Garbage disposals are a great way to cut down on waste and keep unpleasant smells out of the trash can. But over time, all of the messy food bits can lead to a built-up of gunk inside these powerful appliances. And there’s two problems with this: First, it can smell bad, and, second, the stuck-on stuff can cause clogs and shorten the life of your disposal. Yuck. In order to avoid problems, you’ll want to give it a little extra attention whenever you catch a whiff of an off-smell or notice your disposal isn’t working as well as it should. We asked three cleaning experts to share their best tricks for how to clean a garbage disposal using simple household ingredients. Best of all? You’ll see results in less than a minute.
The most important tip for using garbage disposal
You might be tempted to run hot water while you’re operating the disposal: But plumbing pros advise against it. Why? Hot water liquifies any grease or fat that you intentionally — or inadvertently — put down the drain, explains the Pink Plumber. You may think, ‘Great! I’m getting rid of grease without the hassle of handling it.’ But that’s not actually true: Rather than destroying grease, you’re simply liquifying it temporarily. Once you stop running the hot water, the grease will re-harden wherever in you plumbing system it finds itself. Eventually, this hardened grease will create a clog. When you run cold water while operating the disposal, you end up chopping up the grease into little pieces that can travel through your pipes on the flow of the cold water and move through without causing clogs.
The 3 best ways to clean a garbage disposal fast
Regular cleaning of your disposal is important to keep it working in tip-top condition. Luckily, there are a few household ingredients that can do the job in no time at all!
1. For stuck-on stuff: Clean a garbage disposal with ice
Every few weeks, simply grind six cubes for 15 seconds in the disposal and flush with water. The ice sharpens blades and dislodges dried food in a flash. Tip: For deodorizing power, use ice cubes made of white vinegar. (Click through to learn how to clean an icemaker.)
2. For clogging grease: Clean the disposal using rock salt
Also smart? You can also grind rock salt (Buy from Amazon, $9.99) in your disposal, which not only knocks debris loose but cleans the pipe, as well. “Rock salt assists in breaking down grease,” says Shari Cedar, president & co-owner of AK Building Services, a commercial janitorial services provider. (Click through for a genius way to remove grease spots from your oven and other oven-cleaning hacks.)
3. To get rid of smells: Add some citrus peels
Lastly, nothing makes a disposal seem as a clean as a pleasant scent. To the rescue: Lemon, lime or orange peels! “Just drop a few peels in the disposal and run it as usual to clean and freshen it,” explains natural-cleaning expert Kristen McCalla of Earth Friendly Tips. Besides the pleasant aromas, the peels contain two powerful cleaning agents: citrus oil and citric acid. Plus, the bumpy skins act like little scrub brushes, while the pith absorbs grease. (Click through for more ways to use orange peels and more ways to clean your kitchen drain.)
See all three of these cleaning powerhouses in action in the video below:
How to deep clean a garbage disposal
Though ice cubes, rock salt and peels are perfect for getting the job done in a hurry, you may find that you want to give your disposal — and drain — a more thorough cleaning to keep draining freely and fast. (Note: Ensure you’ve disconnected the power from your disposal before you begin.)
First, tackle the splash guard. “The rubber splash guard can accumulate food debris and become a source of unpleasant odors,” explains Cedar. The pros suggest using a sponge to scrub baking soda onto the guard, taking care to get both the top and underside of the rubber flaps.
“Next, flush with cold water before adding ½ cup of baking soda down your disposal,” says Wilson. “Baking soda helps neutralize and eliminate odors stemming from your drain.” Let the powder sit for 15-30 minutes, then add 1 cup of white vinegar inside the disposal until you see the mixture fizz. That chemical reaction between the two ingredients will help break down any debris and residue. Finish by rinsing with cold water.
What *not* to use to clean a garbage disposal
When it comes to cleaning your garbage disposal, the pros say that doing it naturally is generally the best way to go!
“One mistake individuals often make when cleaning their garbage disposal is utilizing harsh chemicals or drain cleaners,” explains Wilson. These store-bought cleaners can damage both the disposal itself and the pipes, which can lead to costly repairs down the road.
Also important: Stay clear of abrasive materials when scrubbing. “Steel wool or abrasive pads can scratch and damage the inner components — stick to soft brushes and cloths,” adds Cedar.
How to keep it clean moving forward
But part of proper maintenance also includes knowing what discarded food items should stay out of the disposal all together. “Avoid putting grease, oils, starchy foods or pasta down the garbage disposal to help reduce the risk of drain clogs,” says Wilson.
Toss these items in the trash instead to avoid any unwanted headaches later!
For more kitchen cleaning tricks, keep reading!