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5 Ways to Clean Your Garbage Disposal

With summer just around the corner, your spring cleaning efforts might be winding down. But we bet there’s one area you haven’t gotten to yet: your garbage disposal. While it usually goes unnoticed until something goes wrong (or gets especially smelly) there are a few simple ways you can keep your garbage disposal unit spic and span – not to mention working efficiently.

Soap and water

Sure, you're used to washing dishes in your sink. But washing out your garbage disposal with the same soap? It works! First, plug the drain and run hot water into your sink's basin until it's about 3/4s full. Next, stir in a teaspoon of dish soap. Rev up your garbage disposal, unstop the drain and let the soapy water work its flushing magic.


When your kitchen sink starts getting a little funky, run a chunk of lemon peel through your garbage disposal. In fact, just about any citrus will so. You can use the spent half of a juiced lime, the peel of a morning grapefruit — or even just toss in the wedges you get with your drive-through beverage. The acids in citrus kill nasty bacteria, and the zesty scent makes your whole kitchen smell fresh and clean.

Baking soda and vinegar

After you’re done helping your budding scientist build their model volcano, you can put that same chemical reaction to work in the kitchen. Pour 1/4 cup of baking soda into your disposal. Then add 1 cup of vinegar. Once the deodorizing foam subsides – usually after five to ten minutes – just rinse out your disposal with hot water.

Vinegar ice cubes

For a quick scrub, keep some vinegar ice cubes on hand (but make sure you don’t accidentally toss them in a smoothie.) Grinding these up for a minute or two in the disposal not only cleans it out but may also help to sharpen its blades.

Salt and ice

If you need to step up your cleaning game, you can add a cup of salt to your vinegar ice cubes. Plain old water ice cubes work well too. Just make sure you use coarse salt, like a kosher or rock variety. The mild abrasive qualities of this mixture are great for loosening up tough sludge and grime.

Once your garbage disposal is clean, take care to make sure it stays that way with a little preventive maintenance.

  • Don't run starchy foods through your disposal. Potato peels are a special no-no – they're just a clog waiting to happen! The same goes for coffee grounds.
  • Fibrous foods like celery stalks and onion skins should also go straight in the trash or compost heap. They can get tangled up in your disposal's blades.
  • Unless you're cleaning it, always send cold water down your disposal. While you should never pour oil or fat down your pipes, a certain amount of grease is bound to build-up. Cold water helps this grease solidify so it can be chopped up into smaller, less troublesome particles by your disposal. 
  • Make sure you run your disposal long enough to remove whatever you've fed it – often a few seconds longer than you might think is necessary. 
  • If it looks too big to go down the drain, it probably is! Take the extra time to cut down large pieces of food waste before disposing of them.

Finally, make a habit of cleaning your disposal with any one of these simple methods. Every other week is a good schedule to follow. Routine cleaning is the best way to extend the life of your garbage disposal and avoid the headache of plumbing repairs.

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