How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Keep your garbage disposal clean and smelling fresh with these simple steps. Plus, find tips for maintaining your disposal and the best DIY and store-bought garbage disposal cleaners.

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Woman touches a silver coloured running tap in a domestic kitchen environment.


Clean a garbage disposal regularly to manage bacteria buildup and reduce smells.

Photo by: Catherine Falls Commercial

Catherine Falls Commercial

Clean a garbage disposal regularly to manage bacteria buildup and reduce smells.

It isn’t wrong to believe that your garbage disposal is somewhat self-cleaning. After all, it works hard to pulverize and clear away anything that enters and is regularly lathered as you do dishes. Unfortunately, washing a daily load of dishes in your sink usually isn’t enough to deep clean your disposal, so it will get dirty and stay dirty.

Cleaning your garbage disposal is important for several reasons. First and foremost, despite rinsing and grinding, a layer of food residue coats the walls of the disposal over time. This coating can breed bacteria, affect drainage and cause foul odors.

Types of Garbage Disposals

There are two common types of garbage disposals — batch feed disposal systems and continuous feed disposal systems. Care and maintenance will not vary considerably between systems, but if you have a batch feed system, keep in mind that they are more prone to clogs. Avoid overpacking the disposal and consider cleaning it weekly using one of the methods below to reduce plumbing issues.

Continuous feed disposals that run from the switch on the wall are less prone to clogs because the water from the faucet flows into the disposal the whole time you are operating the appliance. Clean continuous feed disposals every few weeks or once a month.

When you are due for routine upkeep, consider your options. There are a variety of DIY natural cleaners and convenient store-bought cleaners that you can try to keep your garbage disposal working well.

3 All-Natural DIY Ways to Clean a Garbage Disposal

How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal With Baking Soda and Vinegar

This tried-and-true cleaning combo works wonders in a garbage disposal.

  1. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of baking soda into the disposal and activate the appliance for a second to help the baking soda disperse.

  2. Let the baking soda sit for 15 minutes so its deodorizing properties help combat smells.

  3. Pour one cup of vinegar into the disposal and allow the baking soda and vinegar to interact.

  4. Allow the interaction to deep clean, undisturbed for 5 minutes.

  5. Turn on the hot water to fill the disposal and then run it until it drains.
Kitchen Sink and Running Faucet

Cleaning a Garbage Disposal

Rinse the disposal thoroughly after cleaning.

Photo by: ©


Rinse the disposal thoroughly after cleaning.

How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal with Ice and Salt

Ice is a powerful solution for cleaning the blades of your garbage disposal. Salt takes its cleaning power to the next level.

  1. Put two cups of ice cubes into the garbage disposal.

  2. Pour one cup of traditional table salt into the garbage disposal. Rock salt is great if you have it, but any salt will do.

  3. Turn on cold water to fill the disposal and run the appliance to grind the ice. Together, the ice and salt will act as an abrasive cleaner to tackle buildup on the inside of the appliance and around the blades at the bottom.

3. How to Make DIY Cleaning Cubes for Your Garbage Disposal

Running frozen cubes easily made with vinegar and lemon slices through the garbage disposal can dislodge gunk inside your garbage disposal and take care of nasty smells, too. All you need to make these cleaning cubes is white vinegar, a lemon and an ice cube tray.

All-Natural DIY Cleaning Cubes

All it takes is two ingredients to make this DIY cleaner.

Learn how to make these DIY Cleaning Cubes.

Tips for Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal

Disposal upkeep doesn’t need to be a high-maintenance chore. In fact, there are several ongoing actions you can take to reduce the frequency of deep cleans:

Orange peels placed in a sink drain to clean a garbage disposal.

Citrus Peels Freshen a Garbage Disposal

Use citrus peels, such as these orange peels, to reduce bad garbage disposal smells.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Use citrus peels, such as these orange peels, to reduce bad garbage disposal smells.

  • Run water into it before, during and after use to help soften and rinse particles.

  • Use an old toothbrush and dish soap to scrub the area inside the rubber seal and the bottom of the drain to reduce visible buildup.

  • Don’t be afraid to grind small bones. As they break down, they help agitate buildup in the housing.

  • Dispose of small pieces of citrus peels more often. Lemon peel extract is naturally antibacterial and can release oils to clean and disinfect. Bonus: Any citrus will combat bad smells.

  • Avoid disposing of items that are more easily composted. Stringy vegetable waste like celery can become bound in the disposal.

Our 3 Favorite Store-Bought Disposal Cleaners

When the going gets tough, grime-fighting enzymatic cleaners can help break down buildup inside the disposal. It’s important to make sure that any product you put down the drain is sewer or septic friendly.

Fortunately for consumers, most store-bought disposal cleaning products are also made of safe and natural ingredients that won’t compromise your plumbing.

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