How Do I Keep My Garbage Disposal from Smelling?

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Smell?

The most common reason your garbage disposals stinks is that food or waste has not been properly disposed of. When food particles and waste are left in the disposal and are unable to drain properly, this will inevitably lead to foul odors. Some of the ways to prevent this include:

  • Running warm water when the disposal is on
  • Running the disposal for at least 30 seconds

What Does it Mean if Your Garbage Disposal Smells Like:

The way your garbage disposal smells can be an indicator of whether or not the problem is simply food that has not been properly disposed and drained or if a more serious problem is to blame.

Rotten Food

When your disposal smells like rotten food, then it’s likely because rotten food is to blame. When you don’t run your disposal for long enough, or when warm water is not running while the disposal is running to help move waste through your plumbing system, food and leftovers can accumulate in just beneath your sink or in your pipes, leading to clogged drains and unpleasant smells. Regularly cleaning your disposal should eliminate the foul odors.


If your garbage disposal smells like sewage, it’s time to call the plumber. While temporary fixes may mask the smell, if your disposal smells like sewage, then there’s a good chance there’s a leak that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Mold or Mildew

If your garbage disposal smells like mold or mildew, it’s likely caused by mold or mildew accumulating in your sink and drain. This is most often caused by placing food in the drain and not running the disposal or not running the disposal long enough to properly dispose of waste. Using a mixture of vinegar, warm water, and baking soda can eliminate the mold.

What Not to Put in the Garbage Disposal

One of the most common causes of foul smells from garbage disposals are disposing of foods that should never be put in the garbage disposal in the first place. These foods scraps can cause a buildup of waste, which can cause clogged drains and more serious issues that are much harder to fix than foul smells. To keep your garbage disposal smelling fresh, running smoothly and efficiently, avoid disposing of these foods in your kitchen and opt for the garbage can or a compost pile instead.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds should never be poured down the sink, since they can clump and harden along the sides of your pipes and plumbing system. High efficiency drain cleaners can eliminate the problem, and coffee grounds can be repurposed as fertilizer or in compost mixtures. Coffee grounds can also be used to create more acidic environments for plants and flowers that thrive in these locations, such as:

  • Azaleas
  • Beans
  • Begonias
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Daffodils
  • Dogwood
  • Gardenias
  • Hydrangeas
  • Irises
  • Magnolia Trees
  • Marigolds
  • Parsley
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Egg Shells

Egg shells are horrible for kitchen sinks, as the yolks can cause the shells to stick to the sides of pipes, which can cause clogs and drainage problems, not to mention the rotten egg smell. Egg shells are better served as fertilizer for your garden, where the calcium helps balance the acidity of the soil. If you have acidic soil and wish to make it more habitable for plants and flowers that thrive in alkaline soil, egg shells can also be beneficial.

Potato Peels + Banana Peels

Potato peels and banana peels can wreak havoc on garbage disposal systems and drains. Often, potato skins and banana peels are not able to be broken down by the garbage disposal, and this can result in clogs and foul smells. Again, adding these items to your compost pile is the easiest and most environmentally-friendly way to dispose of these leftovers.


You may have considered using bleach to clean your garbage disposal system of leftover waste and materials, but bleach can actually cause more damage to your disposal by making grease and other sludge harder, and therefore less likely to move through your drain properly. Bleach can also affect the amount of bacteria in your septic tank, which are actually beneficial for breaking down food waste and particles, which can prevent backups, clogs, and unpleasant smells.

How To Clean The Smelly Garbage Disposal

There are a couple of simple ways to keep your smelly garbage disposal in tip top shape. Whether your disposal is older and functioning less efficiently or brand new and not exhibiting signs of wear and tear at all, it’s always a good idea to periodically “clean” your disposal system with the following methods at least once per month.

Garbage Disposal Cleaning Pods

Many grocery stores and large retailers sell garbage disposal cleaning pods that both mask unpleasant odors and help unclog your drain to help prevent the backup of food waste that can lead to strong smells and broken disposal systems. Simply drop a pod or two down the sink, turn on the water, and turn on the disposal, and the cleaning pods will go to work. A package of 5-10 pods typically retails for less than $5.

Ice Cubes for Garbage Disposal Systems

You may have heard ice can help clean your garbage disposal, and it’s true. Ice can help sharpen the blades on your garbage disposal system to help make food disposal more efficient. The problem with both cleaning pods and ice is that while providing a temporary solution to help maintain the life of your disposal system, they won’t fix serious problems, so if you’re noticing frequent odors, or if your system has become less efficient at disposing of waste, call a professional home service today.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Cleaning Solution

A mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and warm water is a natural, non-toxic cleaner that can help eliminate odors and break down leftover food particles in your garbage disposal and drains. Simply allow the mixture to sit for at least ten minutes, and then run both the garbage disposal and warm water to drain the remnants.

Citrus Peels for Odor Elimination

Running lemon and orange peels through your disposal can freshen up your drain and help control stinky smells. A small amount of citrus-scented dish soap placed in the drain while the disposal is running along with warm water can also do the trick.

How Do I Fix a Broken Garbage Disposal?

If your garbage disposal is broken, not working as efficiently as it once was, or if it makes strange humming or whirring noises, we strongly recommend calling a professional Memphis plumber. Because garbage disposal systems use both sharp blades and electricity to function, we strongly advise not attempting to disconnect, reconnect, or repair a broken garbage disposal without the help of a professional.

Those scenes in scary movies aren’t just a possibility – it’s very possible to cause serious damage to yourself or others when working with electricity and sharp objects. Give the experts a call so you don’t have to worry about the dangers of working on your garbage disposal system yourself. Our customer service representatives are standing by and able to assist you seven days a week. Call today or schedule an appointment online.