How to Clean Garbage Disposal?

Last Updated:  November 2, 2020

In most cases, the garbage disposal appliance installed under your kitchen sink will only be efficient at removing waste food from your sink if it is clean. If you fail to clean it as required, the appliance might develop a bad odor due to the rotting food, or even grow mold. You, therefore, need to carry out frequent maintenance routines to keep the garbage disposal in good shape and performance.

Before putting any food remains in the garbage disposal system, you should cut them into smaller chunks that can easily wash down the drain. This is because larger pieces would eventually block the system because it is more likely to have a difficult time processing them. Larger foods will block the drain leading to the accumulation of waste that eventually rots and emits a bad smell.

Carry out the above garbage disposal cleaning routines as often as possible to ensure that your kitchen smells great at all times. This will also reduce the maintenance cost since the system will be in good shape at all times.

After extensive research, we were able to identify some of the simplest cleaning regimens that you could apply during the garbage disposal maintenance.

Prior to the cleaning process, you should be able to identify the type of waste the garbage disposal can handle. You will also need to know what your appliance can’t handle because this will ensure you avoid disposing of wastes that could cause blockages and thereafter, an unpleasant smell.

Tips on how to clean your garbage disposal

Garbage disposal systems are pretty convenient appliances in any home or commercial place. They make the kitchen space efficient since they make cleaning up easy. However, there is the challenge of keeping the garbage disposal itself clean. You need to know how to remove grease, clean chunks of food waste, or get rid of the unpleasant odor.

Properly maintaining the garbage disposal system is simple, but you should do it often to ensure your cleaning time is shorter. Moreover, a well-maintained garbage disposal system will require little input during the cleaning process.

Most of the cleaning ingredients featured in this article are available in everyone’s kitchen or laundry cabinet. Some of our reliable garbage disposal cleaning regimens include:

Understand your garbage disposal

When garbage disposal has been turned on, it emits a certain sound that most users might mistake for cutting blades. Contrary to this belief, it is imperative to understand that the whirring sound is produced by a flywheel that forces the pair of impellers to drive the waste into a shredding ring. This creates a pulp that is washed down the drain easily by the water that should be running when the garbage disposal is turned on.

When the shredding of the waste is in progress, it is possible for greasy food to stick on the shredder ring, thus affecting the ability of the garbage disposal to function properly. In some instances, a user might have put a bone or stringy waste down the drain, and this cannot be shredded. The continued accumulation of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable food waste will lead to rotting and then a foul smell.

You will also find garbage disposal appliances that come with smart features like an automatic shut-off in the event of a stuck flywheel. When such an appliance shuts off, you will have to clear the blockage that is causing the shut off before you can reset the garbage disposal.

Know how to clean the shredder ring

The garbage disposal relies on the shredder ring to grate the waste food into pulp. This is to say that if the ring is improperly maintained, it will not clear out its waste load sufficiently. This explains why you will find most garbage disposal manufacturers recommending the use of specific shredder ring cleaning regimens in their guidebooks.

For instance, some manufacturers of garbage disposals claim that placing ice cubes into the appliance for grinding will help prevent the buildup of grease. The application of ice cubes works by hardening the sticky grease that is formed around the shredder ring.

The hardened waste is then knocked off the shredder ring, leaving it clean. You should allow the ice cubes to freeze fully before pouring them into the garbage disposal. This should then be followed by a half cup of course salt that will significantly reduce the melting point of the ice cubes. After 30 minutes of leaving the ice working, you can then turn on the garbage disposal so the hardened grease can be removed. After this, you can continue disposing of your food waste without worrying about any more blockages. The bad odor will be eliminated once the waste in the drains is cleaned, but it might not be as fresh as you need it. This is where flushing and deodorizing come in.

Flushing the garbage disposal

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Once you have knocked off the sticky grease, you should flush some hot water out the garbage disposal. This should help with the removal of loose food waste and grime that is rotting. To clean the system and appliance thoroughly, you can use a stopper in the garbage disposal before putting in dish soap. Once this is done, you should let the hot water run until it fills 2 to 4 inches of the sink. After a few minutes, you can then turn on the garbage disposal so the water and soap can flush out accompanied by all the remaining waste.

Although some people use cold water, hot water is more efficient because it is able to melt and liquefy oily foods so they can be flushed out the drain effectively. This garbage disposal regimen has proved to be more effective as compared to just leaving tap water running.

Removing bad smell from the garbage disposal

When using a garbage disposal, you should be ready to deal with the bad odor emitted by rotting food waste. In most cases, you will still be able to detect a bad smell emitting from the drain system even after cleaning previously stinky garbage disposal. When this occurs, you need to know that it is time to deodorize the garbage disposal so your kitchen is left smelling fresh. Most people, however, contend that eliminating a bad odor from the drains can be a challenge.

To help you out, we have compiled about four super easy tips for removing foul odors from a garbage disposal system. Some of the easy tips are:

Using the peels of a citrus fruit

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The extract from citrus fruit peels has been used for a long time to freshen up something that is emitting a bad smell. To use this method, you will need a few peels of lemon, lime, or any other citrus fruit and grind them up. You should then put the ground peels into the garbage disposal and turn it on to make sure it cleans the flywheel and shredder ring. In the process, the bad odor emitted from the disposal system will be eliminated. To freshen up the garbage disposal even more, you could drain a few drops of lavender oil or any other pleasant smelling spice.

Using a blend of vinegar and baking soda

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These ingredients have been linked with freshness and hence can be effectively used to eliminate odor from a garbage disposal. You should get about 1/2 cup of baking soda and at least a cup of vinegar. To achieve optimal results, first, drain the baking soda followed by vinegar. This odor-cleaning combo will then provide a fizzling sound as bubbles continue to form. Allowing this reaction to act for at least 5 minutes and then running water down the garbage disposal will leave it smelling fresher than ever.

Use Bleach

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Bleach is often used as a disinfectant due to its ability to fill germs. It is also a regimen of choice when it comes to the removal of odor. Get a gallon of water and mix it with a tablespoon of bleach such as chlorine. Pour this mixture down the garbage disposal and give it about 1 to 2 minutes to act on the grease and grime. Before the bleach can harden the sticky grease, run hot water into the drain so that the garbage disposal can be rinsed and underlying residues eliminated.

Use Borax

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Borax is a natural product used to clean items like a garbage disposal. Its ingredients can remove any odor with efficiency, leaving your system thoroughly cleaned. You only need 3 to 4 tablespoons of Borax to clean the system. Once it is poured into the garbage disposal, give it around 1 hour to act on the grease and grime. After this, get hot water and run it down the drain.

Watch what you put into the garbage disposal

When using a garbage disposal appliance, there are foods that you cannot wash down it. How easy your cleaning experience will depend on the type of foods you dispose of in it.

It is essential, therefore, that you only let biodegradable food waste into the garbage disposal. You should not expect the garbage disposal to act as a trash can. You, therefore, can maintain the garbage disposal appliance and make it easy to clean by only disposing of biodegradable foods.

You should also avoid putting fibrous foods such as vegetable stalks and onionskin into the garbage disposal. This is because they could be entangled into the motor, thus affecting its ability to grind the food waste.

Another type of food to avoid putting into the garbage disposal appliance are starchy items such as potato peels. Such items tend to create a thick paste that might stick on the shredder ring and flywheel, something that might affect the system’s functionality.

If you let pasta and other expandable foods into the garbage disposal, they are also likely to block the drain providing an opportunity for mold growth and rotting. Coffee grinds, grains like beans and corn might also lead to the same outcome that will then result in a bad odor.

Some types of food wastes, however, can help the cleaning process. For instance, grinding up soft bones, eggs shells, or fruit peels will significantly increase the chances of removing stuck up waste.

To make the garbage disposal cleaning routine easy, make sure you give it adequate time to run and grind everything in it. If you turn it off immediately the grinding noises stop, chances are that some small waste debris might be left behind. To avoid this, you have to turn on the tap water and the garbage disposal for a few more seconds for thorough cleaning.

Watch this YouTube video to have a better understanding of the cleaning process:

Pros of cleaning a garbage disposal

Cons of leaving the garbage disposal un-cleaned


There you have it. After going through this post, you can be sure that cleaning the garbage disposal will become easier and less stressful for you. Although the tips above recommend a few regimens for removing sticky grease, it is imperative to avoid putting greasy food wastes down the drain. This is because grease accumulation will eventually occur on the shredder ring, thus affecting its performance negatively. To keep the motor and drainage pipes in good working condition, ensure that your greasy dishes are wiped off before they are cleaned and rinsed in the sink.

If you have any more tips that one can rely on when cleaning a garbage disposal, feel free to share them with us.