8 Easiest Ways To Clean Your Garbage Disposal

Making sure your garbage disposal is free of debris is essential for keeping foul smells at bay. You don't need to rely on harsh chemicals or products such as Drano, either, as the job can get done with natural products you most likely have in your pantry. However, according to Bob Vila, you must first turn off the garbage disposal before you get started; be sure to check that it's off by seeing if the switch turns it on. If it doesn't, you are ready to clean your garbage disposal.

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors notes that garbage disposals can last around 12 years with proper maintenance. However, there are several ways to extend their longevity. For instance, certain food items should never make it down the drain, including coffee grounds, bones, grease, and oil, per Mr. Rooter Plumbing Company. So if you're wondering what the best method to clean your garbage disposal is, we've found several ways to keep it in tiptop shape. While we are well aware that there are many mistakes people make while using their garbage disposal, read on to find the best cleaning methods for this appliance.

1. Ice and cold water

If you don't have a cleaner on hand, no problem! Ice and cold water can work wonders on a kitchen drain and garbage disposal. This popular cleaning hack uses ice cubes and cold water to flush the drain. Chief Operating Officer Mark Dawson at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing told Better Homes & Gardens why cold water is essential. "Pouring grease and oils down the drain should always be avoided, but should a small amount inevitably end up in your drain, cold water will keep the fat solid and allow it to pass through your pipes more easily," he explained.

However, these results may not help the smelly factor. To get rid of any odor, try making ice cubes with vinegar and following the same steps to both make the drain free of gunk and get rid of foul scents. Omaha, Nebraska-based Thermal Services also explains that it's best not to use hot water. If you made the mistake of putting any grease down your sink, that grease could harden up and cause horrific clogs.

2. Citrus peels

If there's one thing we love about a clean home, it's that fresh citrusy smell that we never get tired of, because what is better than a kitchen that smells fresh and clean? Not much, in our opinion! To that end, before you throw away your lemon, lime, and orange peels, consider putting them in your garbage disposal. Be sure, though, to cut them up in small pieces so that your blades are protected when you do this. 

Shiny Modern also advises running water before placing the peels in the disposal. Why? This ensures that the garbage disposal blades are functioning correctly. Then it's time to run the cold water with the citrus peels and let the citrus oils work their magic on the drain. Mr. Rooter Plumbing Company suggests using ice cubes and orange peels, then running the drain with ice-cold water for 30 to 45 seconds, and lastly, hot water for 15 seconds.

3. Boiling water

The Spruce notes that drain clogs can be a common occurrence, so before you try another cleaning method, pouring boiling water down the drain can take care of any debris that may be stuck in the garbage disposal. However, it's crucial to ensure that grease or oils never make it down the sink because if that's the case, this method can backfire. Grease can harden, causing more clogs, according to Pennsylvania-based David Leroy Plumbing.

The Spruce also lays out other awful issues that can happen when using boiling water. For example, homeowners should forgo pouring water down the drain at 140 Fahrenheit or above if their pipes are made of plastic PVC. The reason is that pipes can become soft or damaged, and who needs that dilemma? Also, if your sink is porcelain, be sure the hot water doesn't touch the sink and only makes it down the drain.

4. Baking soda and vinegar

This next garbage disposal cleaning hack combines baking soda and vinegar, and has approval from both TikTok and professional plumbers. Here's what you do: First you first fill your drain with baking soda, making sure it's stuffed with the powdery substance, then you'll follow up by adding the vinegar, which causes the combination to bubble up. "To make this hack as effective as possible, pour boiling water down the drain before and after the vinegar-and-baking-soda combination," Bailey Carson, head of cleaning for household services app Handy, told Insider. "Follow with a cup of baking soda and a combination of one cup of water and one cup of vinegar to loosen what the first round of boiling water missed. The pressure created by the chemical reaction pushes the clog through the drain smoothly."

HGTV is also a fan of this drain clearing and cleaning hack; however, they suggest that the combination sits in the drain for at least an hour, along with a few other creative methods.

5. Dish soap and baking soda

We've seen how the combination of dish soap and baking soda can make a sink sparkle; it can also be excellent for cleaning garbage disposals. Plus, baking soda and dish soap are products you likely already have in your house. Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Service Professor says that this is an excellent way to clean your garbage disposal. They recommend running hot water before adding the dish soap for the best results and explain that this method can help eliminate the garbage disposal of foul odors.

Per American Home Shield, use a toothbrush to really scrub the splash guard flaps of the garbage disposal, which can hang on to food debris. By using dish soap and baking soda, you can easily clean the area. According to Roto-Rooter, which has locations nationwide, they suggest adding one cup of dish soap to clean the garbage disposal.

6. Dish soap and water

If you don't have baking soda in your pantry, don't fret. HomeServe, a company that provides home repair service solutions in the U.S. and Canada, says that you can clean your disposal with dish soap, water, and a sponge, which is ideal since most people have these items on hand. Sheboygan County-based Plymouth Plumbing and Heating says that this simple combination can both help prolong your garbage disposal's lifespan and keep it clean. 

First, squirt some dish soap down the sink, and next turn on the cold water for approximately one minute. This will help ensure that the blades are as clean as can be. ABC Home & Commercial Services, a plumbing company that services Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida, agrees with this advice, recommending the combination as an excellent way to maintain a garbage disposal while keeping it clean. They advise that you follow this step after you are finished washing dishes.

7. Salt and ice

You've tried the method of cold water and ice; now try the salt and ice method of cleaning your garbage disposal, especially if your main issue is residue. Per Compact Appliance, this method works wonders since Kosher salt can help get rid of residue. They suggest that you first put ice cubes down the drain and then the Kosher salt, up to half a cup, and voilà, say goodbye to smelly food particles in your drain. Taste of Home says that Kosher salt or table salt will work; they suggest using rock salt as it's more coarse.

Better Homes & Gardens takes things a step further by adding lemon peels to this hack to dispel any foul odors. "While ice cubes have always been noted as a source for cleaning a disposal, that doesn't necessarily mean the viral hack is doing what homeowners expect: removing the unpleasant smell," Mark Dawson of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing told the outlet.

8. Borax

Borax, known as sodium tetraborate, has many uses when it comes to cleaning a home thoroughly. Per The Spruce, it can be used on your laundry to remove stains, clean a toilet bowl, and even rid a home of pests. Lucky for us, this product can also be used as a garbage disposal cleaner.

According to Nationwide, Borax is an excellent product to have on hand for cleaning the garbage disposal. First, they suggest that you add half a cup to the drain and give it half an hour to sit before running hot water. Per Thought Co, it's the hot water that makes the Borax activate correctly, so be sure that your water is indeed hot.

Horizon Services, an AC, heating, or plumbing company that services Kent, Northampton, and Baltimore counties, notes that Borax is also suitable for eliminating the garbage disposal of mold and mildew, which can cause plenty of health issues.