A garbage disposal does an excellent job of grinding up your food scraps, sending them down the drain when they would otherwise be in your kitchen's trash bin. Unfortunately, a garbage disposal also has many components that can trap small food particles.
Over time, you may find that the particles of food stuck under your garbage disposal's turntable or rubber flaps can lead to a smelly sink. Thankfully, deodorizing a waste disposal is one of the easiest of all DIY kitchen projects -- and you can probably do it with items that you already have!
When most people use their garbage disposals, they simply use running water from the faucet to help lubricate the blades and flush the food down. When using your garbage disposal in this way, though, the garbage disposal never actually fills with water. The remaining food particles can eventually form a sludge that plain water won't remove.
To remove trapped sludge in your garbage disposal, turn on the hot water and wait for the temperature of the water coming out of the faucet to increase. When the water is boiling, plug the drain and allow the sink to fill. Add a bit of liquid dish soap to create some suds, pull the drain plug and turn the garbage disposal on. This cleaning method floods the garbage disposal with hot, soapy water, cleaning and deodorizing areas that are usually difficult to reach.
If soap alone fails to deodorize your garbage disposal adequately, there's no need to use bleach or other harsh chemicals to do the job. Instead, try adding a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to the sink before pulling the drain plug to kill microbes naturally.
Disinfecting your garbage disposal will kill odor-causing bacteria and mold temporarily. However, it won't remove the root of the problem if food particles remain. Give your garbage disposal a bit of scrubbing assistance by stuffing the drain with ice cubes and rock salt. The ice will release food stuck within the grinding mechanism while the salt will form a paste that cleans the sides of the unit.
A little natural foaming action can do an excellent job of removing food particles trapped under your garbage disposal's rubber flaps. Start some water boiling, and fill your garbage disposal with a small box of baking soda. Add white vinegar to the waste disposal. Be prepared for a lot of foaming! After waiting a few moments for the chemical reaction to free the stuck food particles from under the garbage disposal's flaps, pour in the boiling water to wash the particles down the drain.
If you've followed all of the above steps and your garbage disposal still has a persistent odor, you may need to use a tool -- and a bit of elbow grease -- to remove the remaining food particles. A soft brush with a bending handle is ideal. If you don't have one, an old toothbrush works nearly as well. For maximum safety, it's wise to flip the circuit breaker for your garbage disposal before cleaning it by hand.
Next, put some soap on your brush and run some warm water through the garbage disposal. Use one hand to hold up the disposal's rubber flaps, and use the other hand to clean the undersides of the flaps with your brush. Pay extra attention to the area in which the flaps connect to the drain. This hard-to-reach area is where you're most likely to find stubborn food particles.
After thoroughly cleaning your garbage disposal, harness the power of citrus oil by running the garbage disposal with some lemon peels and cold water. The citrus oil contains a powerful terpene called d-limonene that triggers a chemical reaction to break grease down. It also leaves a pleasant scent that'll linger in your drain for days.
Don't want to waste a lemon using it for cleaning? When you cook with lemons, save the peels. Cut them into small pieces, place the pieces in an ice cube tray and fill the tray with water. Your lemon peels will be ready for use whenever your garbage disposal needs a quick cleaning.
The best way to avoid a smelly garbage disposal is to avoid disposing of certain foods in it. For example, starchy foods such as pasta and rice -- even if they have already been cooked -- have the capacity to absorb water and expand far beyond their original size. When starchy foods absorb water, they become pasty and can clog the garbage disposal's drain.
Stringy or fibrous foods such as celery, onion skins and corn husks sometimes fail to break up and instead wrap around a garbage disposal's blades. Although the waste disposal may still work, the food will eventually rot and cause foul odors.
Lastly, you should avoid pouring fats down the garbage disposal. If a grease is solid at room temperature, it may eventually form a plug that clogs the disposal's trap. Fats that are liquid at room temperature aren't safe either; they'll leave a coating on the garbage disposal's components that will eventually turn rancid.
When you use your garbage disposal, it's wise to leave it on -- with the water running -- for several seconds after the grinding noise ends. Many people turn off their garbage disposals as soon as they no longer hear a grinding noise. However, there could still be food caught in the disposal at this point. Flushing your garbage disposal thoroughly after each time you use it is an excellent way to avoid odors.