How To Get the Smell Out Of Your Garbage Disposal

garbage disposal

The last thing you want as the holidays approach is a garbage disposal that causes guests to wrinkle their noses. Don’t worry, if your disposal fails to pass the sniff test Shadrach Plumbing & Cooling assures you, you’re not alone. A bad-smelling garbage disposal is not unusual. Solving the problem starts with identifying the smell and specifically what the odor reminds you of. Generally, you can break down a stinky garbage disposal into two categories:

  1. A problem actually related to the sewage system in your Fountain Hills, AZ home
  2. A problem directly linked to what’s going on inside the disposal that can masquerade as a sewage smell

Shadrach finds there are four common problems based on these two scenarios. Please remember that if you are not comfortable or confident about troubleshooting these problems you should call a plumber for professional help.


Many times, a garden-variety clog in your garbage disposal will smell similar to sewage. It only makes sense since most clogs are likely foods of some sort that are rotting. We’re not going into details here, but a little research will show you many steps you can take before calling a plumber. Just remember to always unplug your garbage disposal before trying to unclog it.


Many of you are aware there is a trap in the plumbing beneath every sink. The trap is designed to trap water which prevents sewer gases from backing up into your home. Although pretty rare it is possible for the water to escape leaving the trap high and dry and allowing the foul smelling sewer gases to escape. This usually requires a plumber to fix the problem.


Even without a clog, garbage disposals can smell bad. Food waste builds up on the blades from grease and fats (which in a perfect world shouldn’t be put in a disposal) and this can cause “gunk” to build up which might smell like sewage. Here are some tips that can solve the problem without calling a plumber:


Fill the sink about half full of water and add 1-2 cups of vinegar. Remove the sink drain and turn on the garbage disposal. The water-vinegar mix will work its way through the disposal, cleaning the hard to get to areas without taking it apart.


Pour two cups of ice cubes into the garbage disposal and one cup of salt (rock salt is preferred but any type will work). Run cold water and start the disposal. The crushed ice cleans the blades, and the salt gets rid of any odors.


Put chunks of lemon (or other citrus fruit) in the disposal while running cold water. Running the fruit through the disposal allows the acid to remove greasy slime and leaves behind a pleasant smell.


No article about cleaning is complete without mentioning baking soda. The process will remind you of high school chemistry class: Pour two cups of baking soda into the garbage disposal followed by a half cup of vinegar. Let the fizzy reaction do its thing then be patient and let the solution sit for one hour. Then and only then turn on cold water and let the garbage disposal run for one minute.


The final culprit could be the venting system to get rid of sewer gas. The vents carry the gas outside of your Fountain Hills, AZ house through a PVC pipe that goes through the roof. Leaves or debris can clog the vent. If this does happen you will likely notice the sewer smell coming from ALL the sinks in your house, not just the garbage disposal.


Don’t run the risk of family and friends wrinkling their noses before or after the holiday dinner. If your garbage disposal needs help, call Shadrach Plumbing & Cooling. And remember, regular plumbing maintenance reduces the risk of a smelly garbage disposal in your Fountain Hills, AZ home.