How to Clean a Smelly Garbage Disposal

clean garbage disposalThere’s no denying that having a garbage disposal can make life easier. However, these devices don’t see as much cleaning as they should for two reasons: The first is that we just kind of forget to maintain them. The second is that most of us have been conditioned to fear the disposal since childhood. There’s a good logic behind this, as the appliance can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Nonetheless, the end result of leaving this tool unwashed can be an awful stench permeating throughout your kitchen. Lack of cleaning could also lead to your disposal not working properly.

Fortunately, it is possible to keep these handy devices washed. You just need to make sure you’re extra cautious as you work. So, with that in mind, learn the best way to clean a garbage disposal, including how to clean the garbage disposal’s rubber flange.

Note: Garbage disposals have sharp blades that can be very dangerous. To avoid injury, it’s important to make sure your disposal is off and to be especially mindful of what you are doing when cleaning any part of this tool. It’s also a good idea to unplug the appliance when cleaning around the drain or flange with your hands.

How to Clean a Smelly Garbage Disposal

To keep your garbage disposal from getting stinky, you should clean it thoroughly about once a month. Doing this is surprisingly easy and doesn’t call for any cleaners fancier than lemons, rock salt and ice. The idea behind the below method is the ice and salt take care of the scrubbing action, while the citrus leaves a fresh scent behind.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups of ice
  • 1 cup of rock salt
  • A quartered lemon

  1. Fill the drain with the ice.
  2. Pour the rock salt down the drain and over the ice cubes.
  3. Turn on the cold water and run the disposal until all the ice has been rinsed away.
  4. Leave the disposal and cold water running.
  5. Carefully drop the lemon quarters in one at a time.
  6. Once the fruit is gone turn off the disposal.
  7. Let the cold water run for about 30 seconds before shutting it off.

How to Clean Garbage Disposal Rubber Flange

The rubber flange — more commonly known as the splash guard — should also be cleaned monthly. After all, it’s constantly being bombarded with bits of food and cooking debris, so there’s no telling what’s stuck on the underside.

You’ll need:


  1. Make a mixture of hot soapy water in your bowl or small bucket.
  2. Put your gloves on.
  3. Lift up one section of the splash guard at a time, and use the toothbrush and soapy water to scrub both the underside and top of the flaps.
  4. Make sure you rinse the brush regularly so that you’re not just spreading slime around.
  5. After you’ve cleaned the gunk off each section, rinse both sides of the splash guard well with hot water.

How to Maintain Your Garbage Disposal

Once you’ve cleaned your disposal, you want to continue to provide it with proper upkeep, so that you can help reduce bad odors in the future. That includes giving it a quick clean every day.

You’ll need:

  • Dishwashing liquid

  1. Squirt a few drops of dish soap in your disposal.
  2. Turn on the appliance.
  3. Run cold water through the disposal for about a minute.
  4. Turn off your garbage disposal, but leave the cold water on for another 30 seconds or so.
  5. Turn off the water, and you’re done for the day!
  6. It’s also important to know that certain items should never be placed in the disposal because they can cause damage to the blades or — worse yet —get stuck in the pipes and lead to expensive plumbing repairs.

Note: The following is not a comprehensive list. Please consult your model’s care instructions for the manufacturer’s recommendations.

  • Banana peels
  • Bones or seafood shells
  • Bread or biscuit dough
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cooking oils or grease
  • Eggshells
  • Fibrous vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, celery, chard, kale, lettuce or rhubarb
  • Non-food items
  • Fruit pits
  • Rinds from melons or tough squashes (Think acorn, butternut or pumpkin.)
  • Starchy foods like beans, pasta, rice or potatoes

As you can see, there’s not much to learning how to clean a smelly garbage disposal, though you do need to be very careful during the process.

Looking for more advice that can help you keep bad odors at bay? Learn what to do when your sink stinks, and then take a look at these tips for making your house smell good naturally.

Next > Prepare for Guests: Know the Dirtiest Places in Your Home