Instructables
Picture of Clean Your Garbage Disposal
Quick and easy steps to clean your garbage disposal and help it run more effectively.  

Garbage disposals are wonderful built-in kitchen tools. They take almost whatever we give them and make it disappear--down the drain and out of sight.  Despite the heavy work load they take on, they are often neglected when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. Luckily, they are easy and fast to clean as well as maintain which will lead to a more effective and efficient grind when you need it. 
 
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Step 1: Cleaning Tools

Picture of Cleaning Tools
You'll be using the following tools to clean your garbage disposal:
  • Kitchen Tongs or Pliers
  • Rock Salt
  • Ice
  • Scrub Brush or Old Toothbrush
  • Dish soap 
  • Citrus Peels
  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Borax (optional)

Step 2: Remove Obstructions

Picture of Remove Obstructions
IMG_8774.jpg
The first step to cleaning your garbage disposal is to remove any obstructions that may have fallen down into the disposal, the most likely culprit being silverware. 

Before sticking anything else into your garbage disposal, turn off the fuse responsible for the power to your disposal. This will prevent your disposal from accidentally turning on while your are working with it. Using needle nose pilers or a set of kitchen tongs, remove any physical obstructions you can find. You should avoid using your hands to remove items from the disposal to avoid injury. If you find that it is absolutely necessary to use your hands, please make sure your fuse and the disposal are OFF. You can easily check this by trying to turn on the disposal. 


Step 3: Sink Side

Picture of Sink Side
When cleaning my garbage disposal, I like to work from the outside to the inside, so that all the dirt, grime and germs eventually get flushed down the drain. 

Using your scrub brush or old toothbrush, clean the outer most part of your garbage disposal with a little bit of dish soap. Rinse any remaining residue or soap suds down the disposal with hot tap water. 

Once you have completed your scrubbing, go ahead and turn your fuse for the disposal back on. You'll need to run the disposal for the next couple of cleaning steps. 
showard265 months ago
Thanks for sharing.. I'm having this problem now
ahab_jr5 months ago

Well written 'ible!

Personally, I have found that citrus peels do _not_ get ground up by the disposal very well. I've had to pull them out when last I tried them.

davidtrw5 months ago

I would not recommend limes running inside your disposal. They often don't break up like you would like. Generally you will have to fish them out after they tumble around a bit.

On the other hand, is to use those little cuties citrus fruit (I think are basically mandarin oranges. Basically toss one inside your disposal whole when it is running. If they ever sit to long in your fridge and you decide to toss them out, instead let your disposal do the trick.

dwoodis15 months ago
I have always been told to, and have used ice cubes to sharpen the blades. The first of every month just put down 2 trays of ice cubes.
TheAZAndyman5 months ago

It's the rubber piece around the opening that has gotten gross. best way to clean that? The brush...but it just flexes out of the way when I try to scrub it.

I struggled with that, too. A bottle brush is the best thing I've come up with. Something like http://www.target.com/p/munchkin-deluxe-bottle-brush/-/A-13991501. The rubber skirt on my disposal (not "my rubber skirt", that is different) will stay up briefly when flipped inside out. Basically I push the brush down through the skirt and then rotate and swirl as I pull it out. Two or three swirlies with some soap or peroxide or whatever you like and it is good as new.

fantine5 months ago

Thank you for pinpointing fixes for odor and sanitation issues. I do use squeezed-out citrus pieces just for this. Since I began composting (and since now my city takes compost along with yard clippings) I use my disposal lightly. But I do use the unit for most of the stuff that falls in the sink from cooking and washing. I want to maintain the (not so young) unit for as long as possible without calling the plumber!

this was one of the best and most practical instructables I have found in a long time. Great explanation! Thanks!

lisagd5 months ago
Really helpful 'able. Thanks for writing it up!
areza45 months ago
Love that I found this to do right now as this is my first thing on my list tomorrow... My question: every time I try the citrus rind I end up with tiny particles of rotting stinky rind a few days later.. I do the super hot water and Dawn detergent run for a few minutes (until the disposer quiets down) but the rinds never fully go away. Blades not sharp? I clean the disposer one time per week
dpg350 areza45 months ago

areza4, follow up with ice cubes after your citrus. They will help grind up whatever is left in there

ac-dc areza45 months ago

Use more detergent and less water, and when you dump it down, do not try to rinse it through, instead letting the strong detergent solution sit in the disposal to work on the citrus oils for several minutes.

kelleymarie (author)  areza45 months ago

Hey Areza4! Thats a pickle. I personally haven't had that problem. Maybe try citric acid in powder form or use just the juice from your favorite citrus fruit instead of the rinds and avoid the problem completely?

kelleymarie (author)  areza45 months ago

Hey Areza4! Thats a pickle. I personally haven't had that problem. Maybe try citric acid in powder form or use just the juice from your favorite citrus fruit instead of the rinds and avoid the problem completely?

lthroop5 months ago

There are surfaces that surround the sink opening that get splashed with food particles. If you can get a scrubber to those parts you will discover slime that is not addressed by any chemical cleaning methods.

rfoster45 months ago

A plumber told me that most in his industry hate disposals. They are the cause of more sink clogs than anything else. Not in the trap, but further down the line. He suggested running hot water for at least a minute after using the disposal to flush the pipes of any remaining debris. It may save a call to have the pipes snaked in the future. I have done this ever since he was here to snake my pipes and have not had a problem since. A very well done instructable BTW.

zikzak15 months ago
cool, but no, this wont sharpen a thing. garbage disposals dont have blades. they have beaters that are blunt weights on pivots. they will never sharpen, nor were they intended to be.
doctorkb zikzak15 months ago

That's true -- but they force the material against a cheese-grater-like outside -- which may have sharp edges.

It's not clear whether any of the parts to this will sharpen those... I've heard of everything from egg shells to lightbulb glass being used for that.

ac-dc doctorkb5 months ago

An abrasive will only dull them further. Practically speaking the grating ring is good for the life of the unit, either way the particles are forced through the holes unless they are clogged.

zikzak1 doctorkb5 months ago

Egg shells might clean those, but I wouldn't expect it to sharpen them much. Glass would be a really bad idea all around, most likely taking out the rubber seals on the pump. Seen that happen from a small piece off a metal pot scrubber. The customer ended up replacing the sump / motor assy for that one. (the cost between just the pump vs pump with sump assy was one dollar... I couldn't believe it at the time). Replacing the entire sump assy actually saved her a few dollars as it cut about 15 minutes labor. She felt really bad, but I told her how was she to have known. It was a freak thing.

kelleymarie (author)  zikzak15 months ago

hey zikzak1! I could've sworn that some of the older models did have blades, mainly just because I can remember fishing things out of my parents old disposal and feeling them--however, for the time being I've edited the Instructable so that it's not too misleading for users and new disposals. Thanks for the feedback!

I sold and serviced appliances for almost 30 years. I *think* we could order disposals with blades, but they were commercial grade and real pricy. Your parents may have had such a unit if they specified they wanted a commercial unit installed. I blame salesmen for a lot of misinformation that goes around. For a while companies were trying to get salesmen to tell people they had "blades" in their dishwashers too!

doctorkb zikzak15 months ago

I know for a fact that dishwashers have had blades in them.

I've laid eyes and hands on the blade used to macerate any solid-ish food that was going to be put out the "output" line. It was truly a blade -- it was sharp. This was on a portable model manufactured in the early 1980's. Not sure about any changes since then.

zikzak1 doctorkb5 months ago

Never saw true blades, only "choppers" that beat food up or mashed it through a stainless steel plate with holes in it. We didn't service commercial units though.

fzumrk5 months ago

On some models you can pop out the rubber splash guard without disconnecting the unit. I will pull this out and scrub off the bottom of it, which is usually caked with crud.

oakback fzumrk5 months ago

Anytime my sink has a stinky smell, this is the culprit. I clean the bottom side of the rubber insert, and the smell vanishes.

patsheldon5 months ago

That looks mighty clean and I can almost smell the freshness ;) thanks for sharing!

Huncker5 months ago
Great tips. I like to use a whole lemon cut into pieces (remove the seeds) along with other citrus peels. The juice contains high levels of citric acid.