How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Your garbage disposal might seem like a convenient gadget that helps get rid of food waste in an instant, but did you know that it can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and mold?

Food debris can start to build up in this nifty device and cause your sink to smell if it’s not cleaned correctly. However, many people don’t know how to clean a garbage disposal.

Thankfully, there are many quick and efficient ways to clean your disposal with simple ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen!

How to clean your garbage disposal with ice

Ice cubes can be used to sharpen the blades of garbage disposal in a non-harmful manner. This is great for your garbage disposal because it allows the blades to continue functioning at their best.

Ice in SInk

Step 1: Add ice and salt

Fill the disposal with ice cubes. Measure one cup of salt and pour it over the ice cubes.

Step 2: Run the disposal

Turn your water on cold and run the disposal for 30 seconds. Feel free to repeat if needed.

As ice cubes break into chunks while the disposal is on, they can grab any lingering food or waste already stuck in the disposal, helping clear it out entirely while also sharpening the blades.

How to clean a disposal with soap and water

Using soap and water to clean your disposal is a simple and effective way to get your disposal sparkling clean in minutes. Here is how to clean a garbage disposal using these basic ingredients with a sponge.

How to clean a garbage disposal and sink with soap and water

Step 1: Disconnect power

Take safety precautions to turn off your power to prevent the disposal from accidentally turning on. Unplug your garbage disposal under the sink or turn the disposal breaker off in your apartment’s breaker box.

Step 2: Apply dish soap to the sponge

Apply the desired amount of dish soap to a sponge to prepare to clean the baffle and grind shaft.

Step 3: Clean baffle and grind shaft

Scrub the sponge under the baffle to get between the folds and then clean your sponge to remove excess mess from the disposal. Clean around the grind chamber and rinse the sponge again. Repeat this process until there is no more debris.

If you only clean your disposal with soap and water every few weeks, your disposal should be in great shape! If you want a deeper clean and deodorization of your drain, then you should add the additional steps we go over to your routine.

How to unclog a drain with baking soda and vinegar

Vinegar and baking soda are excellent cleaning partners because of the acid-based reaction they make when combined. Both can do wonders on their own, but their chemical reaction to each other can help unclog a drain or eat away kitchen grime.

Baking soda and vinegar on a spoon

Step 1: Add baking soda

Sprinkle about a half cup of baking soda into your disposal. When you combine baking soda with vinegar the acidity kills bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

Step 2: Add vinegar

Add one cup of vinegar into the drain. You'll see the ingredients interact immediately. Cover with your drain stopper to control the reaction and wait one minute.

Step 3: Rinse with hot water

Turn on some hot water and run it down the drain while the disposal is on for a few seconds to rinse away your DIY cleaner.

Are baking soda and vinegar safe for garbage disposals?

Vinegar is very acidic and can damage the rubber parts inside the garbage disposal if used excessively. With this in mind, it is best practice to use this method sparingly.

For extra dirty garbage disposal, you can leave the baking soda in there for a few more minutes before adding the vinegar. It's safe sitting in there for up to an hour, and the whole time it's in there, it's soaking up more and more bacteria.

How to deodorize a garbage disposal

Lemons are such a versatile tool in the kitchen. Not only do they enhance a million recipes, but their high level of acidity attacks bacteria. Their scent is also so fresh and clean, making lemons super helpful at removing unwanted odors.

How to clean a garbage disposal with a lemon

Step 1: Add citrus peels

Peel a citrus fruit and break the peel up into small pieces. Add the peels to the garbage disposal.

Step 2: Add cold water

Turn on cold water and make sure it is running down the drain.

Step 3: Run the disposal

Turn on the garbage disposal and let it run for several minutes.

Lemons are the best member of the citrus family when it comes to fighting bacteria and odor, but if you want to change up the smell coming from your sink, throw in a few chunks of orange or lime. Any citrus fruit can change up the scent.

How often should you clean your garbage disposal?

An essential step to keeping your garbage disposal’s smell at bay is knowing how often you should clean it. The general rule of thumb is to clean your disposal once a week. While it may feel like a lot, each cleaning method above only takes a few minutes.

Thankfully, if you maintain and monitor what goes in your disposal, you can clean it every two to three weeks instead. Staying on top of cleaning your appliance means you avoid more strenuous cleaning when the odor coming from your sink is too much to handle.

Additional tips for cleaning your disposal

The best way to stop odor and debris buildup is to take steps beforehand to keep your disposal clean. Here are some additional tips for cleaning your disposal.

  • To avoid gunk build-up or odors from your garbage disposal make sure you run your water before, during and after usage. Bad smells usually happen from food not exiting the disposal all the way. Having the water on helps food to move through the pipes after it leaves the disposal.
  • Avoid putting fibrous vegetables and starchy items down the drain. We recommend putting these types of things in the trash to avoid issues.
  • To get all of the food particles out of your garbage disposal, make sure to run it longer than you think you should. This will help get those small pieces of food down the drain and out of the disposal.

Maintain a clean garbage disposal

Thankfully garbage disposals are long-lasting appliances and are generally low maintenance. Now that you have the knowledge on how to clean a garbage disposal, you’ll be able to keep your gadget free of the build-up. With an easy clean-up every few weeks, you should have a clean and odor-free disposal year long!

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Alex HeinzAlex Heinz is a writer with experience in a variety of industries from tech to lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, TechCo and PopSugar. She's lived in a handful of large cities including New York and San Diego, giving her first-hand knowledge of the ins and outs of renting. In her spare time, you can find her exploring new hikes with her dog.

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