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.
Step 1: Cleaning Tools
- Kitchen Tongs or Pliers
- Rock Salt
- Scrub Brush or Old Toothbrush
- Dish soap
- Citrus Peels
- White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Borax (optional)
Step 2: Remove Obstructions
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
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.
Step 4: Grinding Elements
Your grinding elements are the workhorse of the disposal. Consequently, they can easily and quickly get covered in sludge, grease, and grime from the variety of food products they've been breaking up. Just like in the last step, I like to clean the grinding elements first before attacking the drain line so that the grease, grime and dirt from the elements gets flushed when I'm cleaning the drain line.
Combine 2 cups of ice and 1 cup of rock salt in a bowl or large cup. Pour your mixture into your garbage disposal. Turn on the cold water from your faucet. Run your disposal for 10-15 seconds. The ice and rock salt will act as an abrasive cleaner, knocking off any tough debris clinging to your grinding elements.
Alternative: Instead of using regular ice, you can freeze vinegar in an ice tray and use those new cubes to clean the grinding elements. If you decide to freeze vinegar, remember to mark it in some way (food coloring?) or mark the ziplock you store it in so you don't end up with vinegar ice cubes in your next glass of water.
Step 5: Drain
There are two methods in my mind for cleaning and flushing the drain of your disposal.
Method 1: Plug your sink drain. Fill your sink with hot soapy water up to 4 inches deep--to do this, turn on your tap so that your water is running nice and hot. Squirt a small amount of dish soap into your sink as the water is running. Once you have roughly 4 inches of hot soapy water, pull your drain plug. Turn on your garbage disposal and let your soapy water get pulled through the drain. Hot water is essential in this step as it will help to liquify any grease or oils stuck in the drain, flushing them down and out.
Method 2: Pour a 1/4 cup of baking soda down into your garbage disposal. Pour a 1/2 cup of white vinegar on top of your baking soda. The two ingredients should start to react foaming and bubbling. Let the reaction run to completion and let it sit for up to 5 minutes. Flush your drain with hot water from your tap. This method will also help eliminate some of the odors coming from the disposal.
Step 6: Eliminate Odors
Place your citrus peels into your garbage disposal. Turn on your cold water from the tap. As the cold water is running, turn on your garbage disposal. Let your disposal run until all of your citrus peels have been broken up. Your disposal and kitchen should be smelling citrus clean and fresh!
You can also use wedges of slices from your citrus fruits instead of just the peels if you prefer.
Alternate Deodorizing Agents:
- Bleach: Pour a couple of tablespoons of bleach down your garbage disposal and while running your disposal, flush with cold water.
- Borax: Pour 1/4 cup of borax down your disposal and let sit for an hour. Flush with cold water while running your disposal.
Step 7: Future Maintenance Tips
- Only grind biodegradable food. Your disposal is not a trash can, it cannot process non food items.
- Cut the food you are going to grind into small pieces before sending it down the disposal. Smaller items are less likely to get wedged or stuck and clog your disposal or drain.
- Avoid sending oils or grease down your disposal. These items can solidify and clog your drain easily. Instead, let them solidify in a disposable container or in your pan and scrape into your trash can.
- Avoid expandable foods like pasta, bread, and rice. These items can take on water and expand inside your disposal and drain, leading to clogging and back up.
- Run cold water anytime you are running your disposal to help flush particles and bits down the drain.
- Run your disposal for up to 10 seconds longer than you normally would, past the grinding noise. This will encourage final bits and pieces to find their way down the drain.
- Clean your disposal often, and especially before leaving on an extended trip. When you leave on an extended trip, the food particles left in your disposal can harden and crust on your grinding elements making it harder for them to break down future food.