How To Clean A Garbage Disposal

Oct 18, 2022 | Plumbing

Cleaning your garbage disposal is important to taking care of your home. Not only does it keep the appliance clean and running smoothly, but it can also help to prevent unpleasant smells from developing. Cleaning your garbage disposal is a quick and easy process, and in this guide, we will walk you through the steps necessary to get the job done.

So whether your disposal is acting up or you just want to give it a good cleaning, read on for tips on how to clean a garbage disposal!

How Does A Garbage Disposal Work?

The garbage disposal is powered by electricity and has a small motor that rotates a blade to chop up whatever you put into the grinding chamber. This can be easily seen just by operating the disposal, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

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In addition, there is an impeller and plate system that pushes the chopped particles down the drain. Have you ever had a clogged sink because your dishwasher isn’t draining properly? Well, this prevents that from happening by running the water from the dishwasher into the garbage disposal. All of those bits of food waste get ground up before passing through the plumbing, so you never have to worry about a clogged sink again!

Note: A common misconception is that all disposals have blades. However, the spinning mechanism on most garbage disposals today does not use a blade. Instead, it uses two lugs mounted on a steel plate (which spin in unison). Even though this element doesn’t technically qualify as a blade, we still refer to it as such because that’s what everybody else calls it.

How To Use A Garbage Disposal

A plumber fixing a garbage disposal

If you’ve never used a garbage disposal before, don’t worry – it’s easy! Just follow these simple steps:

1. Turn on the cold water tap and let the water run for a few seconds before turning on the disposal. This will help to lubricate the grinding chamber and blades.

2. Drop your food waste into the disposal. Start with small amounts and gradually add more as you get comfortable with the process.

3. Turn on the disposal and let it do its thing! Use a long-handled spoon or other utensils to help guide the food waste down the drain if necessary.

4. Once the grinding is complete, turn off the disposal and the cold water tap.

5. Run some hot water down the drain for a few seconds to flush any remaining particles.

And that’s it! Now you know how to use a garbage disposal like a pro.

How Often Should You Clean A Garbage Disposal

Water pouring into a garbage disposal

The frequency with which you need to clean your garbage disposal will depend on how often you use it. If you have a busy household and the disposal is in constant use, then you will need to clean it more frequently than if it is only used occasionally. In general, however, you should aim to clean the garbage disposal at least once a month.

What You’ll Need

Ice blocks being poured down a garbage disposal

Equipment / Tools

  • A kitchen sponge with an abrasive side
  • Sink stopper
  • Rubber gloves (optional)



How To Clean A Garbage Disposal With Soap, Baking Soda, And Vinegar

1. Turn Off the Power

Always turn off the power whenever you will be cleaning the disposal, even if your hand won’t be near the grinding “teeth” at the bottom of the chamber. This will prevent accidental usage while you’re cleaning. To do this, unplug the disposal from its outlet under the sink or turn off its breaker in your home’s service panel (breaker box).

2. Clean The Baffle

The baffle, or stopper, is the rubber plug at the top of the disposal that keeps food from going down the drain. Use a kitchen sponge to clean any buildup of food or grease from the baffle and grind chamber (the area beneath the grinding blades).

3. Clean The Grinding Chamber

Fill the sinks with a few inches of hot water and dish soap. Turn on the disposal and let it run for a few seconds to start loosening any buildup on the blades. Then, use the sponge to scrub away any remaining food or grease from the chamber.

4. Add The Baking Soda And Vinegar

Once the chamber is clean, add 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar. The mixture will foam and fizz as it reacts with the grime and grease in the disposal. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the cleaning action to take effect. After that, place a sink stopper over the drain to prevent the baking soda and vinegar from damaging your pipes as they work to clean the disposal.

6. Flush The Disposal

After a few minutes, remove the sink stopper and turn on the disposal to flush away the baking soda and vinegar. Run the disposal until all of the foaming mixtures have been cleared from the chamber.

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal With Ice And Rock Salt Or Vinegar


Ice, either rock salt or vinegar, is also great for cleaning the garbage disposal. The ice helps scrape the grinding chamber’s inside, which gets rid of any buildup that might be there.

1. Add Ice

Put ice cubes into the disposal.

2. Add Salt Or Vinegar

In order to begin, pour one cup of rock salt or vinegar into the disposal. Once done, grind up the ice by running the disposal for several seconds with the water turned on. Repeat all the steps if necessary if you still notice grime or an odor.

Tips For Deodorizing A Smelly Garbage Disposal

If your garbage disposal is giving off an incredibly unpleasant smell, you can try using a diluted bleach solution. Please note that pouring straight bleach down the drain is not advisable, as this will damage the disposal components over time.

Instead, make a diluted bleach solution by mixing two parts warm water with 1 part bleach. Don’t use more than 1/3 cup of bleach in total. To clean your drain with the solution, pour it down the drain and then run warm water for several seconds to flush the solution through completely. Remember to wear rubber gloves when you are mixing and pouring the solution.

Although it’s a regularly used method, cleaning your garbage disposal with lemon and other citrus peels will only add freshness to the scent. If you’re trying to clean and get rid of any grime or sliminess, this isn’t the most effective way. Try adding some ice cubes in with the peels for better results.

Maintenance Tips To Keep Garbage Disposals Clean

To keep your garbage disposal running smoothly, follow these best practices:

  • Do not try to grind too much food waste at the same time.
  • A garbage disposal can quickly turn from a helpful kitchen convenience to a plumbing nightmare. Avoid putting large pits, coffee grounds, stringy vegetables, and bones at your disposal.
  • Pouring cooking grease or oil down the drain can cause it to harden and clog your disposal.
  • Every time you use your garbage disposal, be sure also to run water for a few minutes to ensure that all food waste is flushed out.
  • Turn on the disposal and let it run until you can’t hear it breaking up any food. After that, keep it running for a few more seconds to clear out small food particles.

What Not to Do

Homeowners to avoid using commercial garbage disposal cleaners, as they can damage the grinding blades. If you must use a cleaner, choose one that is made specifically for disposal and follow the directions on the package. For the same reason, never put lye or chemical drain cleaners into a garbage disposal.

Never put your hand into the garbage disposal. Even if it’s turned off, residual electricity could still run through the blades. If something is stuck in the disposal, use tongs or pliers to remove it.

Never use hot water to flush your garbage disposal. This could crack the unit’s grind chamber or blades. Use cold water instead. If you have a garbage disposal that is not working properly, don’t hesitate to call a plumber. They can help diagnose the issue and make any necessary repairs.

Signs You Should Clean Your Garbage Disposal

Cleaning your garbage disposal should be done every few months to avoid nasty odors and ensure it’s running smoothly. But how do you know when it’s time to clean it?

Here are a few signs that indicate it’s time to break out the ice and vinegar:

Persistent Odors

Food scraps can cause bacteria buildup, causing bad smells. Cleaning thoroughly and often will help eliminate odors.

Poor Performance

If you notice your garbage disposal is having trouble grinding up food, it’s probably time for a cleaning. Debris can cause the blades to become dull and less effective.

Inexplicable Clogs

If your sink is suddenly backing up, it’s likely that something is stuck in the garbage disposal. Often, simply running it again will dislodge the item. However, if this doesn’t work, you’ll need to remove the item manually.

Unusual NoisesVinegar being poured down a garbage disposal

A well-maintained garbage disposal should run fairly quietly. If you notice grinding, rattling, or other strange noises, it may be time to clean the unit.


A garbage disposal is a handy tool in your kitchen, but it requires some maintenance to keep it running smoothly. Use these tips to clean and maintain your garbage disposal, and call a plumber if you run into any problems.

If you’re in need of a plumbing professional, we’re here to help. Our experienced and licensed plumbers are available 24/7 to help you with any repair or maintenance needs that you may have. Contact us today!

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