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Why Does My Garbage Disposal Smell?

Garbage disposals grind food wastes into small particles, and the ground wastes are washed away into the main sewer system. But like any grinder, some of these food wastes can stick to your disposal.

The rotten smell from a garbage disposal is due to the rotten food waste stuck inside it. The food can be stuck in the crevices inside the garbage disposal, under the splash guard, and at the sink mount.

Further, rotten food is also found at leaks and down the drain pipeline.

Where does the rotting smell in your garbage disposal come from

The smell from a garbage disposal comes from rotten food waste. Given below are the common places where food can sit and rot;

Tiny crevices

A garbage disposal uses a fast-rotating impeller and a stationary shredder ring to break down food waste. There are tiny crevices under the impeller and other grinding components where food wastes can stick, refusing to be washed away by the running water. Being wet and ground, these food wastes will rot within a few days and start to smell. Theis is the primary source of the smell, and it is impossible to get rid of these smelly, paste-like particles without using some abrasive cleaning agents such as ice cubes.

garbage disposal smell: reason and sources
Smell coming out of the garbage disposal?

Under the splash guard

You will also find lots of food residue under the splash guard of your garbage disposal. When the food wastes are ground, they splash around in the garbage disposal chamber, and some of them stick to the underside of the splash guard. Even though you run water, the splash guards’ underside does not get wet, so the food waste will stay there rotting and smelling.

Sink mount

There can also be food residues where the garbage disposal meets the kitchen sink. This can happen if the sink mount is not tightened properly. This location is hard to reach without disconnecting the disposal. So the only practical solution is to make sure that the mount is tight and not leaking.


Leaks in your garbage disposal too can contribute to the rotting odor. Food particles will come out with the leaking water, and they will rot and smell. A disposal can leak from its side, top, and bottom. You can often fix the leak from the top using a sealant. The same can be done for the leaks from the side, often found where the elbow pipe meets the disposal outlet. One cannot fix a disposal leaking from the bottom, so the smell is not your primary concern in this case.

Sewer gases

In some cases, the smell may not be coming from the garbage disposal. There can be leaks or blocks further down the pipeline or damaged air vents, which will direct the sewer gases into your kitchen. In such a case, it is better to seek a professional’s assistance rather than trying to mend it yourself.

Depending on the type of food waste you add and the extent of the rot, your garbage disposal can smell like fish, dead animals, mold, rotten eggs, etc., the list is not exhaustive, but I can guarantee that these will never be nice. In addition, this can lead to seeing flies and gnats inside the disposal.

The only way to get the rotten smell out is to deep clean the garbage disposal regularly and run plenty of water while using it. Adding some dishwashing liquid to the disposal while grinding also helps to mitigate odors.

Further reading:

My name is Thomas Anderson, author of DisposalQA. I have 15 years experience working as a plumber in CA, and this is where I answer common questions about garbage disposals.