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How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Like any appliance, your garbage disposal needs a good cleaning every once in a while, or you could end up with a breeding ground for harmful bacteria or mold. Follow this guide to learn how to easily clean your garbage disposal.

Garbage Disposal  iStock

A garbage disposal is like a miracle appliance, saving you time from dealing with food scraps and saving the environment from more leftovers in the landfill.

Hidden away under your sink, garbage disposals are perfectly concealed, so it’s easy to forget they’re there. But like any appliance, they need a good cleaning every once in a while, or you could end up with a breeding ground for harmful bacteria or mold.

Why Should You Clean Your Garbage Disposal?

Most of the food you send through your garbage disposal is ground up and disappears from your life forever. However, small pieces can get stuck in the splash guard and grinding chamber and eventually decay.

In addition, grease and stringy vegetables can leave behind a slimy substance that the disposal can’t pulverize, and this residue can encourage bacteria to develop as well.

Steps for Cleaning a Garbage Disposal

Fortunately, it’s easy to deep clean your garbage disposal, and you probably already have the cleaning components in your home. All you need is some baking soda, vinegar, ice, table salt, and lemon peels. Using natural ingredients is the best way to clean your garbage disposal, as chemical cleaners can corrode its metal parts.

Step 1: Disconnect the power

The first step to cleaning your garbage disposal is the most crucial: Cut the power leading to it. Failure to do so could turn a routine household chore into a scene from a horror movie!

To disconnect the power, either pull the plug, which is typically connected to an outlet under the sink or turn off the electricity from the breaker box. Always double-check that you disconnected the right circuit by attempting to turn on the garbage disposal before starting to clean it.

Step 2: Clean the splash guard

The rubber splash guard (also known as a gasket or baffle), with its many grooves and crevices, likely has a lot of small food particles and grease trapped underneath it. Pull it out of the drain and thoroughly clean it with an old toothbrush or scrubbing brush and lots of dish detergent. Scrub vigorously, paying particular attention to the underside, to remove any debris or slime.

Step 3: Remove any visible food debris

While the splash guard is removed, shine a flashlight into the disposal to check for any food particles that may be eluding the grinder. Use tongs or pliers to reach into the disposal and remove the food pieces. Never use your fingers to do this; even when the blades aren’t in motion, they are still very sharp.

Step 4: Pour in baking soda and vinegar

Measure half a cup of baking soda and pour it into the disposal. Let it sit for half an hour, so it can work its deodorizing magic. Then pour in one cup of vinegar, which will cause a foamy liquid to bubble up into your sink. Let this chemical reaction zap away the gunk in your disposal for about three minutes, then rinse with hot water from the tap or a pot of boiled water.

Step 5: Grind up ice and salt

To clean the blades of the disposal and loosen up any buildup, reinstall the splash guard and reconnect the power, then pour in two cups of ice. Add a cup of salt on top of that, run the cold water, and turn on the disposal. Let it run until all the ice has been ground up. The salt and ice work together to act as an effective scrub.

Step 6: Grind up lemon peels

The last step to cleaning your garbage disposal is to freshen it up with the smell of citrus. Lemon peel is a popular option, but any citrus will do.

Just stuff the peel of one citrus fruit into the disposal, run cold water from the tap, and turn on the power. The citrus peel will leave behind a pleasantly fruity scent that refreshes the whole sink.