How do I Clean a Garbage Disposal?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

There are several techniques which can be used to clean a garbage disposal and to keep odors at bay. It is a good idea to clean a garbage disposal at least once a month, to prevent odor-causing buildup. If a garbage disposal has become especially smelly, some additional work may be needed to address the odor and get the disposal smelling fresh and clean again.

Ice cubes can be ground through a garbage disposal to clean off the blades.
Ice cubes can be ground through a garbage disposal to clean off the blades.

The best way to routinely clean a garbage disposal is to dump some baking soda into the disposal, and to follow with vinegar. If possible, the disposal should be capped for five or ten minutes to allow the baking soda and vinegar to do their work. Then, boiling water can be poured into the disposal to flush it out. This technique does not require turning the disposal on, and it can also be used to unblock a clogged disposal.

Baking soda followed by vinegar is an ideal way to clean a garbage disposal.
Baking soda followed by vinegar is an ideal way to clean a garbage disposal.

Some people prefer to use commercial garbage disposal cleaners to routinely clean a garbage disposal, which certainly works. It is also possible to use a bleach solution to freshen a garbage disposal. Another cleaning technique involves grinding ice cubes to clean grime off the blade. For bonus points, freeze ice cubes with lemon rinds, so that the oil in the rinds will be released when the ice cubes are ground up, creating a fresh scent.

A soapy water treatment once a week can help keep a garbage disposal clean.
A soapy water treatment once a week can help keep a garbage disposal clean.

In the case of a garbage disposal which has become odoriferous, some additional measures should be used. First, power to the garbage disposal should be cut, so that it cannot activate during the cleaning process. Next, if the rubber flap which covers the opening to the garbage disposal can be removed, it should be taken out and scrubbed to remove caked food. If the flap cannot be removed, it should be folded back and scrubbed as best as possible.

Next, it will be necessary to reach into the disposal itself to scrub away the food which may be caked along the sides. Pre-treating with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water can help to loosen caked material, making it easier to remove. Then, the garbage disposal can be flushed with boiling water to remove any remaining particles.

Some people find that a quick whirl with hot soapy water once a week helps to clean a garbage disposal. To do this, the garbage disposal should be plugged so that the sink can be filled with water and soap. Then, the plug is removed, and the disposal is turned on, churning the soapy water around inside the disposal to pull out any errant chunks of food which have been flung against the sides. It can be a good idea to cover the sink while doing this to prevent splash back.

A bleach solution can be used to freshen a garbage disposal.
A bleach solution can be used to freshen a garbage disposal.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

jehrsam

My garbage disposal runs, rotates, but grinds nothing. I discovered a partially "eaten" dish cloth in it and it hasn't functioned properly since. What can I do to clean the possible cloth fibers out of the grinder?

anon56782

My garbage disposal doesn't get dirty and never smells. I have always grind my egg shells in the disposal with dish soap and a little bleach. The egg shells scrape the sides, soap cleans, bleach disinfects.

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