How to Clean a Garbage Disposal That Smells

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Mary-Alyce

Subject: Stinky garbage disposal

The first step to clean a stinky disposal is to thoroughly clean the underside of the rubber splash gasket......simply wiping with paper towels is usually sufficient. You will be amazed at the black "gunk" accumulated on the underside of the splash gasket.

Sharon

Subject: How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Don't forget that lemon is caustic. Thoroughly rinse the chamber for at least one minute or even throw some more ice down to make sure no lemon bits are left. We ruined a unit using lemon to clean it AS THE MANUFACTURER RECOMMENDED. Of course, they recommended that to sell us another disposal in five years. The plumber who installed the new unit set us straight, even though it meant less business for him. Good guy.

E Keefe

Subject: Holy smokes

My sink drain didn't smell but for all the times I had to stick my fingers in there to retrieve something small that accidentally went down, I felt goo and muck. I did this just for the heck of it-- not thinking my drain was THAT dirty.
And OH MY GOODNESS. What the heck just happened? Not only did it work, but clearly I needed to do that years ago! After 4 trays of ice cubes, brown disgusting water came overflowing (for what seemed to be a long while) into my sink and down it went. I stood there in shock (for what also seemed to be a long while haha).
Thank you so much! I'm so glad I read this-- apparently my sink needed this desperately. Genius!!

Kasey

Subject: Ice cube method

Cannot believe this worked. Since we had tenants in our home our disposal has smelled so bad that I've stopped the sink so the odor wouldn't come out. Thank you to the commenter that warned about the nasty water rising up. Immediately afterwards we have NO STINK! Thank you!

Holly

Subject: Kewwwwwl!!

I was Googling how to clean the rubber disposal "gasket" as it always seems to have crud on the underside and I stumbled across this article...

Since I had an ice-maker FULL of ice, I gave this a go just out of curiosity really...

OMG!! The sledgey thick brown water that started emerging actually scared me for a minute! I thought I had burst a pipe of ickiness somehow because it was rising like a clogged toilet and even came up from the other side for a few seconds...

I stopped everything and let the water drain down a few seconds to regain my composure.

Then I turned the water bak on and even added another tupperware bowl of ice.

It was so awesome to see it all come up and then wash away! Where the heck was all that gunk sitting daily??

Ewww!

Great article, thanks a ton!
Adding this to my "toolbox"!

Carol

Subject: Clogged comode

Thank you all and God bless all for the dawn/hot water clogged comodes information.
Had both of mine clogged, being under the weather I was in no mood to run to the store. Having nothing to lose, I decided to try your methods. IT WORKED!!! In less than a minute it was cleared. Now I'm going to try the ice cubes in the disposal.
I am 78 and you saved me $ by not having to pay for a plumber.
THANK YOU

Annie

Subject: This method definitely helped

This method definitely helped release stored grime and reduced the smell; however, my disposal died mid-cycle while putting the second tray of ice cubes in. This is probably due to my disposal being almost 12 years old, rather than the ice cube method. Time for a new one!

Tom

Subject: might not have died

You might have just tripped the reset on the unit.
Look at bottom of disposal unit for red reset button. Push and try again.

Brandey

Subject: Dead frog in disposal

Will the ice cube method work on a prwtty good size dead rotting frog that is in my disposal? I have no idea how it got there...im going to have nightmares about how this could have happened. Super grossed out

Shane Wolcansek

Subject: Dead Frog?

Brandey, if you have a frog inside the disposal, as gross as it will be, you need to remove it first. The disposal isn't likely to be able to grind it up without leading to trouble. It will be a better bet to remove it first.

DIANE

Subject: amazing!!!!

WOW!!! I HATE stink!! my garbage disposal was stinking BAD BAD for days. I tried everything. I even stuck a sponge and toothbrush in and scrubbed with bleach and comet. The stink was so bad I wanted to pewk!!! I was about to go to home depot and buy a new one but I googled how to clean my disposal. Gave it one last try! The ice trick was AMAZING!!!!! So much crud oozed up then it sucked out. NO MORE SMELL!!! Crazy!
THANK YOU!!!

SoCalGal

Subject: Whhoohoo! This worked!

I tried cleaning with salt, baking soda, and bleach. Still had this awful smell like dirt. Then I tried ice cubes. The 1st time it seemed to work a little. The 2nd time I left the ice cubes in for about 2 min then started the motor with water. Whooohoo! Brown water came out into the sink! And voila, the smell is gone. I love the internet.

fred

Subject: does hp matter?

Does the number of horsepower matter? I noticed my disposal is 1/3 hp and I frequently get bad smells. I've used the ice trick (and lemon) and it works but it seems to be working less and less and it seems like I have to put ice in it everyday to get the smell to go away. I've been in this house a little less than 2 years and I have had to do this since I moved in. In my previous house, the disposal was 3/4 hp (or maybe even 1 hp, can't remember) but I do know that I never once had a smell issue in 5.5 years. Is it just a weak engine that is not pushing the food through?

Thanks

mark

Subject: Smell

The ice and cold water really did work, wow. I have tried many different things over the years and this is the easiest.
thank you,
Mark

Diane Brooks

Subject: Sludge and Garbage Disposal

My kitchen drain was smelling and my dishwasher was cleaning poorly. I cleaned the spray arms, but the problem remained. I tried the ice cubes with cold water running into the drain while running the garbage disposal. Wow! Nasty, sludgy water backed up into the sink. Scary stuff! Then, whoosh! The water drained out. The smell was gone. I am hoping this was causing the difficulties with the dishwasher and the technique resolved both problems. Fingers crossed!

Calvin

Subject: Worked like a charm

I read this, along with suggestions from other sites and went to work. Rather than a broom handle, I used a handle of a wooden spoon that I rare use to get the disposal spinning again (it had jammed up and failed to work PLUS it smelled baaaddd).

Once I got the disposal slightly moving, I heated up water to a boil in my tea kettle and poured it down the disposal. After about 8 tea kettles full, the smell seemed to dissipate but there was more work to be done.

I have the good fortune of having an ice maker in my freezer and it was full. First, I stuffed the drain with ice to cool down the drain and disposal. After about 10 minutes, I turned on my disposal and slowly turned on the cold water.

Once all the ice was gone, I slowly put ice cubes into my disposal before really throwing handfuls of ice cubes in and increasing the amount of cold water. Suddenly, brown water came streaming out of the drain as the drain appeared to be breaking down the sludge stuck in my disposal. Eventually, the disposal kicked into a higher gear....I knew sledge was breaking down. And so was the smell.

The smell was an issue. But the fact that the disposal was stuck and hadn't worked properly in a number of months (as well as draining slowly) was a much bigger issue.

All fixed now!!!

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Answers

?

First - NOT full septic tank - if that was the case you would be getting backup of sewage into the lowest drains in the house, and possible very slow flushing or refusal to drain out of the bowl - the opposite of your case.

Second - I assume you are the owner. If a renter or on a lease, this type of problem may be the responsibility of your landlord, depending on the terms of your lease or rental agreement.

OK - two possible situations here - low water in BOWL, or low water in TANK. I am assuming your toilet flushes OK, with adequate water to clean out the bowl, and that it is a typical type toilet with a tank sitting on the back of the bowl. If this is not the case and it is a designer toilet or looks like those at public restrooms (no tank), then the BOWL answers still apply if it is initially refilling OK, but if not enough refill water coming in at all then call a plumber.

First, low water in the toilet BOWL case. If the water in the toilet BOWL is low after flushing, I see four likely causes, in order of most likelihood -

1) the fill valve is not putting enough water into the toilet bowl. If you take the top off the tank, you will see a small hose (typically black plastic) coming from the fill valve (a vertical mechanism, usually at left side of tank, that the incoming water tube or flex hose connects to the bottom of on the bottom side of the tank). While the tank is refilling after a flush, a steady but not large flow of water flows through this fill tube and down into a vertical pipe or tube (usually brass or plastic and about 3/4 inch diameter, which stands almost full height of tank). The small tube puts water into this pipe, from where it flows into and refills the toilet bowl. This is also the overflow tube, which keeps the tank from overflowing if the fill valve fails to shut off. If the fill valve has a problem or the fill tube has a blockage, it may not be letting enough water into the bowl. Also, check the tube is actually pointed down into the overflow tube - if the clip came loose, rusted away or broke, then it may just be filling the toilet tank rather than the bowl. Check that a steady flow (will not be a real foreceful jet) of water is flowing out of this tube into the overflow pipe while the toilet tank is refilling. You should also see the bowl filling up at this time. If it come in but does not fill high enough because it does not run long enough, some fill valves have an adjustment - check fill valve manufacturer website for instructions. Others just have to be replaced - doable if you are handy at home repairs (see web videos on how to do it), or call a plumber for probably about $150-200 to replace fill valve (have him replace the flapper valve at same time if you get this done).

2) there is something like a rag or string caught in the trap (the waste passage within the toilet body itself) which is slowly wicking the bowl water down the drain - would be solved by a good snaking. If this is the case, the bowl will fill fully after flushing, but then slowly (typically many minutes to hours) drain down to just filling the start of the oval or round drain passageway where the waste passage starts to curve up into the toilet body.

3) blocked sewer vent pipe (which vents sewer gas and lets air into the sewer system so when you flush the traps in drains and toilets and such do not get sucked dry by the vacumn caused by the exiting flow. If this is the problem, then several drains in your house may have the same problem, or drain slowly. When you flush, the water will drain totally down the pipe and almost all the water in the bowl and trap will go down the drain too, typically with a gurgling sound for a few seconds at the end as the air seal is broken in the trap, then a small amount of water will flow back from the trap into the bowl, leaving you with water in the entrance curve to the trap but nowhere near normal height in the bowl - maybe not even enough to fill the entrance of the drain passage.

4) a crack in the toilet, letting water gradually leak out of the bowl onto the floor or into the subfloor. If this has been going on for long at all you should see water on the floor, or water coming out in the ceiling downstairs, or in the basement or crawl space under the toilet.

Case 2 - the problem is low water in the toilet TANK - since this is a sudden problem, two likely causes:

1)  the float arm has corroded or the float setting has moved. Look in tank for any broken part. You may have a black ball on the end of a metal or plastic arm connected to the fill valve (which is the part, normally at the left side of the tank, that the flexible or copper tubing comes into at the bottom of the tank), or it may be a sliding cylindrical float that slides up and down on the fill valve (typically all plastic) - see if it is broken or loose or alll corroded up (for the arm type). When you flush, this float hangs down (if lever type) or slides down the fill valve (cylinder type), opening the fill valve so fresh water comes in to fill the tank and bowl. As the tank fills it lifts this float, till at the proper elevation the bouyancy of the float shuts off the fill valve. If the setting on this float has changed then it will either cause the toilet to "run" continually because it is trying to overfill the tank (float shuts off at too high a level, so water is continuously flowing down into the overflow tube and into the bowl); or it will shut off too soon, causing only a partial tank fill. There are adjustments to adjust the float shutoff setting - typically an adjustment xxxx on the arm-type, and a slider stop clip on a small rod for the sliding type. See web videos on how to adjust this, or call a plumber.

2) your flapper valve (in bottom of tank, the part a chain or cord or rod connects to the flush handle, which opens it when you flush the toilet, leaks. If it leaks AND the fill valve is working, the tank level drops till the fill valve opens, then the tank refills. This repeats at intervals, with the tank refilling periodically even though it has not been flushed. May need new flapper valve or just a good wiping of the sealing surface to remove grit that is causin it to leak. If this is the problem you will have a slight flow of water into the bowl continually, and will probably see a slight ripple in the toilet bowl.

3) water is leaking out of the fittings or bolt holes on the bottom of the tank. If this is happening enough to make you notice low takn water level, the tank will refill periodically the same as if the flapper valve is leaking, plus you will have water on the floor and dripping off the bottom of the tank.

 

Fill valve and flapper valves each cost around $15 if you do it yourself (you can buy just replacement flapper for less if that is the problem and the matching seal is good, but that is rarely the case). A plumber call to replace both probably $150-200, ASSUMING your water shutoff valve (at the wall, under the tank, with a flex or copper tube coming fromit up to the toilet tank) will work.. If it will not shut off the flow of water, then add another $50-150 to replace that, depending on how it is plumbed and whether he has to cut into the wall to replace it (rarely required). If you do go and have a plumber do it, have both the fill valve and flapper valve (and flush handle, if aluminum or brass and corroded) replaced at the same time, as all tend to go out with age - every 10 years or so. You don't want to have to call the plumber to replace another part in just a year or two.

?

From the sounds of it, you have a clog between the floor drain and the connection to the city sewer (unless you have a septic tank).  The lower flow rates of sinks / showers / dishwashers probable don't cause a backup like the washing machine does.  A couple of suggestions.

1.  Snake the drain line with a spade tip snake, twisting the snake as you advance it.  This should clear the partial blockage.

 2.  If feasable, have your washing machine discharge into a utility sink and put a strainer on the drain to catch the clothing fibre (fibres and grease from the sink probably made the clog in the first place not to mention a garbage disposal).

3.  Replace your floor drain with one that has a backflow preventer (looks like there is a ping pong ball in it).

 Good Luck

?
It is not uncommon for a plumber to have to go get the parts necessary to repair and complete the job.  It is very hard to determine what the problem is over the phone and it is not until the repair process begins that the parts needed to resolve the problem is discovered.  It may also depend on if the plumber is using hourly rates or per job rates.  I would hope the time to get the parts would be minimal and the charge would be as well!
?

You have not said how old your house is, what normal water line life in your area is, whether it is leaking under the foundation or under the yard, etc. Cost depends a great deal on length of run, depth to dig to get below frost line, whether excavation will be through trees or other obstructions or open area, whether ground along route is too steep for a backhoe to work on, etc.

The first thing you really need to figure out is whether this is a spot repair issue, or a total line replacement issue. Your plumber should be able to help with that determination.  Very general rule of thumb - very old line from before 80's, if galvanized pipe, could be at its practical life and be ready for total replacement. Copper line generally last about 50-70 years UNLESS in a corrosive soil environment or if it has groundwater flowing actively past it, then can be 20-30 years. Plastic lines from the 60's to 80's vary a lot - from as little as 10 years to 50 plus dependingon brand. Plastic lines (PVC, HDPE, PE) from the 80's and later are expected to last 50-100 years - most have not failed yet, so no good handle on how long they will last.

An above-ground or under the slab line a plumber will do. Buried line outside he generally subcontracts to an excavator to dig and backfill the line, or asks you to get the excavation done.

 

If section needing replacement is under your floor slab or foundation, then a full replacement can be many thousands of $ depending on how many linear feet, and if interior flooring will have to be replaced or if you are on a bare concrete slab or bringing the new line in above-ground once you get through the foundation. A simple one-spot buried pipe repair (based on acoustic locating and precisely measuring the location of the problem) can be as little as $400 but probably more often $1000 or so - more if poor access like under a slab underneath stairs.

If the runs to be replaced are exposed in a crawl space or basement than it can run as little as $20/LF (probably $400 minimum job cost) to replace.

 

Outside line to the street can run from as little as $10/LF in areas where the pipe is shallow (no annual frost penetration) and in easy digging soil, to $250/LF or more if deeply buried, have to excavate through trees and heavy roots or boulders, steep topography, other utility interferences etc. Generally not more than $50/LF. Commonly, instead of digging up the old line, they select a new semi-parallel route from a good connection point for you existing interior water lines at the foundation (maybe not where it currently comes in, depoending on access) to the street main shutoff valve (called a "key box", taking a route between them that is easiest to get a backhoe into and minimizes destruction of valuable plantings or trees. A number of $50/LF is commonly tossed around as "normal" for this type of job, if exceeding 100 feet or so and digging and access conditions are normal.

If your connection is in the middle of the street rather than along your side in the yard, that can easily add $2-5,000 to the job, as the water utility usually has to do that part, and repair the street afterwards. In a major throughway street, even more because of traffic control, multi-agency permits, etc.

 

As always, find 2-3 responsible, well-recommended (Anglie's List ?) contractors, and then get bids. The route I would go is first go with your regular plumber to locate the leak (probably acoustically, by listening for the leak) and determine the scope of work needed, then if major, go for multiple bids.