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How To Clean and Deodorize Sink Drains and Garbage Disposals

With all the stuff that goes down our kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room drains, it’s no wonder they’re so prone to foul odors, clogging, grime, and buildup. Wondering how to clean a smelly garbage disposal or sink, the Laundress way? Thankfully, flushing these issues away is easy with just a couple of foolproof steps. Here’s how to do it…

Shop Your Drain Maintenance Toolkit:

White vinegar, baking soda, oxygen bleach, liquid dish soap, scrub brush, cleaning cloths

Mix Up a DIY Drain Cleaner

Got some stink in the sink? As they are highly-trafficked areas in the kitchen, drains and garbage disposals are prone to odors and require regular upkeep to stay smelling fresh. But don’t fret—you likely already have the tools you need to clean your drain in your cleaning toolkit (hint: they work well for laundry, too). 


Once a week, stir together 1 cup of white vinegar with 1/4 cup of oxygen based, chlorine free bleach alternative and pour directly into your sink’s drain to eliminate buildup and dissolve stinky scents. The mixture will bubble up, helping to loosen residue from in and around the drain. Contain the mixture by placing the stopper over the drain or disposal entrance. Allow to sit for 5-15 minutes, then scrub with a soft cleaning brush if needed for extra lifting power. Finally, turn on the hot water for 5 a few minutes to rinse. 


You’ve probably seen tips and tricks online demonstrating how to clean a garbage disposal with baking soda. Like oxygen bleach, baking soda is an effective cleaning agent that combines well with vinegar to lift drain residue. Pour ¼ to ½ cup of baking soda into the drain or disposal, then follow by pouring a cup of white vinegar over the baking soda. As before, the mixture will fizz up, helping to “exfoliate” away food waste, and it can be contained by placing the stopper over the drain. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before removing the stopper. To finish, flush with hot water for a few minutes. 

Dispose of Garbage Disposal Smells

If you’re cleaning your sink out on a regular basis, learning how to deodorize a garbage disposal is super simple. Excess food and cooking liquids are the main culprits for sink and garbage disposal odors, so removing them is important for keeping your kitchen fresh. 


First, flip off the garbage disposal. To stay on the safe side, turn off the garbage disposal breaker, or unplug the system, if possible. Next, apply liquid dish detergent on a gritty sponge or cloth. Scrub beneath and around the baffle (the stopper or rubber splash guard) to get all into all of the nooks and crannies. If possible, remove the baffle and give it a thorough scrub down, ensuring no lingering grease remains. 


Continue around the top of the drain. Rinse thoroughly with warm to hot water, then sprinkle ¼ - ½ cup of oxygen bleach and 1 cup white vinegar down the drain. Baking soda and vinegar can also be a great substitution if you don’t have oxygen bleach on hand (use the same ratio for best results). Replace the rubber splash guard or stopper and let soak for 5-15 minutes. Then, turn on the garbage disposal and rinse with hot water for a few minutes. Repeat weekly. 


Heard of the “ice cubes hack”? If you’re wondering how to clean a clogged garbage disposal with ice, all you’ll need are a few ice cubes, and some rock salt or white vinegar. First, fill the disposal with ice cubes (a cup or two should suffice—and be sure to use cubes, not “chipped” or shaved ice). Next, add a cup of rock salt or a cup of vinegar over the cubes. Turn on the garbage disposal, and let cold water run from the faucet simultaneously.  


The breakdown of the cups of ice in the grinding chamber will help to solidify and extract excess fats, grease, and food residue from the garbage disposal. Flushing with cold water while trying the ice trick helps to loosen residue and turn grease solid for better removal. Finally, for a fresh finish, cut a few citrus peels into small pieces and toss down the disposal. Turn on the disposal system while running water from the faucet. Keep in mind the citrus peel won’t do much to actually clean the disposal, but the oil from the peels will help to add a fresh odor.  


Got extremely stubborn odors and grime that just won’t budge? If you’re wondering how to clean a garbage disposal with bleach, it’s generally best to avoid it if possible. Chlorine bleach is quite corrosive and can damage or erode your pipes and sink. However, if you’ve cleaned repeatedly using the methods above and still aren’t achieving your desired results, a chlorine bleach rinse can be a last-ditch solution. Wear gloves to protect your hands and take care to dilute the bleach with water—use 1 part bleach to 3 parts water, and don’t use more than ⅓ cup bleach. Pour the solution down the drain, then flush with hot water to rinse. 

Cleaning sink with cleaning cloth

 Dos And Don’ts of Sink & Garbage Disposal Cleaning 


  • Do clean your garbage disposal and sink using the recommended methods above on a weekly basis to prevent food particles from building up and causing odors. 
  • Do run water (ideally hot water) through your garbage disposal for a minute or so after use. This helps to rinse away excess waste, preventing stinky situations 
  • If you don’t have time for a deep clean, Do spritz down your sink and disposal with your favorite daily cleaning spray and wipe with a clean towel or cloth. 
  • Do make sink cleaning part of your usual dishwashing routine! If you’re used to tidying up the sink and garbage disposal regularly, less odor-causing waste will accumulate over time and you won’t have to deep clean as often. 
  • Don’t pour cooking oils or grease down the sink or disposal, as these can accumulate and cause major clogs. Instead, pour into a separate container and toss in the trash 
  • Don’t pour undiluted chlorine bleach directly down the sink or disposal—this will cause more harm than good! Instead, follow our tips above for using oxygen bleach and white vinegar to clear away residue. 
  • Don’t forget to clean the garbage disposal splash guard or stopper on a regular basis, as odor-causing grease can accumulate on its surface. 
  • Don’t treat the garbage disposal or sink drain like an extra trash can for large amounts of food waste. Instead, scrape excess residue from plates or pots and pans directly into the regular trash, then rinse and clean in the sink.