What’s that Smell? How I Banished Garbage Disposal Smells from My Sink

Photo credit: Dean Hochman via Foter.com / CC BY

There are places in the kitchen that seem to just gather smells. The trash can. The produce drawer in the fridge. The trap in the bottom of the dishwasher. The garbage disposal.

The thing that these all have in common is that they’re where food goes to decompose. It’s the bacteria that goes with decomposition that causes the smell. We don’t like these smells because they signal that bacteria – which our bodies of course are naturally averse to. Yes, that sickening feeling in your stomach when you smell your stinky garbage disposal is a survival thing.

Last week I was in the kitchen making some tacos for dinner for my two teenagers when I go a whiff of something that made my stomach lurch. What was that? I checked the fridge. Nope, that wasn’t it. I checked the trash can to find that it was empty (that boy of mine had taken out the trash!). Then I followed my nose to the sink to find the source – the garbage disposal! Ick!

Though everyone in my household is really good about keeping the water running while the garbage disposal is running, apparently that’s not enough to keep bacteria totally out. Who knew?

I quickly decided to come figure this problem out – after Taco Tuesday dinner of course.

Cleaning the garbage disposal blades

First off – NEVER STICK YOUR HAND OR ANOTHER OBJECT INTO YOUR GARBAGE DISPOSAL. I cannot overstate this. No smell is worth losing a finger or sending a rigid object flying towards you when your garbage disposal kicks it out. Cleaning your garbage disposal NEVER involves putting anything rigid down there, and of course you should NEVER put your hand in the garbage disposal. You probably didn’t need to know that, but it’s worth saying firmly.

This part isn’t so hard. Luckily I had used some fresh lime juice to make the taco filling, so I was perfectly placed to get to the deep down smell. To clean garbage disposal blades, all you need to do is to put something down there and run the garbage disposal as usual. Here are some ideas.

  • Pour half a cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar down your garbage disposal and let sit for five minutes. Then run the hot water and turn on your garbage disposal.
  • Pour two cups of ice down your disposal. Add a cup of coarse salt. Turn on the cold water and run the disposal until the ice is gone.
  • Stuff the rind of two lemons or three limes down your garbage disposal and run as usual.

I of course used the lime rinds that I had leftover from Taco Tuesday. It worked like a charm!

How to clean a garbage disposal splash guard

This was SO much easier than I ever imagined.

What you need:

  • Old tooth brush
  • Antibacterial, anti-grease kitchen cleaner spray

All you’ve got to do is to lift up the corners of the splash guard and spray your cleaner, then scrub off the crud, one corner at a time. Again, NEVER stick your fingers down near the blades, even if the garbage disposal is off. Rinse with cold water, working your way around the edges. Take your time, running cold water to see how you’re doing. It’s cleaning the underside of the garbage disposal guard that makes the difference here, so get in there!

If you’ve never cleaned your splash guard (like me), then you might find that this takes a little while. But in ten minutes you’ll be done with the whole process! No more bacteria. No more smell. Next time I’m sending my sixteen-year-old to do this one. DIY I for everyone!

Meanwhile, if you need to get a new disposal, you can find them here.  (We will do a DIY article on how to replace them in the near future.  it’s not hard!).