The Best Way To Clean Your Garbage Disposal

If you have a garbage disposal, you know how easy it makes meal-cleanup. Although the unwanted debris is out of sight, there are still bits and pieces of food that remain in the machine that you may not see. This creates a perfect place for bacteria to breed, meaning your garbage disposal can become quite stinky — but keeping your garbage disposal clean and odor-free doesn't have to be a challenge.

There are two easy parts to the cleaning process, beginning with the rubber splash guard that is affixed to the mouth of the sink drain. Oftentimes, the smell comes from food residue clinging to this guard. In order to prevent foul odors and ensure a more hygienic environment, make sure to clean any buildup on the guard weekly. This can easily be done with warm water and dish soap or by removing it and popping it into the top rack of the dishwasher. You can also apply baking soda mixed with warm water and scrub the guard carefully with a soft bristle brush.

The cleaning process doesn't end there. You'll need to degunk the actual garbage disposal inner housing as well to keep things smelling fresh — luckily, that's also a simple task.

Homemade remedies for degunking the disposal

One of the easiest ways to refresh your garbage disposal is by following a simple protocol involving vinegar and baking soda. Start by turning off the power and measuring out into separate containers 1/2 cup each of baking soda and white vinegar. Then, pour the baking soda into the drain, followed by the vinegar. Let it fizzle for 15 to 30 minutes, and then rinse it away using hot (not boiling) water. This helps to wash down remaining food particles and grease.

Another similar method includes ice cubes and rock salt or vinegar. Simply put about 6 standard-size ice cubes into the disposal, followed by one cup of rock salt or vinegar, and then run the machine until the chomping is complete. Be sure to run water as usual while doing this and then flush the disposal with hot water afterward. This method can also be used as a follow-up to the vinegar and baking soda technique. For a further boost, if you have some lemons, save those peels... To keep things fresh until the next cleaning, toss some lemon peels into the disposal and grind them up with some water.

How to give your garbage disposal a deeper cleaning

If standard cleaning methods aren't getting the job done, a deeper cleaning may be in order. Having oxygen bleach powder on hand for these more stubborn messes is a good idea. Be sure to take all necessary safety precautions and remember to turn off the power supply to your garbage disposal. To get rid of any buildup or food particles tucked away, pour ⅓ cup oxygen bleach with ⅔ cup of hot water into the disposal then flush it out again with some hot water. If necessary, use a toothbrush to dislodge any remaining debris. 

Instead of oxygen bleach powder, you can also use mild chlorine-based bleach, however, using more potent chemicals can cause permanent damage and should be avoided. Just remember that a little bit goes far — in most cases, you can probably use as little as a couple of tablespoons of bleach to effectively get the job done. Place six ice cubes in the chamber of the disposal, put add the bleach, and top with more ice. Turn on the machine without running water until the grinding is complete, then finish by rinsing with cold water. Remember that bleach should be used sparingly and that routinely using milder cleaners should keep the disposal fresh and clean.