How To Clean A Garbage Disposal & Deodorize It

Your garbage disposal might have a magical ability of making your leftovers disappear, but, food debris builds up and eventually makes your sink stink.

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal

Your garbage disposal has a seemingly magical way of making your leftovers disappear down the drain. But with each use, food debris builds up and eventually makes your sink stink. 

Even though they are normally self-cleaning, garbage disposals need a little love and attention from time to time. This keeps them in tip-top condition and prevents odors from forming.

There’s an easy remedy using simple ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen.

Here’s how to clean your garbage disposal when odors develop, plus general best practices for everyday use that will help keep the smells at bay

Why You Should Eliminate Garbage Disposal Odors

One of the worst things that can happen in your kitchen is a rancid odor. Even though the design of the garbage disposal pulverizes and removes kitchen waste, sometimes food particles can become trapped underneath the blades, on the sides of the machine and in the drainpipe.

This creates the perfect environment for mold and bacteria to grow and produce unpleasant odors and unhealthy spores. As the bacteria and mold persist and grow, so does the smell. Routine cleaning of your garbage disposal at least weekly will help to keep it odor-free. Always remember to run water while using your garbage disposal to help keep it clean and germ-free.

What You”ll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Abrasive kitchen sponge or scrub brush
  • Ice cubes
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Citrus fruit peels (optional)
  • Rosemary/lavender oil (optional)

How To Clean a Garbage Disposal

Step1: Turn off power. This is the most important step in the process – Always disconnect the power to the appliance before working on it. 

The easiest way to cut its power is simply by unplugging it. Normally, it’s plugged in to the wall under the sink. If you can’t locate the outlet, go to the electrical panel in your house and cut electricity to the circuit on which the garbage disposal is powered. To confirm that the power is off, try turning on the garbage disposal.

Step 2: Clean the baffle. Use an abrasive sponge or scrub brush and a bit of dish soap to make sure the outside of the disposal, the part you can see, is clean and clear of gunk around the edges. Clean all around the drain and the grinding chamber, frequently rinsing the sponge.

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal
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How To Clean The Drain of the Garbage Disposal

Now let’s move on to cleaning the drain of the garbage disposal using ice cubes, vinegar and salt.

The ice helps to scrape the inside of the grinding chamber, dislodging any buildup.

Step 3: Add ice and salt down the disposal. Put about a cup of ice followed by 1/2 cup of salt down the disposal.

Step 4: Run the disposal. Restore power to the disposal, so that you can turn on the mechanism while running water down the drain. Run the disposal for several seconds with the water turned on to grind up the ice.

Step 5: Add the Baking Soda and Vinegar. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal, then slowly and carefully pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into the disposal. It should cause a mild reaction that will bubble up. Let it sit for half an hour. In this process, the acidity of the solution kills bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli.

Step 6: Flush the Disposal. Flush the disposal with hot water while running the garbage disposal. 

To naturally deodorize use a citrus fruit peel. A great natural way to freshen up your garbage disposal and leave your kitchen smelling great is to grind up a handful of citrus peels. Any citrus fruit will do — orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime. The citric acid in the peels will clean the blades and eliminate odors.

Afterwards, add some spice, rosemary oil, or lavender oil for an even better scent.

Tips For Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal

Avoid putting anything in your garbage disposal which is not biodegradable. The garbage disposal is not a trash can, and using it to get rid of unsuitable items is a recipe for disaster. Things you should avoid putting down there include:

  • Fibrous materials such as onion skins, corn husks, artichokes and celery stalks. These can get tangled in the motor, so compost them instead.
  • Starchy materials like potato peels. The starch may form a thick paste, causing the blades of the garbage disposal to stick.
  • Expandable food such as rice or pasta. These may expand from the water and clog the drains. Coffee grinds can also clog the drains.
  • You can, however, grind up items such as egg shells, small fish or chicken bones, and small fruit pits, as these will actually help in cleaning the garbage disposal.
  • Run your garbage disposal for longer each time you use it. It is better to leave the garbage disposal on (with the water running) for several seconds after the grinding noises subside, as there may still be small particles in the disposal unit which have not yet been cleared away.
  • Avoid getting grease in your drain. It is not a good idea to pour any kind of oil, grease or fat into your garbage disposal.
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