Garbage disposals are exceptionally handy additions to almost all modern kitchens. As convenient as they are, though, they do have a few issues that you'll need to address to ensure you don't create extra work for yourself. One problem that many Columbus homeowners have to face is what to do when their garbage disposal starts to smell like the garbage it's supposed to be disposing of. The good news is that there are plenty of strategies to both address and prevent this issue. Here are a few tips from Apex Plumbing, Heating, and Air Pros to help keep your kitchen smelling fresh and clean.
How Garbage Disposals Work
If you were to take apart your garbage disposal, you'd probably be surprised to find that there are no blades inside. Instead, there is a metal ring, called a grind ring, that circles the inside of the disposal. Below this ring is a metal plate attached to two or more impellers. When the disposal runs, the plate spins and flings the food scraps against the grind ring. This process reduces the scraps to tiny pieces that are unlikely to clog your drain. During normal operation, this is an effective method to eliminate a variety of food scraps. The problem lies in the fact that this process requires multiple parts to work together, and each of these parts has small spaces where food can collect.
What Causes a Garbage Disposal to Smell?
As a garbage disposal grinds food waste, it's able to flush most of the waste through the grind ring and down the drain. However, there will often be small amounts of waste left behind. This is especially true if you put items down the drain that are difficult for a disposal to grind. Over time, these small scraps of food will begin to decompose. As the bacteria enjoy a free meal in your garbage disposal, they emit gases that will cause your entire kitchen to stink. Even if you don't have small scraps causing an odor, some surfaces in your disposal may develop a thin layer of waste that will have the same effect as the small scraps trapped in hard-to-reach locations.
Cleaning Your Garbage Disposal
When you are cleaning your garbage disposal, we encourage you to be thorough. With your disposal turned off, take time to clean the portions of the equipment that you can see from the top. All you need is some dish soap and an old dishrag or a heavy-duty scrub brush. Doing this quick process may be all you need to remove the smell. If the smell still lingers, though, you'll want to work to clean the inside of the disposal. Since you can't reach the inside of the disposal without taking it apart, you'll need to force water through it. To do this, plug the drain, fill your sink with water, and then open the drain with the disposal running. You can also send ice mixed with salt down the drain to clean the inner surfaces of the disposal using friction.
Protecting Your Garbage Disposal
To avoid further problems with your garbage disposal, it's important to maintain it regularly. One way to avoid rotting buildup is to pour some baking soda into your disposal and follow that with some white vinegar. The gases released during the reaction between these two substances will help kill germs, remove foul odors, and prevent rotten buildup, all of which will keep your kitchen smelling fresh. There are also chemical cleaners on the market that you can put through your disposal to clean the internal components using both chemical and mechanical processes. At Apex Plumbing, Heating, and Air Pros, we recommend keeping up with these processes even if you don't use your disposal very often. You don't want to arrive home one day to find a smelly surprise.
Foods to Avoid Putting in Your Disposal
Another important way to protect your disposal is to be choosy about what you put in it. Certain substances just aren't meant to go through a garbage disposal. Grease is one of the most important substances to avoid. When hot grease meets the cool surfaces of the disposal, the grease will congeal and stick to the sides of the unit. This solidified grease will serve as a magnet for various food particles that will then rot in your disposal. You should also avoid celery. This is because celery has long fibers that can jam the garbage disposal and cause clogs. Additionally, you'll want to avoid hard items like coffee grounds and eggshells. These can quickly dull the grind ring so that it can't dispose of other food waste effectively.
Foods That Help Keep Your Disposal Clean
While there are some foods you shouldn't put through your garbage disposal, there are some foods that can help to keep the equipment clean and fresh. Great items to put down your disposal are peels from limes, lemons, and oranges. These citrus peels have natural antibacterial properties and will leave your disposal with a pleasant citrus scent. Another food to put through your disposal, in certain circumstances, is eggshells. Although eggshells were mentioned in the list of things to not put through your disposal, there is one circumstance when it can be helpful. If you first remove the membrane from the inside of the eggshells, you can put them through the disposal. Without a sticky membrane, eggshells can provide a great way to get some mechanical cleaning done inside your unit.
Other Sources of Foul Odors
After working hard to clean and freshen your disposal, you should know what to do if you're still smelling foul odors from your sink. It's possible that your sink drain has food particles lodged somewhere along the drain pipe. In addition to causing a foul odor, these particles can cause clogs if left untreated. To remove them, you can put some baking soda down your drain and follow it with boiling water. You can also use a drain snake to physically remove any particles that might be causing problems. In rare instances, you may need to remove the P-trap and manually dislodge physical blockages from the pipe. One other possible problem that can lead to a stinky drain is a clogged sewer vent. This is the vent that allows sewer gases to escape your drain system without a chance of entering your home. You'll want to address this problem quickly because sewer gases can be dangerous if they are allowed to accumulate.
Taking Care of the Details
At Apex Plumbing, Heating, and Air Pros, we believe in helping our customers with both the big problems and small details of their home's plumbing systems. That's why we're ready to assist with clogged drains, burst pipe repair, water heater installation, bathroom remodeling, gas leak detection, slab leak repair, and much more. Since our founding, we've been committed to performing high-quality work for every customer. That's one reason why we consistently receive five-star reviews from individuals just like you. To learn more about fixing a smelly garbage disposal, contact us at Apex Plumbing, Heating, and Air Pros today.