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How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

4 Easy Tips

As Seen On
by Jeff Patterson in Interior DIY Projects
How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Do you have a stinky kitchen sink?

If you do, there are several ways to stop nasty odors.

Just last week my good buddy complained about his garbage disposal stinking to high heaven.

Since the holidays are approaching I decided to put together a little tutorial.

Today you’ll learn 4 tips that’ll show you how to clean a garbage disposal.

Instead of smelling awful odors you can enjoy the wonderful sent of chocolate chip cookies.

Hmm, maybe I’ll have to include a good cookie recipe at the end of this post…

I bet you have most of the ingredients in your home to clean your garbage disposal.

Even if you don’t it won’t cost you much money.

Almost all the methods I use are “natural”, meaning we’re not using bleach or other chemicals.

Here’s the full supply list 😀

  • Lemons ($2)
  • Knife (FREE)
  • Cutting Board or Plate (FREE)
  • Baking Soda ($2)
  • Vinegar ($2)
  • Borax ($3)
  • 1/2 Cup Measuring Cup (FREE)
  • 1 Tablespoon (FREE)

Pretty simple list, right?

So lets jump right into the cleaning!

 

4 Easy methods for cleaning your disposal (SUPER FAST too)

Alright, the first method uses lemons.

Cheap, natural, and quick.

Lemons for Garbage Disposal

Cut a lemon in half then cut it into 1/4 inch slices.

Cut the slices into half moon shapes.

I like to take the seeds out of the lemons because frankly we don’t put much down the disposal beside fruit pieces or cereal.

Here’s the deal, even though you might have a disposal that doesn’t mean you should put all your leftovers down in it.

I remember watching a Mike Holmes show on HGTV and he pretty much hated disposals because they cause more harm than good.

Who’s gonna argue with the big guy, I’m not!!

Pasta, meat, grease…. these all are bad news for your pipes.

Imagine the grinding up pasta. The sludge has to pass through the P-Trap and make it’s way into your main sewer pipe.

In order to do that you have to run a lot of water (witch is wasteful) and even then you run the risk of getting a clog.

We all know what a pain clogs are to fix.

Enough of my thoughts on garbage disposal dos and don’ts.

Push the lemons down into the disposal (disposal should be off :D), run warm water, then turn on the disposal for 1 minute.

Lemon juice is acidic and will naturally clean your disposal and pipes.

 

Method #2

Make vinegar ice cubes overnight.

Vinegar Ice Cubes for Disposals

The next morning throw a handful of these cleaning cubes into the disposal, run cold water, and turn on the disposal for 1 minute.

Ice cubes will abrade the blades of the disposal and vinegar is mildly acidic, so it will clean the disposal and pipes much like the lemons.

PLEASE make sure to remove the leftover vinegar ice cubes from your fridge.

The last thing you need is for a family member to mix vinegar with their orange juice in the morning.

Although it might be somewhat entertaining.

Don’t get any smart ideas. Either use all the vinegar cubes or throw them away 😀

 

Method #3

The third method involves adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to the disposal.

Baking Soda for Disposals

Let the baking soda sit and absorb whatever’s in the disposal for about 1 hour.

Then you can add 1 cup of vinegar, I prefer Heinz cleaning vinegar, to the disposal.

A lot of fizzing will occur. This is natural and a product of the baking soda reacting with the vinegar.

It’s perfectly safe and mostly carbon dioxide gas.

 

Method #4

Use Borax.

Borax for Disposals

The best part about this is the box has super specific instructions on how to use Borax for garbage disposals.

You’ll see what I mean in the video, which is all of 4 minutes but could be super helpful if your disposal smells worse than the high school football team’s locker room.

And yes, I’ve seen some disgusting stuff in kitchens that would rival a boys locker room!!!

 

What’s Next

If you liked this tutorial you’ll love the one showing how to clean greasy kitchen hoods – it’s awesome!

Grab our free guide if you’re doing a DIY bathroom remodel – it shares how to remodel a bathroom in 10 days or less

Send Me The Guide

 

Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.

Ask your questions below and we’d be happy to help.

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. Our online store has great supplies for homeowners doing a bathroom remodel. You’ll find shower systems, tiling tools, and more.

33 Comments
  1. Marlene Oglesby says:

    I don’t put a lot of stuff down my garbage disposal either and I have not had the smell.
    The one thing I do when under the rubber that and just inside the garbage disposal gets
    uckky and I use comet cleaner and a brush and get the gunk off and then run water down the disposal. Thank you for your comment and you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family

    1. I like Comet as well Marlene. When our it comes time to clean our kitchen sink I rinse it down then pour comet in both basins. Then I make a paste with water and Comet, let that sit on the sink surface for 10 minutes, wash it off, and use towels to make the sink sparkle.

      Have a great Thanksgiving with your family 😀

      It’s the best holiday of the year

  2. ski says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I like to put that rubber gasket in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean it. The dw does a great job. I also pull the rubber gasket out of the drain at night and just let it air dry in the sink, then pop it again in the morning. Since I’ve been doing this I haven’t noticed any odors from the garbage disposal. I think a lot of the smell comes from that gasket….go ahead, give it a whiff and let me know. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to your family and all your wonderful readers.

    1. You know what, I’ve never tried to remove our gasket. I do use a special brush to clean it. I’ll pass on the smell test though, lol.

      I do agree that the rubber could start to smell pretty bad if not washed regularly. Have a wonderful Holiday 😀

  3. John Gray says:

    Been married 45 years and have lived in 5 houses, 2 with garbage disposals. I agree completely with you. In fact, we simply took out the disposal in the house where we now live. Less hassle and fewer problems period!!

    1. I hate to say it John, but none of my rentals have disposals. Primarily because I’m afraid my tenants, even they they are flat out awesome, might not use them correctly. I view disposals much like dishwashers, they’re viewed as miracle machines when in reality they are pretty fragile.

      Even though we have a newer dishwasher I still scrape all the plates or wipe them down with napkins.

  4. Melinda G says:

    Good tip on the vinegar ice cubes! I will typically run mine with lemon peels or orange peels and a few ice cubes. My son loves tangerines, so we have a lot of citrus around. I have a friend who once had a plant sprout from her disposal! She ran some type of fruit through the disposal, and the conditions must have been right for a seed to start growing! It sounded crazy to me but I guess anything is possible!

    1. It doesn’t surprise me Melinda. I wonder what kind of plant that was.

      You and Pat seem to have great success with citrus. So I’d say that’s a great option to do weekly.

  5. Pat says:

    I put almost everything down the disposal but no red meat. I just do the lemon treatment weekly and clean the rubber gasket. I have never had a problem with an odor and the lemon fragrance is nice! I do put a few chicken bones down the disposal occasionally which keeps the blades sharp.

    1. Awesome Pat, so lemon treatment weekly works long-term. Thanks for sharing your experience because adding lemons is so easy. I think I might take you up on your suggestion 😀

  6. Joe says:

    I once rented a nice unit in Fl. For some reason, I looked in the garbage disposal and found a metal spoon. My friend found his garbage disposal jammed with a dime. He could only guess his cat pawed the dime into the sink.

    1. Ouch on both accounts Joe. I dropped a spoon into our disposal while it was running but lucked out and didn’t damage the unit.

      It’s amazing what happens in the kitchen and bathroom, haha.

  7. John P Parker says:

    Which not witch, good comment been using them for years. Being on a septic system makes it even tougher, a garbage truck is a lot cheaper that a vacuum truck!

    1. Oh boy, I’d hate to see a bill from the vacuum truck company. Doesn’t sound like fun John!!

  8. Joan says:

    I make sure to only get disposals with removable gaskets. I pull it out from time to time and scrub it with a brush and dish soap. I also scrub the inside edge of the disposal. Also, always run water through the pipes before you add debris, and continue to run cold water after you turn the unit off for a bit to help clear the pipes.

    1. Thanks Joan for your additional tips. It totally makes sense to continue to flush the pipes. The funny part is that I do this when I shave in the morning to flush the pipes of the shaving cream because it turns into a nasty smelly biofilm over time, YUCK.

  9. PatM says:

    Jeff, first of all, I want to thank you for your videos! They’re really handy.
    I grow about 20+ heirloom tomato plants yearly, but am always stuck with bad ones and end-of-the-year green ones. I use my disposal like crazy especially during that time since I can’t put them in yard waste bags (too wet). Been cleaning the disposal by hand with comet, but really appreciate the soda/vinegar one; sounds like it would get all the nooks and crannys well.
    PatM

    1. Thanks so much Pat, you’re very kind. I have more videos coming and am excited for you to see them.

      I love tomatoes, eat them every day for lunch. We tell our girls that they’ll like them when they get older, haha.

      Comet is my go-to for cleaning the sink, too.

  10. Kiki says:

    Once again, another timely video! Ours smells so bad – even tho’ the sink looks clean – that I thought some old trash had been left rotting under the kitchen cabinet! After tearing the cupboard apart and finding nothing but damp (a project for another discussion?! 🙁 ) I gave up and went back to my regularly scheduled Saturday chores. Was taking a break when I opened the newsletter, and thought, “Duh!!” I flush the disposal regularly with baking soda, but I think I’ll try the Borax. Our 4 rescued mutts are now on a fish oil additive for skin & coat, so just rinsing their food bowls contributes mightily to the smell. As does the fact that Himself has a tendency to dump stuff down into the disposal and then NOT run it! :-p

    As for its use, a few years ago I learned the hard way about what should and shouldn’t go into the disposal… picture St Pat’s dinner, stringy cabbage remains, fatty corned beef leftovers and a SMALL, dark, dank crawl space to access the drain line. NEVER again!! :-O I’m trying to retrain our kitchen habits towards composting, eventually eliminating altogetheedr the need for a disposal!

    Thanks, as always, for the great info! May you and yours have much to be thankful for this winter. 🙂

    1. The Borax might help quite a bit. I hope it does, so that you don’t have to smell that not so nice odor. Is there an emoticon for holding one’s nose, haha.

      Yah, St. Pat’s dinner probably would be a pipe buster – in more than one way!!

      Stay warm up your way.

  11. Nikki says:

    Thanks for the tips! I will try this!

    1. Let me know how it works out Nikki 😀

  12. Linda says:

    I like the idea of putting in the vinegar ice cubes – but would that in any way contribute to dulling of the blades?

    Also – has anybody had trouble with putting potato peels into the disposal? We seem to get a clog every time we try that.

    Thanks.

  13. Thanks for posting this! My garbage disposal needs to be repaired at least once every couple of months, so it seems like I should start cleaning it. I’m glad that there’s a way to clean it myself. I’ve heard that baking soda and vinegar can be used to clean a lot of things, but I didn’t know that I could use them to clean my garbage disposal. I should try that out and see how it works to keep it clean.

  14. Fantastic advice, thank you. Many people buy garbage disposals and never know what to do with them. I am glad you put your point across.

  15. Vicki says:

    I always use a combination of these ideas. When I put the baking soda in the disposal, I use an old dish brush to distribute it around the inside. Let that sit a bit, then add the lemons and just regular ice cubes. Run water, turn on and run till everything has been chomped up. I then use that same dishbrush, with water running, to make sure the baking soda has been thoroughly rinsed fron the underside of the gasket (unfortunately, mine stays in place).

    1. Thanks Vicki for the great tips, we’re always on the lookout for better ones 😉

  16. Edgar says:

    Very helpful article. The vinegar ice cubes is a great idea in Method #2. I believe you meant to say ice cubes do NOT abrade the blades in the garbage disposal. Thanks for the tips.

  17. Dee says:

    I have to tell you a dumb thing I did-I was cleaning pantry and threw dry oatmeal down drain! And yes! I DID run hot water next. I thought to get it down. Of course I COOKED IT! After about 3 min the disposal stopped very abruptly. Lol. I was so scared. Luckily when I called my brother rather than tell ‘ no patience ‘husband, he told me about the reset button and I did that with lots of water, vinegar and baking soda. Whew. Got out of that mess.

  18. Leisa Benson says:

    Regarding potato peel: I have found that onion skins & potato peels, particularly, cling to the interior of the garbage disposal preventing the water to flush through & carry them into the blades. One Thanksgiving at my son’s new house, his disposal got clogged & made a big mess. We discovered that someone had stuffed all the onion skins & potato peels into the disposal then later when we were rinsing the dishes to load the dishwasher & turned on the disposal water began backing up into the sink. We first thought the drain was clogged & my son wanted to use a drain cleaner, but not being a fan of chemicals, I suggested letting it set for a while & see if it drained then we could use baking soda, vinegar & a hot water flush. The water did slowly drain & we decided to try to remove any food debris first before treating it. That’s when we discovered that the interior of the disposal was lined with onion skins & potato peels & just enough had gone through to effectively stop the blades. It was messy, but another Thanksgiving blessing that we found an inexpensive solution & learned a valuable lesson!

  19. Dee says:

    Hi first time here. I was looking for some way to get a small spot of fused on alum foil off glass stovetop. But nothing worked-anyway my question is when my son changed the kitchen faucet, he said he say coffee grinds under sink in pipes! yuk what can i use to clean the pipes in my kitchen drain ans bathrm sink drain?

  20. Dee says:

    Sorry I didn’t reread before sending. But I think you can make out what I mean. Lol

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