Disposal Drama

MargieAn editorial by Margie Schuler

I recently came across a Houzz article entitled How to Fix a Stinky Garbage Disposal and was interested enough to read on.

I know everyone says just grind lemon or citrus peels in the disposal but I’m not a fan of that method. When I’ve done this in the past, a few days later my disposal smells like rotting peels which is not an improvement. I clean the rubber gasket regularly which helps quite a bit but have often wondered if the inside of the disposal needs cleaning too.

There were three disposal cleaning methods discussed in the Houzz article. Furthering my intrigue was the second method which uses vinegar and baking soda. My fascination with vinegar started when a co-worker said adding a cup of white vinegar to the clothes wash removes soap residue and whiten whites. I was quite pleased after I used it on my partner’s work clothes and the vinegar removed the chemical smell thus saving the clothes from being thrown away. There seem to be many uses for cleaning with vinegar* and I love that it’s natural, not a chemical. Additionally baking soda is also natural and while it doesn’t dissolve, it will react with some liquids by foaming/bubbling which made me think it would reach all the nooks and the top inside of the disposal.

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Method #1: Clean Mama’s

  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • Mix together to form a paste.
  • Pour down disposal and let sit for a few minutes.
  • Run cold water and turn on disposal for up to a minute.

I tried this method first. While it did eliminate odors and left the disposal with no smell, I felt this method was a bit lacking. The baking soda and lemon juice bubbled and foamed while being mixed in a bowl (which incidentally did not make an actual paste) and I expected more bubbling and foaming once in the disposal but heard and saw nothing. I associate the bubbling and foaming with cleaning so while the mixture was sitting silent in the disposal, I questioned its effectiveness. But the disposal was left with no smell, so I can only assume this method must work.

Method #2: Doctor Rooter’s

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • Sprinkle baking soda down drain into disposal.
  • Pour in vinegar.
  • Let sit for five minutes.
  • Run hot water down drain for 30 seconds with disposal on.
  • Repeat if smell persists.

I tried this method the second time. Since the baking soda and vinegar were mixing directly in the disposal I had high hopes for more of the bubbling and foaming. I envisioned the bubbles and foam would be cleaning the entire inside of the disposal, reaching all the way to the top. The reaction between the baking soda and vinegar was less spectacular than I hoped it would be. I was hoping for a reaction more similar to Mentos in Diet Coke:

Or a science project volcano but without the explosive mess. But, there was only a small amount of foaming in the bottom of the disposal and once it subsided I noticed a pile of dry baking soda to the side so I added more vinegar but I never got the reaction I was looking for. On the positive side the disposal no longer had odor.

The second time I tried this method I doubled the amounts hoping for a big reaction. The reaction was larger but never touched the top of the disposal. Again this was the only downside as my disposal was left with no odor.

Method #3: One Good Thing by Jillee

  • Vinegar
  • Lemon
  • Ice cube tray
  • Cut up lemon and place one slice in each ice cube mold.
  • Fill each ice cube mold with vinegar.
  • Freeze fully and store in zip-top bag in freezer.
  • Feed a handful of cubes into the disposal every few days, running disposal with cold water until cubes are crushed up.

To be thorough I listed this method but have no plans to try it due to my aforementioned aversion to lemon peels in the disposal. Plus I don’t have an ice cube tray and there’s no instant gratification since you’re waiting for the cubes to freeze. However, I would be interested to hear feedback regarding this method, if someone was so inclined.

I think either of these three methods would work well and best when done regularly. For now I’m going to stick with the second method and scrubbing the gasket with a toothbrush and dish soap only when absolutely necessary because I’d much rather be outdoors riding my bike or hiking than inside cleaning.

Have a wonderful summer and enjoy lots of outdoors time!

*As a former member of the natural stone and tile industry I feel compelled to share that you DO NOT use vinegar (straight or diluted) on any sealed natural stone slab, tile or sealed grout. Vinegar is so acidic it ends up eating off the sealer, instead always use a ph. neutral natural stone cleaner.

For Natural Stone and Tile Cleaning, this is a handy informational brochure:

Cleaning Natural Stone