5 Garbage Disposal Cleaner Ideas

By: Jennifer Merrigan

Your garbage disposal is an efficient way to get rid of food waste, but does it need to be cleaned and, if so, how often? Cleaning your garbage disposal is an essential part of keeping your kitchen clean and free of any odors. Keep reading to learn how to clean your garbage disposal and when you should clean it.

Garbage disposal cleaner methods

Before you begin cleaning your garbage disposal, you should take several safety precautions. Make sure that power to the garbage disposal is completely off, there’s no food or utensils stuck inside your disposal, and there are no children around while cleaning. Additionally, remember to avoid putting your hands down the garbage disposal as you clean.

Method #1: ice and salt

Materials

  • Ice
  • Rock salt

To clean your garbage disposal using the ice and salt method, reference the following steps:

  1. Fill your garbage disposal with ice.
  2. Pour a cup of rock salt down the disposal.
  3. Turn the disposal on for several seconds with the water running to grind up the ice and salt combination.
  4. Repeat steps as needed.

Method #2: citrus fruits

Materials

  • Citrus peels
  • Knife
  • Water and/or ice cubes

If you feel like your garbage disposal is particularly smelly, you might want to incorporate citrus fruits into your cleaning method. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use a sharp knife to slice citrus peels into small strips.
  2. Place the small pieces of citrus down the disposal.
  3. Add ice, if desired.
  4. Run the disposal for several seconds with cold water to bring up the citrus and ice solution.
  5. Repeat steps as needed.

Method #3: baking soda and vinegar

Materials

  • Ice cubes
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar

To clean the entire chamber of your garbage disposal (and remove any odors coming from your drain), create a solution made with baking soda and vinegar. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain of the garbage disposal.
  2. Slowly pour half a cup of white vinegar down the disposal.
  3. Place the stopper over the drain. The solution should fizz up and the sink stopper will trap the solution inside the disposal.
  4. Wait a few minutes. Then, remove the stopper and flush the disposal with hot water.

Method #4: dish soap

Materials

  • Dish soap
  • Hot water

Simply flushing out your garbage disposal with water can help remove dirt or grime that’s stuck.

  1. Place a stopper in your garbage disposal.
  2. Pour a tablespoon of dish soap down the drain.
  3. Run hot water until there’s around two inches of standing water in the sink.
  4. Remove the stopper and turn on the garbage disposal, allowing the water to flush through.

Method #5: scrub brush

Materials

  • Scrub brush
  • Toothbrush

One simple way to clean your garbage disposal is to physically clean your disposal with a scrub brush or toothbrush.

  1. Remove the screen of your garbage disposal, if possible.
  2. Squirt a small amount of dish soap down the drain.
  3. Reach in with a scrub brush or toothbrush to clean the area.
  4. Flush warm water down the drain and turn on your garbage disposal to remove any remaining residue.

How to unclog a garbage disposal

Sometimes, you may find that your garbage disposal is clogged. Before you call a plumber, here are a few steps you can take to try and unclog the garbage disposal on your own.

  1. Turn off the disposal.
  2. Determine what’s causing the clog. This can be because a utensil is stuck, there wasn’t enough water used when running the disposal, or a food item was sent down the disposal that shouldn’t have been.
  3. Use a flashlight to look into the disposal and identify what’s causing the clog. 
  4. If an object is found, use pliers to remove the object. Never put your hands in a disposal.
  5. Wait 15 minutes for the disposal motor to cool.
  6. Push the reset button located at the bottom of the disposal to turn on the garbage disposal.
  7. Run your garbage disposal to ensure the clog is gone.

Tips for deodorizing a garbage disposal

If you feel like your disposal is working properly but is giving off an odor, here are a few tips to get rid of that potent kitchen smell:

  • Consider throwing some cut citrus peels down the disposal. Not only will the citrus peels remove any odors, the citric acid from them will clean the garbage disposal blades.
  • Add a few drops of rosemary or lavender essential oil down the drain.
  • Pour apple cider vinegar down your kitchen sink or simply crush up some ice cubes and throw them down the disposal. This will clean the blades and help move along any food items that are stuck.
  • Dilute a tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water and slowly pour it down your garbage disposal. Let it sit for a few minutes before running hot water down the drain.

How to maintain your garbage disposal

If cared for correctly, your garbage disposal should last for at least 15 years. Here are a few tips to maintain your garbage disposal over the long term.

  • Use plenty of water each time you run your garbage disposal. You should never have your disposal running without the water running.
  • Always use cold water when running your disposal. While warm water won’t ruin your disposal, the temperature will liquefy the fats in your food, which could then adhere to the blades.
  • Avoid putting starchy, expandable, hard, or fibrous foods like seeds, popcorn kernels, celery, pasta, and eggshells down your kitchen sink drain. These foods don’t grind well in the disposal and can get stuck. If you’re unsure which foods can and cannot go down your garbage disposal, reference your disposal’s user manual.
  • Don’t pour grease or oil down your drain—this can form a build-up and cause the drain to clog.
  • Clean the inside of your disposal regularly using some of the garbage disposal cleaner options referenced above.

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