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4 easy ways to clean a smelly garbage disposal — naturally.

Last Updated: September 15, 2021

Nasty, smelly stink coming from your kitchen sink? Try these 4 different ways to clean your garbage disposal — and the black rubber splash guard — naturally.

When you think about the appliances you use on a daily basis, your garbage disposal may not be the first thing that comes to mind — even though this small appliance plays the important role of making your food waste magically disappear after it goes down the drain. The more often you use your garbage disposal, the stinkier it probably gets.

If you’re tired of your garbage disposal smelling like — well, garbage — read on for everything you need to know about how to clean a garbage disposal the right way.

First, how do garbage disposals work?

Your garbage disposal is mounted to the underside of your sink and connected to the drain. Whenever you wash dishes, rinse veggies, or scrape your plate into the drain opening, the food waste collects in the grinding chamber.

When you turn on the disposal, a spinning disc with metal lugs forces food particles against the lower walls of the chamber, which is lined with a grind ring that pulverizes the scraps into pulp. The running water (you do run the water when you use the disposal, right?) washes the liquified food down the drain.

Want to see a disposal in action? This short, animated video will blow your mind if you thought your garbage disposal had sharp, spinning blades.

Grove Tip

Don’t have a disposal? Consider this:

The great thing about garbage disposals is that they help keep food scraps out of the landfill. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • Food is the single largest category of material sent to the municipal landfill.
  • Municipal solid-waste landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S.
  • Reducing food waste would lower methane emissions and save households, on average, roughly $370 per year — per person.

You can also reduce food waste with our fridge, freezer, and pantry storage solutions, including these top picks:

Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and Grove Co. cleaning caddy

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Wondering who Grove is, what types of products we offer, and how to get a free gift set when you sign up? Learn more about flexible monthly shipments, customizing your shipment, and joining millions of happy households — no monthly fees or commitments required.

What’s safe to put down a garbage disposal?

Imageof a pie, strawberries and lemonade on a table next to a women

Although your garbage disposal can handle lots of different foods, it’s not a trash can.

According to Consumer Reports, there are some things you should never put down your disposal, including:

  • Grease and cooking oil
  • Corn husks
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Raw meat
  • Bones
  • Banana peels
  • Any kind of dough

Grove Tip

So, what is safe to put in a garbage disposal?

It’s okay to toss these (and similar foods) into the garbage disposal:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Plate scraps and un-eaten pet food
  • Cooked meats
  • The moldy chili in the back of the fridge

What causes odors in a garbage disposal?

Illustration of a drain with a ghost and bugs and bacteria shown

While some garbage disposal smells emanate from the chamber, most of the odor comes from food that builds up and rots on and around the rubber flange — you know, the flappy black rubber splash guard that fits inside the drain hole.

3 methods to clean a smelly garbage disposal naturally

When the heady aroma of garbage disposal stink wafts through your kitchen, fight back with a few natural ingredients that you probably already have on hand.

Any of the three methods below will get your garbage disposal clean and odorless — naturally, and in no time!

Illustration of blue bubbles

1. Baking soda and vinegar

You’re probably already familiar with the magical cleaning powers of vinegar and baking soda, which react together to form thousands of tiny, odor-fighting, scrubbing bubbles that’ll zap away the yucky muck inside your disposal.

Step 1: Sprinkle a half cup of baking soda into your disposal, and let it sit for 30 minutes to absorb odors and loosen stuck-on debris.

Step 2: Add a cup of vinegar, and let the bubbles work for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Turn on the cold water, then turn on the disposal for about 10 seconds.

Step 4: Turn off the disposal, and let the water run for another 10 seconds.

Illustration of an orange.

2. Citrus peels

Obsessed with how good your lemon essential oil smells? If you’re looking for a kitchen cleaning solution that goes a step beyond merely deodorizing and makes your room smell like an orange (or lemon or lime) grove, we’ve got you covered:

Step 1: Stuff 1 cup of lemon or other citrus peels down the hole.

Step 2: Turn on the cold water, then turn on the disposal, and let it run until you no longer hear the grinding of citrus peel.

Step 3: Turn off the disposal, and let the water run for 10 more seconds.

Illustration of 3 water droplets

3. Ice cubes and salt

Have you seen the Tiktok videos of how to clean a garbage disposal with ice? Of course you have … but does it work?

Gummy, sticky, or stuck-on food particles — and their moldy odors — are no match for the power of ice cubes and salt (ideally rock salt), which work together as a powerful, odor-fighting scrub.

Step 1: Pour two cups of ice into the disposal.

Step 2: Add a cup of salt.

Step 3: Run cold water, then turn on the garbage disposal, and let it run until all of the ice is ground up.

Step 4: Turn off the disposal, and let the water run for 10 more seconds.

Grove hot tip: Add a cup of citrus peel to the ice and salt, and you’ve got a rot-cleaning, mold-busting powerhouse of a scrubber with a fresh, crisp scent.

Grove Tip

How often should you clean your garbage disposal?

  • Every day: Run the disposal one last time before bed. Let the water run for 10 seconds after you turn off the disposal.
  • Every week: Clean it with the method of your choice.
  • Every three months: Deep clean that baby!

2 additional steps to clean the rubber flaps on a garbage disposal

The splash guard keeps food from spewing out of the drain hole while it’s being pulverized. Whatever would normally be jettisoned out of the hole and onto the ceiling — or onto you — instead sticks to the underside of the guard.

Naturally, you’ll need to clean it off, so put on some gloves.

Step 1: Grab the microfiber cloth you use for gross jobs, and soak it with warm water. Wring as much water out as you can.

Step 2: Gently lift up the guard, and go at the underside with the microfiber. Depending on your guard, you may need to reach a couple of inches down into the abyss to scrub from underneath.

Here’s why microfiber is your best choice for cleaning your garbage disposal splash guard — see why our members crowned these 7 microfiber cloths the best of the bunch.

Grove Tip

What should you not use to clean your garbage disposal

It’s not uncommon for people to reach for the bleach when the disposal gets to be too much. Bleach is synonymous with disinfection, but it’s not a cleaner — here’s the diff — and it can do a number on your disposal and the environment.

Searching for other natural solutions for tough cleaning problems? Shop all of our specialty cleaners and natural cleaning essentials!

How do you deep clean a garbage disposal in 9 simple steps?

If your disposal is in bad need of a deep clean, try the following:

Step 1: Clean it with your choice of methods above.

Step 2:: Disconnect the power supply to the disposal.

Step 3: You’re probably going to want to put gloves on for this.

Step 4: Pull out the splash guard, like so:

Step 5: Scrub it with a toothbrush and several drops of natural dish detergent, and rinse thoroughly.

Step 6: Drop a little dish soap and baking soda onto a toothbrush.

And scrub the area on the sink where the guard connects. Rinse thoroughly.

Step 7: With the splash guard still off, use a flashlight to check for any food particles that remain inside the chamber.

Step 8: Then use tongs, tweezers, or pliers to clear out those particles.

You disconnected the disposal from electricity, right?

Step 9: Reach inside (don’t be afraid) and wipe down the sides and top of the chamber with a damp microfiber cloth.

Step 10: Replace the guard just like the person in the video did.

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