How to clean a garbage disposal

The words, “how to clean a garbage disposal” may sound like a tiring chore but it’s one chore you need to do if you want your kitchen to keep smelling fresh and your drain to work properly. Besides, as a big a task as it may seem, it’s not really that huge once you start doing it and practicing it regularly. Here are some tips on how to do this so as to help your device be in good shape.

1. Cleaning and Clearing your Garbage Disposal

When it comes to cleaning your garbage disposal, the golden rule is safety should always come first. So with that in mind, make sure that you turn off the power of your garbage disposal so that there would be zero chances for it to be turned on while you’re in the middle of your cleanup.

Mostly made of a metal cylinder with rotating impellers, new garbage disposal units also feature grinders on the sides or bottom of the metal cylinder that grinds down the food waste thrown into the machine. Either way though, it’s inevitable that a disposal’s interior can easily get covered with sludge and debris.

Even if you take pains in ensuring its protection, items that are not fit for disposing can still get into your drain. Some of these are glass, metal, rubber, large bones or very fibrous foods like corn husks, peach pits and artichoke leaves, all of which, need to be manually removed from your disposal before proceeding with the next steps of the cleaning process.

For removing stuck items that can’t be disposed, you can use tongs or pliers. If you can’t see, you can use the flashlight for better vision. As much as possible, don’t ever stick your hands inside the disposer to avoid any accidents but should this be unavoidable, double check that the power of your disposer is indeed turned off.

2. Cleaning Your Disposal by Flushing Water

A simple flushing with water can already help in taking out loose dirt or grime from your best garbage disposal. To do so, use its stopper, squirt some dish soap in and then run the hot water until there’s about 2-4 inches of water in the sink. Then, pull out the plug, turn the garbage disposal on and allow the water to be flushed away.

Take note that what’s indicated is HOT water, not cold. That’s because hot water helps to liquefy oil or grease in the drain; thereby allowing it to be flushed away. Moreover, using this flushing method for your drain is more effective compared to simply running tap water over it because it enables the whole garbage disposal to be rinsed out and purged of build-up in debris.

3. Cleaning Out Elements of Grinding with the Use of Ice and Rock Salt

Do you know that just 2 cups of ice cubes and a cup of rock salt can do wonders in eliminating malodor from garbage disposals? Just fill your garbage disposal with ice cubes and then pour salt over it. Let cold water run over it and then turn the garbage disposal on for about five to ten seconds.

So what’s in ice cubes and rock salt that produces such an effect? Their combination helps to take sludge and debris off the grinding components so that they can be flushed out in your drain. In case you have no rock salt, a cup of vinegar works well as a substitute.

4. Using a Scrub Brush or Old Toothbrush for Brushing

Another method of manual cleaning for the interior of your garbage disposal is the use of an old toothbrush or scrub brush that’s specifically made for garbage disposals. For easier seeing while you do your cleaning, it’s best to remove the screen from the drain’s top first.

5. Clearing your Drain Line

If you want to a good maintenance method of cleaning your garbage disposal, you need to periodically purge the drain line leading from the garbage disposal. Likewise, the line should also be purged once the sludge and debris have been removed as this sees to it that all food waste that have been dislodged will go down your drain.

To do this, plug your drain, fill your sink with 2-4 inches of water and then remove the drain plug and turn the garbage disposal on. What happens is all of the water that’s been collected will get pulled through the line. This clearing of drain line is especially necessary if you are disposing fibrous foods as this will ensure that all food particles will make their way down your drain.

6. Eliminating Odors with any of these Methods

a. Baking Soda and Vinegar

These two items are always found in your kitchen but do you know that they make a surefire odor-busting combination? Sprinkle a half cup of baking soda into the drain followed by a cup of white vinegar. You will note that the mixture will start to fizzle and bubble. Leave it for five to 10 minutes then rinse down with boiling water, while the garbage disposal is turned on.

b. Bleach

As we are mostly aware of, bleach makes a good agent in killing germs and will do good in freshening your drain but do keep in mind that you shouldn’t use too much of it because it can also harden grease within your garbage disposal; thereby making it hard to remove.

So to do this, dilute a tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach in a gallon of water and pour it slowly into your disposal. Leave the bleach for one to two minutes and then turn the hot tap water on and leave it running until the bleach is flushed away.

c. Borax

Another safe and natural product that has been proven to be effective in cleaning disposals and minimizing malodor is the use of Borax. Just put three or four tablespoons of this cleaning agent into the garbage disposal and leave it for one hour. After which, flush it away with boiling water.

d. Fruit Peels

Once you’re done clearing and cleaning your garbage disposal, it would be a really good idea to use fruit peels from oranges, lemons, limes or grapes to give a refreshing scent to your sink. Just place a handful of peels of any of these fruits, run cold water and then turn the garbage disposal on. The active ingredient, citric acid in the fruits, acts as a deodorizer and give a refreshing scent to your kitchen.

7. Maintaining your Garbage Disposal

a. Putting In Only Biodegradable Foods

Bear in mind that your garbage disposal is nothing like a trash can so you can’t throw in anything you please at it. To do away with damage and minimize time spent on cleaning, feed it with only biodegradable food scraps. Here are the items that are a complete no-no for disposals:

  • Fibrous food that could get tangled in the device like corn husks, artichokes, celery stalks and onion skins.
  • Starchy food items, such as potato peels, that may form thick pastes that could make the blades stick.
  • Expandable food items, like rice and pasta, which could expand from the water and as a result, clog the drains. Note that coffee grinds does the same effect of clogging.
  • However, you can grind up food items like egg shells, little fruit pits and small chicken and fish bones as these can all help in cleaning the garbage disposal.

b. Running your Garbage Disposal Longer with Every Use

If you notice that the grinding noises of your disposal has stopped, don’t turn it off just yet. leave it on with running water for some seconds to give time for other small particles in the disposal to be cleared away.

c. Avoiding Grease by All Means

Grease shouldn’t be poured into your garbage disposal because it can accumulate and slow down the motor; hence, making the drain clog. To do this, make sure to wipe off as much grease as you can from pots and pans with a paper towel before rinsing.

d. Cutting Large Food Items to Little Bits

It’s plain logic that if you cut large pieces of food into smaller pieces, you can help much in preventing much food from getting stuck into your garbage disposal. This is especially true for fruits and vegetables that may be hard to process for your device.

One More Wise Tip!

If you happen to be leaving your house or going out of town for a few days, it would be a prudent move to clean your garbage disposal before embarking on your trip because having a dirty garbage disposal left alone for sometime makes a good breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.


And there you have it… a helpful guide on how to clean a garbage disposal. As you may now realize, it’s not really that hard to do right? And it’s really just a matter of starting to do the chore that you deem as tedious. Once you have it down pat, it gets easier until it becomes a routinary part of your kitchen keeping and maintenance.