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How to Keep your Garbage Disposal Smelling Fresh and Clean

One of the busiest (and often dirtiest) rooms in the house is the kitchen. And one of the most used appliances is the garbage disposal. It’s the place where waste is often disposed of, which means it can get awfully dirty and smelly from mold and bacteria buildup. No one wants an embarrassing, smelly kitchen, so one of the biggest concerns of keeping a kitchen clean is making sure the garbage disposal is clean and fresh.


Here are six simple and inexpensive tips on how to rid your garbage disposal of smelly odors and dirt. Many of these tips involve using items you already have in your house. Before trying any of these tips, be sure to contact your manufacturer or read the instruction manual of the disposal to avoid damage and to keep your appliance running smoothly.


1. Baking Soda and Vinegar

Fight off the strong odors emanating from your garbage disposal by grabbing 1 cup of baking soda with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar. Turn on the garbage disposal, pour in the baking soda, and then the vinegar. You may not even need the baking soda if the smell isn’t too bad. Turn on the faucet and let cool water run while pouring in the vinegar.


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2. Borax

Got a lot of smells and dirt piling up in your garbage disposal? If so, try Borax. It’s a tough solution for tough jobs. Mix 3 tbsps. of Borax with ice in the disposal to cleanse the drain. Allow the Borax to sit for a while in the drain and then sanitize the drain thoroughly by pouring some lemon juice down it.


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3. Remove Slimy Residue

One effective sterilizer that’s also good for your digestion and health is Kosher salt. It works hard to remove scummy residue. The first step is to add some ice cubes (a full cup) into your garbage disposal. Turn the disposal on while you add a half-cup of salt. Ice and salt work well together in removing the bad odor of built-up residue in the garbage disposal.


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4. Clean the Visible Portion of the Disposal

While trying to clean the deeper or inner parts of the disposal, don’t avoid cleaning the visible section of the disposal either. Apply baking soda and vinegar on a dish rag or scrub brush to the outer part of the disposal and scrub hard. Make sure you clean the joint where the disposal rim meets the basin of the sink where debris and residue quickly build up. A good deal of food gets trapped in this section and can be hard to remove. It can also cause mold to grow.


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5. Use Ice and Salt

As we saw in tip #3, ice and salt work well together. This time apply ice and rock salt to remove smelly residue caused by foods lodged into hidden and hard to reach places. The ice sharpens the blades of the walls of the disposal, while salt sanitizes. Rock or sea salt is fairly inexpensive, but if you can’t get your hands on either, use regular table salt.


Photo by SIRIKANLAYA KHLIBNGERN on Shutterstock

6. Deep Cleaning

If you don’t thoroughly clean your garbage disposal, food will likely harden and lodge into the pipes, causing a very strong smell to persist. One way to clear up the smell is buying a test cap made of rubber with a clamp made of stainless steel that allows you to do some serious deep cleaning. To deep clean your disposal, you’ll need to turn the hot water from the faucet on for one minute. With a wrench, take the pipe apart under the sink that connects the garbage disposal. Then attach the test cap to the side of the pipe leading to the disposal. This will disable the water from flowing through, allowing you to soak cleaning chemicals in the pipes.


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Put a bucket under the pipe/rubber cap for spills. The next step is to turn on the warm water and run it into your garbage disposal flowing the water to the drain top. No need to fill the sink basin. Pour one half of a cup of oxygen bleach (powdered) to your disposal drain. Let it sit for an hour. Once the bleach has soaked, remove the test cap gently. The solution will drain out into the bucket. Lastly, reconnect the pipe.


Some manufacturers have specialized products that you can only use to clean garbage disposals. You’ll find these products in the store or by contacting the manufacturer directly. Whatever you do, be sure you regularly clean your garbage disposal at least once a week to avoid moldy and musty smells from building up.


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