After more than 22 years of plumbing in Phoenix, one of the most common questions I get asked by other moms is how to clear up the smell at the kitchen sink. You know the smell I’m talking about, kind of funky.
The culprit is usually the garbage disposal, but why and how do you clean a garbage disposal?
Your disposal essentially has two compartments on top of each other. There are no blades in your disposal, most people think it looks like a blender inside, it doesn’t. The part of the disposal that most people think are the blades are more like impeller blades, their job is to force the ground up slurry through to the lower compartment. The bottom of the upper compartment contains a kind of plate with many holes or slits in it. The lower compartment is where the slurry and water collects and is then pushed out into the drain.
All of these holes, slits, and side walls can collect food debris on their surfaces which results in an awful odor emanating from the kitchen sink drain. How do you clean out your disposal though, it isn’t like you can take it apart and clean all the yuck out.
The secret…..ice. Yes, a simple remedy of ice cubes usually does the trick!
Here’s what you do

Have plenty of ice on hand, citrus juice, and rock salt or sea salt
1. Turn the unit on and run cold water, no hot water, the point is to get the disposal as cold as possible
2. Have plenty of ice on hand, usually 2-4 trays worth but the more the merrier. Fill the sink with the ice cubes, add ½-1 cup cold citrus juice, and half a cup of salt. Feed the ice into the disposal as quickly as it will take it. This method will freeze all the stuck debris, causing it to chunk off the impeller blades and out of the holes in the plate/flywheel.
3. Let the water run for a few minutes after all the ice cubes are ground up.
Test it from here, this usually does the trick

If there is still an odor

Many manufacturers recommend using citrus rinds to clean the inside of your disposal. The idea is that the fruit rinds will help to clean the grinding components while the citrus scent will provide a fresh smell. What I want to emphasize if you use this method is not to overload your disposal. Cut your citrus fruit into small pieces, typically cutting an orange into 6 pieces is adequate. You will want to only put one piece of the cut citrus fruit down your disposal at a time, this is not because your disposal can’t handle the amount of fruit, but often times too much fruit down your disposal at once can create a stoppage in the plumbing drain line after the disposal and that is never fun. Insinkerator brand disposals even recommend on their website using a peach after it has been cut up and allowing the pit to go down the disposal because the hard pieces of the pit will clean any lodged food grime that is stuck in the grinding components.

Did you clean the rubber splash guard?

Disposals have a rubber splash guard, this is the piece the rubber piece that you can see inside your sink that has slits in it to allow food debris and water to go in the drain while attempting to keep larger items like silverware and shot glasses out of the disposal. This rubber piece is designed to stop the food waste and liquids inside of the disposal from splashing back into the sink while the disposal is running. This underside can be covered in old food and can smell up your kitchen sink. Some of these splash guards can also have a double layer for sound suppression and an extra layer of protection. Some of these rubber splash guards are removable from the collar and can be cleaned, others that can’t be removed, we recommend making sure that the disposal is unplugged so no one can accidentally turn it on while you do your best to clean the underside of the splash guard to eliminate the buildup on the underside.

DO NOT USE

• Drain cleaners – These are usually sand and bleach
• Drano – or similar products, this will result in corroding the insides of your disposal causing it to leak and have to be replaced.