How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Do you know how to clean a garbage disposal in case it shows signs of smelling or becoming clogged? If you do, then you come to the right page and we’re here to show you tips and tricks on how to clean and manage your sink’s garbage disposal unit and ease your headache. 


A garbage disposal is a kitchen appliance that grinds up food waste so that it can flush the liquefied waste away smoothly. In this case, you should realize the need for cleaning the blades and other parts of the machine before they become clogged with debris. Cleaning a garbage disposal unit at home isn’t difficult, but it does require some preparation and tools for success. 

how to clean a garbage disposal

To know how to clean a garbage disposal, your first step is to understand the simple mechanics of what goes on inside it. When food is processed in the grinder, organic matter is ground up and liquefied by water and air that have been pumped into the grinding chamber. The liquid mixture then flows out through openings at the bottom of the unit where it enters an auger tube. The augers are like screw threads that force this mixture down into a drain pipe beneath your to clean a garbage disposal

The drainpipe connects to a P-trap which prevents foul odors from escaping from under your kitchen or bathroom sink as well as preventing sewer gas from entering your home’s interior spaces. This trap also contains any solid particles so for them to be disposed of properly, we have to do crucial cleaning using various ways and materials that can be easily found at home. 

how to clean a garbage disposal

Why Do We Need to Clean a Garbage Disposal?

The foul smell coming from your sink in the kitchen is the first sign that you have to do some flushing with your unit. This awful smell might be coming from your clogged food wastes which need to be removed at once using simple tricks on how to clean a garbage disposal.

Don’t be like most people that tend to spend hundreds of dollars when their device stops working properly. With your patience and knowledge, you can save a lot of money fixing your unit and what’s involve are only easy fixes using basic materials that you can find even in your kitchen.

 The listed guides below will give you all the needed information on how to clean a garbage disposal in three (3) simple and easy ways. – how to clean the garbage disposal with Ice, how to clean the garbage disposal with baking soda, and how to clean the garbage disposal with vinegar.

how to clean a garbage disposal

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal with Ice

Food wastes stuck in our sink for a long time tends to emit a disgusting smell which we hate so much. How to clean a garbage disposal with ice is a simple hack that everyone should know about. All you need to do is to put handfuls of ice from your freezer and push it to your unit, then turn on the disposal. You can add about a cup of rock salt for cleaner scrubbing power and lemon to have a pleasant smell after, but not a must.  

According to some plumbing experts, this works because the ice itself is hard enough to sharpen the blades and scrubs them clean while getting into tough areas inside the disposal. Some people try it with hot water which is not advisable. Hot water can lead the grease or junk back up to the sink bowl and this can look gross. If warm (not hot) water is to be used, it should only rinse the drain thoroughly after the ice has pulverized so that every bit of the waste reaches the sewer. 

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal with Baking Soda

Cleaning the garbage disposal isn’t a problem anymore especially when you know how to clean a garbage disposal with baking soda. Baking soda is a kitchen staple that can work wonders on clogged drains because of its naturally occurring mineral compound. Additionally, it has slight disinfectant properties that can combat odor-causing bacteria and fungi. Using natural ingredients such as baking soda is a better way in cleaning the garbage disposal because chemical cleaners can corrode its metal parts.

how to clean a garbage disposal

To use baking soda, measure half a cup and pour it into the mouth of the garbage disposal. Let it sit for half an hour so it can work its deodorizing magic then turn on the unit. So before thinking about trying chemical products to unclog your drain, you have to know how to clean a garbage disposal with baking soda and this is a must-try.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal with Vinegar

Vinegar is another cleaning component available at home which works best with baking soda. A half-cup of white or apple cider vinegar, mixed with a half cup of baking soda will create a foamy liquid that needs to sit on the sink and allow it to flow into the garbage disposal for about five to ten minutes. The chemical reaction will zap away the gunk in your garbage disposal and when you rinse the foam with warm water, you can quickly see the results.  

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Food You Can’t Put Down on a Garbage Disposal

This is the most important thing that every homeowner should know. That not all food waste can be disposed into your garbage disposal. The garbage disposal device is exclusively made for disposing of food waste in the kitchen except for some types of food waste so a better understanding of the proper use of the device and choosing the type of waste that must not be there will provide us more ideas on how to clean the garbage disposal and avoid clogging it often. 

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Coffee Grounds, eggshells, and shellfish

These are the first on our main list. Yes, these may seem harmless because they fall under the bio-waste types. But given the fact that these food wastes don’t decompose quickly, a bit oily, and have a high tendency of amassing dirt and clogging the drain, these should belong to your green bin waste and not on your garbage disposal. 

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Fats, Oils, and Grease or FOGs

Second on our list are the FOGs. These can be in the form of liquid but these waste can easily accumulate, get hard and thicken and eventually clog the inside of your pipes including the water system. According to research, the “FOGs are related to about 70 percent of sewer overflows”. So it is because most of the food that we cook and/or eat in the kitchen has one or the other of these three, which makes it difficult for the machine to flush out and run it downstream. Butter, heavy cream and ice cream are some examples.

Fibrous Vegetables and Peels

Why are these on our list? Fibrous foods like celery, asparagus, artichokes and the likes together with fruit and vegetable peels can’t go down easily into the drain unlike as we expected. This is because their waste materials can either slide through the grates OR will create a big mass of strings which can lead to clogging. Yes, putting down these materials in our garbage disposals is very common in households but should be avoided.

Starchy Food

Rice, pasta and potatoes as the staple food are always seen as some forms of clogging agents and are the usual problems with our garbage disposal device. Though they seemed to be fine but when soaked in water, they expand and break down into sugar-like material which can lead to clogging.

Garbage disposal provides a better way to dispose of food wastes and keep landfills from overflowing. But this unit can also choke on these kinds of foodstuff. In case clogging will happen, follow the steps on how to clean garbage disposal with vinegar or baking soda.


As a mainstream in the garbage disposal process which includes grinding of bones, it is still not applicable to use the unit to extremely grind hard items such as rack of ribs. Chicken wings or fish bones are no issues but the harder bones, can easily dull the blade of the garbage disposal and cause incomplete grinding which can lead also to clogging.


If you have been dumping peanuts on your garbage disposals, you need to stop it right away. Garbage disposal is more like an appliance-sized version of a peanut grinder which can mash peanuts into a sticky, thick paste and could emit a foul smell in the long run. Just a perfect form of clog you would like to avoid.

Onion Skins

It should not be a problem unless you put it down into the garbage disposal only its thin membrane that lies below the dry, outermost layer of the onion. But if you put all the waste from the onion including its skin, roots, and leaves, these can still pass through and miss blades and can block the drain like a cargo net in place.  


The idea of dropping eggshells into the garbage disposal is normal and though these can somehow sharpen the blades of the garbage disposal and the shell itself doesn’t do any damage, the thin membrane on the inside of the shell can be loosened up and lodges in the drain.

Cleaning Chemicals

Dishwashing soaps and other detergents are fine to use and won’t affect the garbage disposal. However, the use of drain busters and industrial-grade cleaners can put extreme wear on the garbage disposal. 


Latex or oil paint should never go down into your garbage disposal. It can stay on the side of the disposal or in pipes where it will harden into an intractable clog unless it is heavily diluted. The problem is, many DIYers usually do not dilute their paints before putting them into their garbage disposals. However, we don’t suggest dumping your excess paint into the garbage disposal because these belong to special or hazardous waste.


Seafood hard shells are a common garbage disposal problem since they cannot be grounded properly. Shrimp shells can be ground though but pose a possibility of getting stuck in the drain and cause clogging. If you suspect that the blades of the unit are dull and can’t disintegrate even shells of seafood, use the tips on how to clean garbage disposal with ice.

It is very common to put down these listed materials on our sink thinking that our garbage disposal device will do the job for us. Unfortunately, some people have gotten used to dumping these into their sink which punishes the unit and can eventually show bad signs which will call for repair. But as we have mentioned, you must know the tricks either on how to clean a garbage disposal with baking soda which can eliminate odor and for the bad smell, learning how to clean a garbage disposal with vinegar is essential.   

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal


How Often Do I Need to Clean My Garbage Disposal?

Once a week is the best time for cleaning and managing your garbage disposal unit so it can avoid too much clogging and foul smell issues. This way, unavoidable food wastes that got stuck to your pipe will be easier to remove. 

How Can I Deodorize my Garbage Disposal Better?

If the garbage disposal becomes smelly, or you have tried the sample hacks on how to clean a garbage disposal using cleaning components at home like ice cubes, baking soda and vinegar and still get a foul smell, you can use a diluted bleach solution. You will need 1/3 cup of bleach (maximum amount) and 2/3 cup of water mixed carefully. Make sure to wear gloves when pouring it into the drain, then run warm (not hot) water down the drain after several seconds.

I Want to Know the Easy Ways in Managing My Garbage Disposal Unit 

A garbage disposal needs to be cleaned regularly and the given hacks can help you a lot in maintaining the health of your garbage disposal. So try them out first before planning to buy a replacement. But in case you want to try repairing your unit, you can release the unit from the sink and see what you can do. You can also check your user’s manual so that you know how to properly manage your unit.   

When Is the Best Time to Replace my Garbage Disposal Unit?

If the problems persist with your garbage disposal unit and have followed our tips and still did not work while you don’t want to try repairing it, then this can be the time that you’ll need to look out for a new unit. Incidentally, a lot of designs and models of garbage disposal devices are now available in many local home centers or on different websites. So choosing the best model depends on how simple or detailed you want it to be.

There are those with the alarms like bells and whistles, made of fancy stainless steel and complete with grinding chambers or extra insulation for sound reduction. But at the end of the day, your garbage disposal will always serve its purpose as the workhorse in your kitchen. 

Yet, it is still advisable to try different ways on how to clean a garbage disposal before changing it to a new one since it is more economical but like the usual option, if it doesn’t work well anymore, change it for a new one. 

Now, let’s say you have chosen a unit and you have now brand new garbage disposal, what should you do? Can you install it yourself or need to call a plumber?

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Garbage Disposal Installation

Before you consider calling for a plumber, try to do a self-installation of your garbage disposal first to save you some money from hiring a plumber. You can also do what some people do like following the procedures on the manual or look for instructional videos on YouTube.  

In this way, you will be more aware of how the equipment is assembled and do its job, leaving you the idea of how to clean a garbage disposal to the extent of dissembling it when needed. 

For reference, you can follow our simple 6-steps installation.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Pre-assemble the unit and apply putty.

Clean the sink and attach the fastening system. 

Attach the mounting  plate and secure the tailpipe.

Remove the breakout plate then connect the wiring.

Attach the disposer unit followed by connecting the disposer to P-Trap.

Make sure that the unit is secured.

Once done, do not forget to check for leaks by turning on the tap water and running it through the garbage disposal unit. You can also drop some food scraps into it to test its operation. 

In Summary

If there’s one machine that’s hidden from  our view in our homes but has the most useful function in disposing of our garbage, there’s no other device that fits this description but only the garbage disposal kitchen device. 

However, because they deal with different kinds of waste, even waste that should not be dumped into them, they become clogged, emit a foul odor or eventually bog down when they can’t handle the punishments anymore. 

So knowing how to clean a garbage disposal is a very crucial practice that should not be abandoned but maintained and hopefully, you will try our tips on how to clean your unit using easily available kitchen stuff and generally, these hacks work.

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