How to Clean a Garbage Disposal?
By Michelle Sonali
Updated: May 20th, 2019
Garbage disposals are a magical kitchen appliance that helps you get rid of unwanted food scraps in no time. Though these units are self cleaning, they require a little care now and then. This keeps them in a first-class condition and prevents them from releasing odor, clogging and will definitely improve its lifespan. You don’t want to be spending on a new garbage disposal unit when you can maintain your current one.
How Often Should You Clean Your Smelly Garbage Disposal?
Ideally, your garbage disposal needs to be cleaned every week. But if you maintain it and monitor what goes into it, you could clean it once in 2-3 weeks. It always good to clean your Garburator if you are heading out of home for a few days. If not, it is highly likely for the sludge and debris in the machine to rot.
How to Clean Your Clogged Garbage Disposal Unit?
Now that you know how a garbage disposal unit works and why it needs to be cleaned, let’s see the different ways that you can use to clean your unit.
1. Physically remove objects that are stuck
Your garbage disposal is not a substitute for your trash can. People tend to throw almost anything including non-biodegradable items into their units. If you throw in things that are not suitable for a garbage disposal unit, you will only have to spend more time cleaning it.
What you need: Tongs or pliers
Time: 15 minutes (approximately)
- First, pull out the power cable of your garbage disposal unit if you have access to it. If not turn off the fuse that regulates your Garburator to ensure that it does not turn on while you are clearing it. Safety first, don’t start cleaning it until you have turned off the power supply to the unit
- Remove any non-biodegradable or non-disposable items that are stuck in the unit with the help of a tongs or a pair of pliers. Be careful not to damage the grinder while you’re doing this, you may have to use a flashlight as it’s dark inside the garbage disposal unit
- Avoid using your hands to clean the disposer unless it’s absolutely necessary as the blades in the unit are slightly sharp and could give your hand cuts
2. Flushing with water
Flushing the garbage disposal with water can remove any loose grime or dirt that is stuck in the unit.
What you need: Dishwashing liquid
Time: 10 minutes
- Stopper the garbage disposal unit, squirt some dishwashing liquid into the machine and run hot water until 2-4 inches of the sink is filled. Let it sit for a few minutes
- Pull out the stopper and turn on the unit, the water will flush through
The combination of hot water with soap will break down the oils and grease that are in the unit. This is more effective than simply running water as it rinses the unit and cleans it up.
3. Ice cubes
While hot water and soap removes loose grime, grinding ice cubes freezes the debris stuck to the impeller blades and forces out.
What you need: 2 trays of ice cubes
Time: 10 minutes
- Turn on the garbage disposal and run cold water down the sink
- Pour 2 trays of ice into it. This will freeze all the debris that is stuck and force it to chunk off the impeller blades and push it down the slits or holes in the plate/flywheel
- Continue to run water down the drain for one whole minute after the last ice cube is ground
Not only will the ice clean the garbage disposal unit, it also sharpens the impeller blades.
4. Ice cubes and salt
Ice cubes with salt is used to remove tough sludge and debris that is stuck to the blades and other elements of the unit.
What you need: 2 cubes of ice cubes and 1 cup of rock salt/sea salt
Time: 7-8 minutes
- Turn on the garbage disposal and pour the ice cubes into it. Follow it with 1 cup of rock salt. You could improvise and use sea salt
- Run some cold water and let the the salt and ice get crushed by the blades
- The ice and salt will loosen the grime and dirt that is stuck to the impeller blades
- Continue to run the water for a few seconds after the noise from the machine stops
The combination of ice and salt not only cleans the unit but it also removes any unpleasant odor that stems up from the garbage disposal.
5. Frozen vinegar cubes
Frozen vinegar serves as an alternative to ice cubes and salt.
What you need: Vinegar and ice tray
Time: 10 minutes (this does not include the time taken to freeze the vinegar)
- Pour vinegar into an ice tray and freeze it. Make sure to mark the tray so that someone else doesn’t mistake them to be ice cubes
- Turn on the garbage disposal and throw the cubes into them
The vinegar has the same effect as the ice cubes with salt.
Add on: You can also add lemon peels to the vinegar in the ice tray.
6. Toothbrush and scrub brush
You can also clean your garbage disposal manually with a brush.
What you need: Soap, water, and an old toothbrush or scrub brush that is designed for garbage disposals
Time: 10 minutes
- Take out the top of the garbage disposal unit’s lid from the drain first
- Make a solution of soapy water and use the brush to clean the dirt from the inside
Lemon or lime is used as a cleaning agent.
What you need: 1 lemon or lime
Time: 10 minutes
- Run a continuous stream of cold water in your sink
- Cut the fruit into wedges and drop in one piece at a time while the garbage disposal is on
- The acidic juice cleanses the blades of the unit while the rind acts as a scrub
This leaves your unit clean and smelling fresh.
8. Deep Cleaning
Deep cleaning needs to be done once in 8 months. This is done to clean all the slime and grime that is has collected and hardened onto the insides of your pipes.
What you need: Rubber test cap with a stainless steel clamp, wrench, a bucket, and ½ a cup powdered oxygen bleach
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- First run hot water through the garbage disposal for a minute. Disconnect the pipe leading from the garbage disposal under your sink with a wrench. This is that part of the pipe that comes after the trap
- Attach the rubber test cap to the loose end of the pipe that is connected to the garbage disposal. This prevents the water from flowing through the pipe and helps you soak it with a cleaning solution
- Put the pipe in a bucket after you attach the rubber test cap. Let warm water run until the pipe fills and the water reaches the top of the drain. You don’t need to fill the sink
- Now add ½ a cup of powdered oxygen bleach to the drain and leave it to sit for an hour. The solution will soak the insides of the pipes and detach the hardened grime
- Carefully remove the rubber cap, make sure that the bucket is under the pipe while you take off the rubber cap. All the water will collect in the bucket. Reconnect the pipe back
- Don’t dispose the dirty water down the sink, flush it down your toilet
This cleaning can even be done once a year. However, the frequency depends on how well you maintain your garbage disposal.
6 DIY Ways to Clean a Stinky Garbage Disposal
Quite often your garbage disposal works just fine but gives out an unpleasant odor. Sometimes foul odor accompanies a clogged unit. Irrespective of what symptoms the unpleasant odor comes with, you need to get rid of it. It’s called ‘unpleasant odor’ for a reason.
Here are 6 do-it-yourself ways to eliminate unpleasant odor from your garbage disposal:
1. Baking Soda and Vinegar
Baking soda and vinegar are a common homemade solution to remove unpleasant odor.
What you need: 1 cup white vinegar and ½ a cup baking soda
Time: 15 minutes (maximum)
- Pour ½ a cup of baking soda down the drain. Carefully follow it with 1 cup of vinegar. Some people prefer heating the vinegar a little
- The mixture will bubble and fizz. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes
- Turn on the garbage disposal and pour boiling water into the sink
Borax is a safe and natural cleaning agent that will clean your unit and remove foul odor
What you need: 3-4 tablespoons of Borax and boiling water
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Pour 3-4 tablespoons of Borax and let it sit for an hour
- Pour boiling water into the sink and turn on the garbage disposal
This method takes time but it eliminates every trace of bad odor.
3. Citrus Peels
Citrus peels are another natural way to eliminate odor from your garbage disposal.
What you need: Peels of any citrus fruit. You can use lime, orange, lemon, grapefruit, anything citric.
Time: 15 minutes
- Grind a handful of peels in the garbage disposal. The citric acids kill the bacteria that cause the foul smell
- Add a little rosemary oil, any spice or lavender oil to leave the unit smelling good for a prolonged time
This is the most common method used in households.
Bleach is very effective to clean germs and can quickly freshen up your drain. Although you need to be cautious, using a high concentration of bleach can harden grease and make it hard to remove it from the machine.
What you need: 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water
Time: 15 minutes
- Dilute 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water and slowly pour it down your garbage disposal
- Let it sit for 1 or 2 minutes. Flush the water down by running water through the unit for at least 3-4 minutes
This method works well as long as you don’t add excess bleach to the solution.
Just like the way mouthwash cleans your mouth, it can also clean your sink and remove any unpleasant odor.
What you need: ½ a cup mouthwash
Time: 8-10 minutes
- Pour ½ a cup mouthwash down the sink and let it sit for 5 minutes
- Turn on the disposal and pour hot water down the sink to remove the dirt along with the mouthwash
Sometimes the insides of the rubber in the middle of the sink that connects to the garbage disposal collects food particles and causes smell.
What you need: Toothpaste and an old toothbrush
Time: 6-8 minutes
- Put a little toothpaste on an old toothbrush and apply it over and under the rubber and let it sit for 2-3 minutes
- Scrub the rubber using the toothbrush for sometime. Run water in the sink and continue scrubbing the rubber with the toothbrush until all the toothpaste is gone
How to Maintain Your Garbage Disposal?
Just like every other appliance at your home, even your food waste disposer needs maintenance. If you maintain your unit and avoid putting unnecessary items in it, you won’t need to clean it very often. And when you do clean it, it won’t take much time. Maintaining your garbage disposal also prolongs the lifespan of your unit, which means that you don’t need to shell out $120 or maybe even more to buy a new unit. There are many ways to maintain your garbage disposal unit and avoid clogging it.
1. Watch what goes into your garbage disposal
Only put biodegradable stuff into the garbage disposal. You have a trash can to put in all the non-biodegradable stuff. There are a few food items that are famous for causing trouble, avoid putting those in.
The table below clearly tells you what NOT to put into your garbage disposal.
What goes and what doesn’t go into your garbage disposal
|Food Type||Food Items||Reason|
|What doesn’t go inside||Fibrous food||Onion skins, corn husks, artichokes, hard seeds, shrimp shells, crab shells, unpopped popcorn kernels and celery stalks||They get tangled in the motor|
|Starchy food||Potato peels||The starch forms a thick paste that sticks to the blades|
|Expandable food||Pasta, rice and coffee grounds||These may expand inside the unit and clog the drains|
|What goes inside||Egg shells, small chicken bones, fish bones, small pieces of fruit||These help clean the garbage disposal|
2. Run your garbage disposal for a little longer
The most common mistake that people make with a garbage disposal is by turning it off as soon as the grinding noises stop. The machine should be left on for at least 30-60 seconds after the grinding noise stops, while water is still running. This clears the small particles of food that are still in the unit and prevents it from clogging.
3. Avoid throwing grease into your sink
You should avoid pouring oil, grease or fat into the sink. It tends to accumulate in the unit and slows down the motor. It also lines your pipes and causes your drain to clog. To prevent this from happening, wipe off as much grease as you can from roasting tins and pans using a paper towel.
4. Cut larger fruit and vegetables into smaller pieces
You can cut large pieces of fruit and vegetable (food) before throwing them into the garbage disposal. This will help the grinder process it faster and prevent food from getting stuck inside.
Home Warranty for Your Garbage Disposal
Despite maintaining your garbage disposal or any other home appliances, quite often one or the other appliance breaks down or requires repair at some point in time. If the appliances at your home are not new, the likelihood for them to need repairs is higher. This is where a home warranty policy comes into the picture. Moreover, a home warranty policy covers the cost of repairs and replacements of a range of home systems and appliances that break down due to regular wear and tear. The only expense that you will have to bear is the service charge or the deductible that ranges between $50 to $100, depending on the policy that you have taken. However, home warranty doesn’t cover repairs that are caused due to lack of maintenance, so that means that you will need to maintain your appliances from time to time. But before you invest in a home warranty policy, there are some thing that you need to know. Apart from that, it essential to select the right home warranty company for you, so make sure you read reviews about different companies before finalizing on one.
If you have any queries about home warranty policies or the items covered under it, our website offers you lots of information in the articles section. Or you could also use to the comments section as we are more than happy to help you out!
15 years. Your garbage disposal can last 8 to 15 years based on the number of years before the blades wear down or the motor burns out. It is also based on when it was installed and its usage.
When it comes to getting rid of a garbage disposal clog, most people use Drano. But the caustic nature of Drano is a cause of concern for clearing a garbage disposal and this is why you do not need it.
You should avoid putting coffee grounds down the garbage disposal. This would not harm the garbage disposal and this would actually help eliminate odors. But it can accumulate in the drains and pipes and cause clogs.
If your insinkerator is not working then you should do this now. Ensure that you switch off the disposal unit. Press the red button in to reset the garbage disposal. If it does not stay in, wait for ten minutes and try again. You should then turn on the cold stream of water and switch it on and now the disposal unit will work.
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