Sherry Westerfield of Owensboro recently shared a plea for help on social media. She wrote, “It’s been a while since I had a garbage disposal and this one stinks so bad! I’ve tried baking soda and vinegar, lemon and ordered Affresh garbage disposal tabs. It still smells so bad. Got any suggestions that I haven’t tried?”

Though I personally have a garbage disposal too, I am not a fan of them. In fact, I recall having one in my childhood home. Something happened to the drainage pipes and it spilled Roma tomato seeds into the soil outside our kitchen window. Suddenly, we were growing our own tomatoes because the disposal failed to destroy the seeds.

And that’s the root problem with garbage disposals. I personally think they’re more trouble than they’re worth. That was certainly the case when I had to call a plumber on Thanksgiving Day when I lived in San Diego, California. That particular disposal did not enjoy the leftover turkey it was asked to destroy.

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See, disposals work by “pulverizing” food into tiny particles so they can be flushed/washed down the drain. Problems occur when those particles get stuck. You guessed it! Like all food does, it starts to smell, sometimes MISERABLY! That’s exactly what’s happening at Sherry’s.

That baking soda and vinegar combination Sherry described seems to be the go-to recommendation from a variety experts. However, they suggest doing this weekly (or biweekly) to maximize its effectiveness.  According to, the process should look like this:

  • Pour a quarter cup of baking soda into the disposal
  • Pour a cup of distilled white vinegar into it
  • Allow the mixture to bubble for several minutes
  • Run cold water and turn on the disposal
  • Rinse the mixture down the drain

Consumer Reports offers up another remedy and it’s a pretty simple one. It’s ice ice, Baby!

Officials with InSinkErator (the most popular disposal brand and the brand we had when I was a kid) say that ice cubes will help break up food that’s stuck to the disposal and they should be your first line of defense. Honestly, until I saw Sherry's cry for help and started doing some research, I had never heard of that.

Well, it’s suggested that, with the disposal and faucet turned off, you should put six ice cubes in the chamber followed by 1 tablespoon of baking soda, three lemon slices and 1 teaspoon of bleach. Could this sound more like something MacGyver would do?

Then, you should add six more ice cubes. When everything is locked and loaded, you turn the disposal on until you hear the grinding of the ice stop. While the disposal motor is running, flush the system with cold water for about 30 seconds. That, my friend, should work. Well, according to the experts it should.

Luckily, my current garbage disposal is only a couple of months old and so far so good at the Benefield house. As for Sherry's situation, she tried all of the above and some more. She ordered a brush from Amazon and paired it with Affresh and Mr. Clean Freak!

Sherry Westerfield
Sherry Westerfield

She says, after all that, "It smells much better, but still has a slight musty odor." She adds, "The previous owners just did no maintenance to this home. If I continue to have an issue with the garbage disposal, I'll just replace it."

Heck, in Sherry's situation, that may be the best fix possible.

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Gallery Credit: Danielle Kootman


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