How To Clean a Garbage Diposal

Cleaning a garbage disposal is something that usually depends on what is wrong with it. There are a few commercial garbage disposal cleaners out there in which case you should follow the directions. However, many times these cleaners contain harmful chemicals, are expensive, and leave the kitchen smelling bad. A garbage disposal is something that is easy to clean with things you probably have around the house or that you can pick up inexpensively at the store. It will leave your kitchen smelling clean and make your garbage disposal work a whole lot better.

*One very important note. Never stick your hand into a garbage disposal that is plugged in. If something dangerous drops down the disposal, look for the outlet under the sink, unplug the disposal and make sure that your hand will fit in and out of it before you attempt to remove items. Anything metal is dangerous for the disposal and should be removed, but safety first! 

Step 1

Clean the rubber flaps. There is a rubber piece with several flaps that fits over your garbage disposal. Often times, this is a place that catches food, grows mold, gets slimy, and smells. If you can remove this, then clean it with hot soapy water. Wash the ridges where it sits in the drain and continue. If yours doesn't remove, then wash with a soapy sponge, brush, or old toothbrush by pulling up each flap and scrubbing underneath as well as anywhere else you can reach.

Step 2

Loosen gunk and sharpen your blades. If you have ever looked into your garbage disposal, chances are you saw a mess of black sliminess or food bits. If you haven't looked, just think about what goes down there. Not only does food get stuck down there, but minerals from the water build up and the blades work hard chopping up a wide range of items. You have a few choices for this first step of the cleaning.

  • Fill the disposal with ice cubes so that it is overflowing some. Turn on the cold water and then the disposal. The gunk will loosen and the blades will be sharpened by the ice.
  • Rock salt can also do the trick. You don't need quite as much. Add 1-2 cups of rock salt and make sure the cold water is running.

*It is important to never run the disposal with hot water running or without water running. The motor gets hot and can actually burn up while running. 

*If you use your disposal on a regular basis, this should be done about once a month. Or when smells get bad.

Step 3

Clear away debris, clean mineral deposits, and kill bacteria. It may sound like a lot of work to do all of that in one big sweep, but it isn't too hard. It is also a little fun and the kids will enjoy doing it as well! Add two to three cups of baking soda to the disposal. Slowly dump lemon juice or vinegar down the disposal. Often times, this takes about one whole bottle of lemon juice or one gallon of distilled white vinegar (which costs about a $1-2 either way). The combination fizzes and will fill the sink quickly so don't go too fast. You may also see bits of food or brown or black gunk come up. That is all normal. (The fizzing is the part that is fun!)  The vinegar smell will go away shortly, especially if you follow the rest of the steps. However, the lemon juice adds a fresh clean lemon scent to the kitchen.

*This should be done once a month. 

Step 4

Flush the line. Sometimes food builds up behind the disposal, which can then come up through and smell horrible. It is a good idea to flush the line and make sure everything is clean. To do this, fill the sink with cold water (if you wish, you can add a little bleach or vinegar). After the sink is full, continue running cold water, remove the plug, and turn the disposal on. This will rush water through the disposal, which will flush the line behind it.

*It is a good idea to do this after you use the disposal a lot or about twice a month. 

Step 5

Freshen the disposal. As a final step, it is a good idea to freshen the disposal. This is easy to do. Simply cut up one piece of citrus including the peel, place the pieces in the disposal, turn on the cold water, and then the disposal. The citrus will smell good and leave a fresh clean scent in the drain. Lemons and limes work best, but there is something refreshing about oranges. You can pick your favorites or use something different each time.

*This should be done once a week for a very fresh drain that smells good, leaving your kitchen smelling clean and refreshing. 

A dirty stinky disposal can leave the entire kitchen smelling rank. This doesn't have to be the case. You can have a clean drain with a small amount of work, a few all-natural cleaners, and without breaking the bank. Here's to great-smelling kitchens!


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