A garbage disposal decreases the amount of food scraps you would otherwise have to throw away and helps reduce a lot of routine kitchen sink and counter cleanup. Keep in mind, however, that while a disposal allows you to get rid of small bits of food, the organic material that builds up in the shredding chamber under your sink happens to be the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish. If you consider that the average garbage disposal’s environment is moist, cold, and dark, it’s no wonder the appliance sometimes emits unpleasant odors.
It’s important to clean your garbage disposal frequently to remove nasty odors and prevent bacteria from building up. But how do you clean a garbage disposal? If you aren't familiar with how to do this properly, we’ll talk about the most frequently used cleaning methods for keeping a disposal clean.
How Often Should You Clean the Garbage Disposal?
When you know how to clean out a garbage disposal--and how frequently you need to clean it--you’ll avoid issues with bacteria and odor building up in the shredder. The first thing to keep in mind is that regularly flushing some water down the disposal drain after every use can help keep buildup to a minimum. Secondly, make sure to clean your garbage disposal thoroughly once per week to keep it fresh and odor-free.
Additionally, even though garbage disposals are effectively cleaning themselves by breaking up food scraps and sending them down the drain this “self-cleaning” process leaves the inside chamber only relatively clean. So doing a thorough cleaning weekly, per manufacturer’s instructions, helps keep the disposal running well.
How to Manually Remove Large Objects
Pieces of garbage, bottle caps, or larger objects also can end up in the garbage disposal. When that happens, not only can they lead to bad smells lingering in your kitchen, but some larger objects can be damaging to the grinding blades. If, for example, a spoon ends up in the garbage disposal pipe, you need to act quickly. Here’s what to do.
First, it’s a good idea to turn off the fuse that powers the garbage disposal to help lessen the risk of injury if the machine turns on while you’re trying to get an object out of the disposal.
Next, place the removable rubber baffle on the kitchen counter (it may also need some cleaning). You may want to don some rubber gloves as a garbage disposal can feel a bit slimy. Then, use a flashlight to clearly see down into the disposal, and more easily remove the item. You can usually reach an object with your fingertips, as long as your hand is small enough to reach into the drain hole, but it is typically recommended that you use a small pair of pliers or tongs.
About now, you may be wondering about all the things that should—and should not—be put in a garbage disposal! Check out this comprehensive checklist of garbage disposal dos and don’ts.
How to Deodorize the Garbage Disposal?
If you're dealing with nasty odors and wondering how to freshen a garbage disposal, try one of the following methods:
- Use a diluted bleach solution with 1/3 cup bleach and 2/3 cups of warm water to solve a foul odor problem. Make sure you wear protective gloves and eyewear while gently pouring the solution down the drain. Run warm water for several seconds afterward.
- Add thinly sliced citrus peels to freshen up a smelly disposal. Although you may not consider it a disposal cleaner, the oil from citrus peels will mask the unpleasant odor and add a fresh scent to the air.
Tips for Cleaning Out the Garbage Disposal
The most common homemade food disposal cleaner is a combination of vinegar and baking soda. People who clean garbage disposals with baking soda and vinegar recommend this solution as the best way to a sparkly clean disposal chamber. For this method, you need to pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain, and then slowly add 1/2 cup of vinegar.
Many say the best way to clean a garbage disposal is to use rock salt or ice cubes with vinegar. The ice will help scrape the grinding chamber’s inside walls, and it’ll dislodge any waste buildup. The process is simple. Fill the grinder with ice cubes and pour either a cup of vinegar or a cup of rock salt over the ice. Turn the disposal on while water is running so it can crush the ice cubes.
A Garbage Disposal Deep Cleaning Step to Try
If you’re wondering how to clean a garbage disposals yet more thoroughly, and you are comfortable with basic DIY plumbing tasks, you can try cleaning the disposal piping as well. Only try this if you feel comfortable with plumbing, however.
Start by running hot water down the disposal drain for at least one minute. Turn off the water at the shutoff valve under the kitchen sink, or the main shutoff valve. Put a bucket below the rubber cap and the pipe to catch any excess water. Disconnect the pipe that leads from the garbage disposal underneath the sink with a wrench. Now, you can soak it with a previously made garbage disposal cleaner solution.
Keeping your your garbage disposal regularly maintained is not difficult, but you may eventually discover your disposal isn’t working. Did you know you can protect a garbage disposal and many other appliances and home systems when they breakdown with a home warranty from First American? If you want to learn more about our coverage, it's easy to get a quote.
The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.