How To Clean Your Garbage Disposal

You’re just 7 simple steps away from a zesty fresh garbage disposal.

Ah, the garbage disposal — it’s like the toilet of the kitchen. You flush your waste down and don’t give it a second thought.

Until it starts to emit a stink, often caused by built-up slime, gunk, and bits of food waste that didn’t make it all the way down the pipe into the grinding chamber. This dark, moist climate is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and therefore requires some routine maintenance to keep it fresh and functional.

To clean your garbage disposal, you’ll need:

Lemon (citrus) peels
Baking soda
Rock salt
Ice
Vinegar
Mild dish detergent
Scrub brush or toothbrush

  1. Disconnect power to the garbage disposal first. The garbage disposal is usually plugged into the wall somewhere beneath the sink. If you can’t find the outlet it’s plugged into, turn off the circuit switch that generates electricity for the sink area. Make sure the power to the device is deactivated by flipping the on/off switch before attempting to clean. Seriously, do this. A clean garbage disposal is not worth losing a finger.
  2. Shine a flashlight down the drain and into the garbage disposal to check for miscellaneous objects that may have become lodged in the macerator blades (ie: bones, bottle caps, silverware, wedding rings). Don’t stick your hand into the chamber. Instead, use a pair of tongs or needle-nose pliers to remove any inappropriate objects trying to hitch a ride down the drain.
  1. To clean the blades, dump a full tray of ice cubes and ½ cup of rock salt into the drain. Restore power to the garbage disposal and run the faucet and disposal at the same time, making a salty drain smoothie that will knock the grime-free from the disposal blades.
  2. Cut power to the disposal again, then add one cup of vinegar and ½ cup of baking soda into your drain, which will cause a fizzy reaction. Let this mixture sit for about 15 minutes, where it will ultimately kill any bacteria growing in the drain and disposal. Try to steer clear of chemical cleaners for your drain, since you’ll risk them spraying back up and into the air, contaminating the area around your sink when you run the disposal again. Vinegar and baking soda are natural, eco-safe, cheap, and strong enough to do the job. They are also excellent at neutralizing odors.
  1. Mix some more vinegar and baking soda into a paste. Using a toothbrush or a scrub brush, scour all rubber parts of the garbage disposal’s neck, splash guard and/or sink stopper thoroughly. The outside bits of the disposal are just as likely to have bacteria as the inside.
  2. And now, the grand finale. Restore power to the garbage disposal. Plug the drain and fill your sink ¾ of the way full with warm, soapy water. Then unplug the drain and run the disposal while the water drains. Glug glug glug.
  3. The cherry on top: Send some citrus peels (not entire chunks of fruit) down the drain while running the disposal for a fresh, zesty aroma.

Is it hard to clean a garbage disposal?

As gross as all that sounds, cleaning your garbage disposal is surprisingly easy. All you need are some basic household items and about 20 minutes. And during a majority of that estimated time, you’re letting your cleaning mixture sit and do the work for you while you scroll through your phone or take the dog for a quick walk.

How often should you clean your garbage disposal?

It depends on how much you use it, but for the household that uses the garbage disposal relatively often, you should aim to clean it weekly. A rule of thumb: if you’re smelling it, you’re not doing it enough.

Happy cleaning.

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