Jun 26, 2024


How to Clean a Garbage Disposal: A Step-by-Step Guide

Keep your kitchen fresh and functional.

You’re in the middle of making dinner, and as you rinse the veggies, a foul smell wafts up from the sink. You turn on the garbage disposal, but instead of a quick whir and a clean sink, you hear strange grinding noises. It’s time to face the inevitable — your garbage disposal needs a good cleaning.

Today, we’re going to tackle an unglamorous but super important task: cleaning your garbage disposal. It’s one of those chores that can slip our minds, but unpleasant odours won't let you forget for too long.  

Keeping it clean is essential for a fresh-smelling kitchen and a smoothly running sink. But don't worry — it’s easier than you might think.

Why should you clean your garbage disposal?  

Your nose will tell you when it's time for a refresh on the garbage disposal.  

Over time, food particles and grease can build up in your disposal. This can lead to bad odours, clogs, and potential damage to your pipes. Regular cleaning prevents issues and keeps your kitchen smelling fresh.

What you’ll need

Cleaning your garbage disposal is a breeze! All you need is a few common household supplies. Before starting, make sure you have these cleaning items handy:

  • Ice cubes
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon or lime
  • Dish soap
  • An old toothbrush
  • Tongs or pliers

Step-by-step garbage disposal cleaning guide

Step 1: Safety first

Always make sure your garbage disposal is off before you start cleaning. You don’t want any accidents! Double-check by switching it off at the wall or unplugging it if you can.

Even with the disposal in the off position, try not to put your hand down into the grinder. If you must, wear gloves and be careful of the sharp blades.

Step 2: Remove large debris

A homeowner cleans her smelly kitchen sink drain and garbage disposal.

Look inside your garbage disposal with a flashlight. If you see any large pieces of food or debris, use tongs or pliers to remove them. Never use your hands for this job. It’s safer to use tools to avoid any injuries.

Step 3: Clean the splash guard

The splash guard is the rubber flaps that cover the opening of the disposal. Food can get trapped under it, causing odours. Lift each flap and use an old toothbrush with dish soap to scrub off any gunk. Rinse thoroughly with water.

Step 4: Choose your method

Option A: Use ice cubes & salt

Pour about two cups of ice cubes into the garbage disposal. Add a cup of salt (rock salt or coarse sea salt works best). Turn on the cold water and then run the disposal. The ice and salt help to dislodge any stuck food particles and clean the blades.

Option B: Baking soda & vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are great natural cleaners.  

Pour half a cup of baking soda into the disposal, followed by a cup of vinegar. You’ll see it fizz and bubble—that’s the cleaning magic happening! Let it sit and bubble for about 10 minutes. This helps to break down any remaining gunk and neutralize odours.

After the baking soda and vinegar have done their job, flush the disposal with hot water for a few minutes. This helps wash away gunk and gives your disposal a thorough rinse.

Option C: Freshen with citrus

Cut a lemon or lime into small wedges and toss them into the disposal. Run the cold water and turn on the disposal. The citrus cleans your drain and leaves a nice smell. Plus, the natural oils from the peel help keep the blades sharp.

Step 5: Final scrub

For a final touch, mix a bit of dish soap with warm water. Use a scrub brush or an old toothbrush to give the inside of the disposal a gentle scrub. Be sure to get around the edges and under the splash guard. Rinse one last time with hot water.

Maintenance tips

A kitchen sink drain

Now that your garbage disposal is sparkling clean, here are some tips to keep it that way:

  1. Regular cleaning: Try to clean your disposal once a week using the methods we’ve covered.
  1. Mind what you dispose: Avoid putting fibrous foods (like celery or potato peels), grease, or large bones into the disposal. These can cause clogs and damage.
  1. Use cold water: Always use cold water when running your disposal. Cold water helps solidify any grease or oils, making it easier for them to be chopped up and washed away.
  1. Run it regularly: Even if you don’t use your disposal often, run it with cold water and a bit of dish soap every few days. This helps prevent rust and ensures everything stays in working order.

Troubleshooting common issues

A homeowner fixes pipes under the kitchen sink.

Even with regular cleaning, you might run into some issues. Here are a few common problems and how to fix them:

  • Clogs: If your disposal is clogged, try using a plunger first. If that doesn’t work, you might need to manually remove the blockage. Always remember to switch off the power before you plunge!
  • Strange noises: If you hear grinding or rattling noises, something might be stuck in the blades. Again, make sure the disposal is off before checking for any obstructions.
  • Bad smells: Persistent odours can sometimes be fixed by using a stronger cleaning solution like a commercial garbage disposal cleaner.

Deep cleaning pays off

Cleaning your garbage disposal might not be the most exciting chore, but it’s one of the most satisfying. With just a few household items and a bit of effort, you can keep your disposal running smoothly and your kitchen smelling fresh. Plus, regular maintenance helps extend the life of your disposal, saving you money in the long run.

So next time you’re tidying up the kitchen, don’t forget about your trusty garbage disposal. A little cleaning goes a long way in keeping your home in tip-top shape!

Looking for Garbage Disposal Repair in Alberta?

Rümi plumbers are the pros you can trust when it comes to garbage disposal repairs and maintenance. Check out Garbage Disposal Repair to book a service today.