Your kitchen is likely home to a lot of great smells. But if a not-so-savory odor seems to be sticking around even well after you’ve cleaned out the fridge and wiped every surface, the issue may be coming from your garbage disposal. Though they’re technically self-cleaning, sometimes food and other debris often get stuck on the grinder blades, leading to an overgrowth of bacteria and a lingering phantom odor.
Once you’ve pinpointed that the gross smell is coming from the garbage disposal, it’s time to take action. While you can go the baking soda route (pour two cups of baking soda into the garbage disposal followed by a half cup of vinegar), it’ll mostly just cause a satisfyingly fizzy reaction—but may not get to the route of the issue. Instead, try something that’s made specifically for the sink: dish soap.
First, plug your sink with a stopper, then let it fill with about six inches of hot water, adding about a ½ cup of dish soap to the mix. Unplug it, and let the disposal run until all of the water is down the drain, which completely flushes it through. The dish soap will cut through grease and caked-on debris the same way it does with your dishes—all without harsh chemicals. (For brownie points, scrub your sink with a pot brush before you drain the mixture.)
Then, to help sharpen the blades and loosen up any leftover debris, throw a dozen or so ice cubes and a handful of kosher salt down the disposal. The ice helps knock food off the grinder while the salt scrubs the sides.
The odor should temper fairly quickly, but you can also finish with a whole lemon (cut into quarters) – always a good idea and will help banish weird smells. Then, run hot for about 60 seconds with the disposal on. Just make sure the water is hot—not boiling. Oftentimes, the smells accumulate because we’re not running our garbage disposals for long enough—instead of flicking it on and off just as quickly. This should help all food particles filter through it completely.
Hopefully, the only other mystery smells coming from your kitchen are the result of someone else cooking a great meal for you!