Drain Hose

If your garbage disposal is connected to a dishwasher, the source of the bad smell could be the dishwasher. The dishwasher itself could be spotless clean but not so much its drain hose.

A dishwasher hose to the garbage disposal is supposed to be installed in such a way that there is no potential for wastewater to flow back or even collect in the hose. When that happens, the wastewater or food scraps are acted upon by bacteria and hence the bad smell.

You cannot just clean the dishwasher drain hose separately. You need to clean the dishwasher and in the process the drain hose will be cleaned as well.

To be sure that the dishwasher drain hose is the problem, you should investigate it first. This is actually very easy. You will only need a screwdriver.

  • Duck under the kitchen sink and locate where the dishwasher drain hose is connected to the garbage disposal. It is usually attached using a metal clamp.
  • Put a bucket under the connection, just in case there is water, to avoid messing the floor.
  • Loosen the metal clamp with the screwdriver and pull out the hose.
  • Check if there is dirty and stinky water coming out of it.
  • Stick the screwdriver inside the garbage disposal via the dishwasher drain hole and pull it out. Is there gunk on the screwdriver? If that’s the case, you have found the source of your smelly garbage disposal.
  • Wrap a soft cloth around the screwdriver and dip it in a dish cleaning solution. Use it to clean the garbage disposal’s dishwasher inlet until you have removed out all the gunk.
  • Stick the end of the dishwasher drain hose in the bucket.
  • Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with white distilled vinegar and run a cycle using hot water. Let the water drain in the bucket.
  • Sprinkle about a cup of baking soda in the dishwasher and run another short cycle. As a sign that the dishwasher and the drain hose are clean, only clean water should be flowing out of the hose, and it should not have a bad smell.
  • Connect the dishwasher drain hose back to the garbage disposal.

If you have noticed that your garbage disposal smells when running the dishwasher, this solution will fix the problem. In some instances, you might have to replace the dishwater filters or even drain hose.

4. Use a Garbage Disposal Brush

Most people either overlook or completely forget to clean under the garbage disposal splash guard. Food scraps can collect under it and decompose in the process giving off a very strong stench.

It is not easy accessing under the disposal splash guard and that is why there is a garbage disposal brush, like this one on Amazon. Here is how it cleans the garbage disposal:

  • Stick the brush inside the garbage disposal and pull it up all the to its neck.
  • Turn on the cold water to a trickle.
  • How you clean with this brush is that you spin it back and forth round the underside of the splash guard and then pull it out. Do that a couple of times. If there are food traces under the splash guard they will be puled out by the brush.
  • Once thoroughly cleaned, turn on the cold fully and run the garbage disposal for a few seconds.

5. Other Ways

If you have not used your garbage disposal for a few days probably because you were on vacation, it could be that the water at the P-trap has evaporated and hence the sewer gases are freely coming out through it.

If that is the scenario, turn on the cold water for a few seconds and then shut it off. That should replenish the P-trap and fix the problem.

If on the other hand your garbage disposal smells like sewage and you often hear it gurgling especially when another fixture is draining, you most likely have a clogged sewer line or vent stack. Unclogging them will fix the problem for you.


To deal with a smelly garbage disposal, follow these steps:

  • Turn off the disposal: Ensure it’s completely powered off for safety.
  • Remove visible debris: Use tongs or a fork to remove any visible food scraps or debris inside the disposal.
  • Ice cubes and salt: Drop a handful of ice cubes and a tablespoon of salt into the disposal, then turn it on and run cold water for about 10 seconds. The ice and salt help dislodge buildup.
  • Baking soda and vinegar: Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of white vinegar into the disposal. Allow the mixture to fizz for a few minutes to neutralize odors.
  • Lemon or citrus peels: Grind some lemon or citrus peels in the disposal to add a fresh, pleasant scent.
  • Hot water: Run hot water for a minute or so to flush out any remaining residue.
  • Regular maintenance: To prevent future odors, clean the disposal regularly by repeating these steps once a month.

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