Ask Pete: My garbage disposal stinks. What can I do?

Today’s question for Pete plagues many homeowners. Our disposals are an underrated kitchen device that we take for granted until something goes wrong. In this case, our submitted question wonders what happens to make the garbage disposal smell really bad and Pete’s answer tells us what to do when your garbage disposal stinks! 

The Question: My garbage disposal stinks, what can I do?

So let’s take this in two parts.

Pete, what happens to make the garbage disposal stink?

Pete Says: Yeah, this is a big one. I know everyone reading this already knows to run the disposal with the cold water running to push all the material down the drain, but not everyone knows that some stuff can’t go in the disposal at all. Coffee, stringy things, oils, and meat! None of these can go down the disposal because they can cause problems that make your disposal stink. This was actually a whole episode earlier, you should check that out. Oh, and you need to be sure you are running the disposal for about 30 seconds so it has time to grind the stuff and wash it down the drain.

There could also be issues with the flanges on the unit causing leaks that might smell after a while. Or the motor may be failing and not doing its job. Mostly, it’s when forbidden things are stuck and rotting. So, you want to be sure you are running it properly and only putting allowed things in there. 

You can try putting ice cubes down the drain and baking soda and vinegar if you want, but don’t try those old-timey family suggestions of bleach. It can harm your pipes and it’s just not good. You can use your sink cleaner, or put plain old liquid dish soap in reasonable amounts to see if that clears the problem. You can also try very hot water, just let it clear before running the disposal (with cool water) so you don’t risk a burn.

If those don’t clear the problem, or if it smells like sewage, then you definitely want to call your friendly plumber to help figure it out.

What should we do to make it smell better?

Pete Says: The first thing is to clear any cause of the stink like we talked about already, and then the most effective method to make it smell better is also the easiest. Assuming your garbage disposal works, you can simply run some citrus peels, like lemon or orange peels, down the disposal and it disperses the oils making it smell nice. You can also use a little dish soap or sink cleaner that you already use in your drain every day. There’s really no need to buy fancy deodorizers since you probably already have more effective things right there in your kitchen, but they are okay if you want to use them. The citrus peels are actually good for your system, just be sure they are broken into smaller pieces, not the whole peel down the drain at once. Then they are natural deodorizers straight from Mother Nature.

If your disposal is causing problems or if it smells bad, give us a call to get an estimate for a replacement or repair. You can reach us at 480-388-6093.