How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Updated: Feb. 28, 2024

Using these tips will help you maintain a pleasant smelling and clean garbage disposal.

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Less than 1 hour




Less than $25


Is your kitchen sink smelly? Is it coming from your garbage disposal? Here's how to clean garbage disposal and get rid of those foul odors.

Tools Required

  • Bowl
  • Flashlight
  • Measuring cups
  • Tablespoon
  • Tongs
  • Toothbrush

Materials Required

  • Baking soda
  • Castle soap
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Vinegar

Even if you run the garbage disposal in your kitchen sink until the last shred of food disappears, then let the water run the recommended time, you can still wind up with an out-of-control science experiment that stinks up your kitchen.

Let’s face it: Some food is going to stick to the inside of the grinding chamber, and it’s going to decay. But it doesn’t have to foul your kitchen. Read on to learn how to tackle this issue and leave your sink smelling citrusy fresh.

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Disconnect the power

Unplug the garbage disposal. This will ensure your safety as you work with this sharp device!

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Step 2

Remove food left inside the disposal

Remove any food residue inside the disposal. Shine a flashlight to get a good look. Use tongs, not fingers, to pull it out.

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Step 3

Clean the splash guard

The splash guard is usually the last thing we think of when it’s time to clean a garbage disposal that smells. But plenty of food can splash underneath and coat it with nasty, smelly residue. If you’ve never cleaned this, it’s about time to give it some love.

You can use an anti-bacterial cleaning solution or dish soap and a toothbrush. But for a natural solution that’s better for the environment and your sink, try this homemade sink cleaner:


  • One cup baking soda (an abrasive that removes dirt and grease);
  • One-quarter cup Castle soap (cuts grease and lifts dirt);
  • One tablespoon hydrogen peroxide (optional; antiviral and antibacterial);
  • Essential oil (optional). My favorites include lemon, lemongrass and sweet orange.


In a container, mix the ingredients together, then use a toothbrush to scrub the splash guard. This can also work as a sink scrub. If using hydrogen peroxide, make sure to store the mixture in a dark container.

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Step 4

Clean disposal with baking soda and vinegar

If the smell is still there, it might be time to send something into the disposal. I recommend a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and lemon essential oils. The chemical reaction break ups materials on the blades and at the base, and the lemon oil leaves the disposal smelling fresh.

Note: In the past, some people recommended sending lemon peels down the drain for that citrusy fresh smell. But plumbing pros now advise against that since it can clog the sink drain. Instead, we’re replacing peels with essential oil.


  • One-quarter cup baking soda;
  • One-quarter cup white vinegar;
  • Five drops lemon essential oil.


  1. Send the essential oil drops into the drain;
  2. Add baking soda and vinegar in that order;
  3. Let it bubble;
  4. Pour hot water down the drain to rinse;
  5. Then rinse with cold water;
  6. Repeat once a week or as needed.

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Step 5

Clean garbage disposal with ice and salt

Another option is to use ice and salt to clean the blades and dislodge any hardened materials. Make sure to plug the disposal back in first.


  • Two cups ice;
  • One cup salt.


Send the ice and salt into the drain to create a nice abrasive cleaner. Let it run until gone. Throw in some drops of lemon or lemon eucalyptus essential oil to smell fresh!

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Step 6

When to call a professional

A smelly garbage disposal can be a nuisance, but it’s usually not a sign of a major problem. Some issues, like persistent sewage smells, odors after cleaning, clogging, leaks or loud noises, may require the advice of a professional. If it’s really bad, you may need to replace the garbage disposal.

Step 7


Does a garbage disposal need to be cleaned out?
Yes. It should be cleaned at least once a month with the vinegar, baking soda, essential oil mixture.

Is it OK to pour bleach down a garbage disposal?
Generally, no. Most plumbing professionals don’t recommend putting bleach down your garbage disposal because it can corrode pipes and damage blades. If used, it should always be diluted. Check your owner’s manual to learn whether bleach is safe for your particular model.

How long should you run the water after using the garbage disposal?
Run water for 30 seconds before and after. This allows enough time to push food waste down the drain.