If you walk into your home or kitchen or bathroom and smell a foul odor, it may be coming from your drain. There are several reasons why your nose may be detecting that bad smell and the answer to removing that stink depends on what's causing it.

Food can get stuck anywhere along the line. From your garbage disposal, down to the P-trap and further on down anywhere along your drain pipe system. If the clog is big enough, that food can sit there and begin to decompose, begin to rot and create bacteria and before you know it - you're smelling the end result!

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Smell Like Sewer?

The reason your garbage disposal might be giving off a bad odor is most likely due to the decomposition of food that is stuck either in the garbage disposal or in the drain pipes connected to it.

There are a few handy solutions that you can do to clean your garbage disposal and/or pipe drains of any food debris that may be clogged and rotting.

  • First thing first - you want to make sure that the clog is removed. Check our article on How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal for tips on how to do this.
  • Avoid using a chemical drain cleaner like Drano or Liauid-Plumbr - they tend to be harsh and abrasive on your drain pipes.
  • Instead, try a bio-enzyme drain cleaner - that may work to remove the odor from your drain.
  • Go with a homemade solution of baking soda and vinegar (as mentioned above). This is a very common one that usually works.
  • Put ice cubes in your garbage disposal as it's running. This is a great way to knock off any food particles that may be stuck on the blades and possibly a good way to help keep the blades sharp.
  • Put lemon or orange slices in your garbage disposal as it's running. This is something you can do on a regular basis (weekly or monthly) just to get that nice citrusy smell in your kitchen.
  • You can combine the ice cube method or the citrus method with a handful of course salt. The purpose of the salt is to "scrub down" the sides of the garbage disposal.
  • Some homeowners like to add an essential oil to any of these solutions.

If any of these solutions do not work, we strongly recommend that you contact a professional plumber. The problem may be multi-faceted or deep in the drain pipe or sewer lines for you to fix.

How Do I Clean The Inside Of My Garbage Disposal?

In general, most of us don't think about "cleaning" our garbage disposal units. But, like any other appliance, if they are maintained on a regular basis they will tend to last longer and work better. A little TLC can go a long way in helping you to save money and time, no matter what the appliance or product is.

So, here are our top tips on how you can clean your garbage disposal.

Remove Any Large Items

  • Before you do anything, make sure to remove any large items that may have fallen into your disposal. Of course, make sure everything is turned off first!
  • Turn off the disposal but I would recommend to go one step further and turn off the power TO the disposal.
  • Use long handled tongs or needle nose pliers (works well if you have glass in the disposal unit) to fish around and remove anything.
  • You can also use a shop vac to vacuum anything out of the unit.
  • Once you're done turn the power back on.

Flush It Out With Hot Water

Put a stopper on your sink's drain, turn on the hot water and let it fill up the sink with about 4 inches of water. Add some dish soap to the water and let it sit there for about 5 minutes. Then remove the stopper and turn on your garbage disposal immediately (simultaneously if you can manage it) and let that hot, soapy water get pulled down your drain and disposal.

Scrub It With Salt And Ice

Turn on your cold water faucet and then turn on your garbage disposal. While that water is running throw down about a cup of ice cubes (or frozen cubes of white vinegar). Then, while the disposal is still running, pour down one cup of rock salt. This combination helps to scrub away any debris that has gotten stuck and it also helps to sharpen the blades of the disposal unit.

Clean The Rim And The Flaps

The rubber flaps that you see as you stare down into your drain where your garbage disposal sits also needs a little cleaning every now and then. The best way to do this is to use a brush (even a toothbrush will help) along with your favorite all purpose cleaner or white vinegar and baking soda.

Get That Clean Fresh Smell

The final step is to get that nice clean, fresh smell and you can easily do that by putting some slices of lemons or a citrus fruit. You can even cut up the lemon or fruit into quarters and put them all in the disposal one by one while the disposal is running. Some of our clients have also gone as far as adding rosemary or lavendar oil as well. If you don't like any of these smells then try pouring a 1/4 cup of baking soda into your sink drain and then follow it with 1/2 cup of white vinegar. You will see some "fizz" coming out of the drain in a few minutes. Wait 10 minutes and then run the faucet with very hot water for about 3 minutes.

Following this maintenance schedule every 2 - 3 weeks should keep your garbage disposal running smoothly for a very long time.

If you have any questions about your garbage disposal or are having some problems with it, call Atlantis Plumbing today at 770-443-8229. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.