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3 Do-It-Yourself Methods to Clean Your Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal makes cleaning up after meals faster and easier since you don’t have to separate all your food into the garbage. However, food is pretty malleable and can get stuck in the garbage disposal. Bacteria than form, and your garbage disposal starts to smell. Allowing your garbage disposal to gunk up will cause odors to drift from your sink drain into your kitchen.

So, how do you get your garbage disposal to stop smelling? Recently, there have been some garbage disposal pellet packs advertising themselves as garbage disposal “breath mints.” Unfortunately, most of them only briefly treat the odor but don’t fix the original cause.

To fix a smelly garbage disposal, you need to clean it. Remember, never put your hand into a garbage disposal while it is still plugged in. Always remove the power cable from the wall first (typically found under the sink).

Follow one or more of these cleaning methods to clean your garbage disposal and remove any food or odors. For all the methods below, it’s a good idea to flush your disposal with about a gallon of near-boiling water one more times to ensure all loosened particles get flushed away.

1. Manual Garbage Disposal Cleaning

The first step to manually cleaning your garbage disposal is to disconnect the power. Unplug the garbage disposal. If there is no plug, flip the circuit breaker so you are 100 percent certain there is no power.

Shine a flashlight down the drain to see if there are any objects trapped in the grinder. If you see any blockages, you can use tongs or long-nosed pliers to remove the object. It’s best to avoid putting your hand inside. If you must, wear a rubber glove to protect your hand and reach carefully, avoiding any grinder blades.

Next, reconnect your disposal and plug the sink. Fill the sink halfway with hot, soapy water, then pull the plug and turn the disposal on until all the water has flushed through the drain.

Disconnect the garbage disposal again, and then use a long-handled scrubbing brush with a narrow head or an old toothbrush to clean inside the disposal. Wet the brush with warm water and grease-cutting dish soap.

Reconnect the garbage disposal, refill the sink with hot water, and run the disposal until all the water is cleared.

2. Baking Soda & Vinegar

baking soda and white vinegar

The combination of baking soda and vinegar is a great method for cleaning your garbage disposal. It works well for cleaning your other drains as well.

To use this method, pour very hot water down the drain to loosen up any food waste or grease. Then, pour about half a cup of baking soda, followed by a cup of vinegar and another cup of hot water down the drain.

Plug the drain, and if you have a dual basin, cover the other side as well. Wait for ten minutes, then flush it all with hot water.

The vinegar kills the bacteria and sanitizes your garbage disposal, and the reaction with the baking soda helps bubble and loosen any debris hanging into nooks and crannies.

3. Salt & Ice Cubes

Another way to clean your garbage disposal is by pouring two cups of ice and one cup of kosher or rock salt into the disposal. Turn the garbage disposal on, then turn on the cold-water tap and allow the disposal to run while it grinds the salt and ice cubes. Then flush with very hot water.

The ice helps loosen food particles, and small chunks of ice can fill all the crevices. The salt kills the bacteria and can also be good for your sewage system as well in moderate doses. Regularly heavy doses of salt can have adverse effects on pipe corrosion.

Garbage Disposal Cleaning Frequently Asked Questions

We get a lot of questions regarding various garbage disposal cleaning methods.

Q. How often should I clean my garbage disposal?

You should clean your garbage disposal once a month.

Q. How can I make my garbage disposal smell better?

Once you’ve cleaned your garbage disposal with one of the above methods, you can cut up some citrus peels of your preference and run them down the disposal. The acidic juice from the citrus peels will help kill bacteria (not as well as vinegar, however) but will also help the disposal smell nice. Use your choice of lime, orange, or lemon.

Q. Can I use bleach to clean my garbage disposal or drains?

Never use bleach to clean your garbage disposal or drain.

Bleach is a strong, toxic chemical that should be used very carefully. While it works well in some cleaning situations, it can react very poorly with your pipes and other substances in your drainage system. Bleach can release fumes, harden grease and fat, plug up the system, or even have a chemical reaction and burst your pipes.

Additionally, bleach is extremely harmful to the environment and ocean. Since most sewage systems are linked to waterways, bleach will eventually make it out into nature and create problems.

Q. What should I avoid putting down my garbage disposal?

Avoid putting grease, eggshells, coffee grounds, starchy foods, pasta, plastic, or large bones down the garbage disposal. Additionally, fibrous vegetables like celery stalks or corn husks can clog the garbage disposal motor.

Many of these foods either get stuck or harden in your garbage disposal and make it harder to clean out.

Don’t overload the disposer. Give it just a little bit at a time—no more than about one cup of food debris at a time. Scrap anything big into the trashcan.

If these garbage disposal cleaning methods don’t clean your disposal, give us a call. Dauenhauer provides professional kitchen plumbing services in Lexington & Louisville. We’re available 24/7 for fast kitchen repairs. Schedule online with us now for a free, honest quote.

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