With all the food that winds up in your sink’s grinding chamber, it’s only natural for it to start smelling and require cleaning. But don’t fret! The task might seem overwhelming, but in reality, it’s simple to handle with baking soda, vinegar, ice and even rock salt. Below, you’ll find expert garbage disposal cleaning tips from Carolyn Forté, executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care & Cleaning Lab. Forté shares easy DIY cleaning solutions and cleaning products that’ll not only make your garbage disposal look clean, but smell fresh, too.
How Often Should I Clean My Garbage Disposal?
Forté suggests cleaning your garbage disposal about once a month if you use it regularly. Her favorite cleaning products include Affresh’s Garbage Disposal Cleaner, CLR’s Fresh & Clean Garbage Disposal Pods and Lemi’s Shine Garbage Disposal Cleaner and Deodorizer. “Most garbage disposal cleaners recommend using them monthly,” Forté says. “Of course, if it’s particularly dirty or you smell odors coming from it, it needs to be cleaned more often.”
When it comes to maintenance, Forté has a few tips:
- Flush the garbage disposal well with water after grinding food, as “leftover bits will smell,” Forté notes.
- If your garbage disposal has a rubber gasket at the top, it needs to be cleaned underneath as food bits splash up onto it. Some rubber gaskets are removable, so follow your brand’s cleaning directions. “If it’s not removable, make sure to flush the underside with water or clean it with a brush, cloth or sponge to remove debris,” she says.
- Use a garbage disposal cleaner monthly to clean and freshen the blades and wall surfaces.
- To prevent the pipes from getting clogged, avoid putting anything down the disposal that is stringy or too tough to grind up easily. Egg shells and husks are a few picks Forté advises against.
How to Clean a Garbage Disposal With Soap, Baking Soda and Vinegar
Use a sponge and dish soap to clean the disposal baffle and around the drain. Scrub around the top of the grinding chamber, too, all while rinsing your sponge throughout the process to remove the gunk. Once the surface feels clean, you can start a deeper refresh with baking soda.
“Baking soda removes odors and when you add vinegar to it, it will foam up,” Forté says. American Home Shield recommends sprinkling half a cup of baking soda into the disposal. Then, pour a cup of white or apple cider vinegar in after. Make sure your disposal is off before starting the cleaning process. They recommend letting the mixture sit for five to 10 minutes before turning the disposal back on and running cold water inside to flush everything out.
How to Clean a Garbage Disposal With Ice and Rock Salt or Vinegar
An alternative cleaning solution is to pour a cup of rock salt (or vinegar) into the garbage disposal. Add ice cubes before turning the disposal on and running cold water to flush it.
How to Deodorize a Garbage Disposal
“I throw a few ice cubes down there and grind them up when I smell odors to help clean the blades,” Forté says. “It’s a quick fix to freshen it.” American Home Shield also suggests using citrus peels as a “great DIY garbage disposal deodorant.” Simply cut your citrus peels (limes, oranges, tangerines, lemons or grapefruits) into small pieces. Turn the garbage disposal on and run cold water as the peels grind.
You can also purchase Lemi’s Shine Garbage Disposal Cleaner and Deodorizer. Based on Lemi’s instructions, just drop one of the pods into the empty disposal, while running cold water at a low-speed setting. With the water still running, let the pod sit for 20 seconds before turning your disposal on and letting it grind for five seconds. After five seconds, turn the disposal and water off, wait two minutes, and then rinse the foam away.
Mariah Thomas (she/her) is an assistant editor for Good Housekeeping, where she covers home and lifestyle content. Mariah has more than four years of editorial experience, having written for TLC, Apartment Therapy, Women’s Health and Avocado Magazine. She received her master’s degree in journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and published her first book, Heart and Soul: Poems of Thoughts and Emotions, in 2019. She’s also the founder of RTF Community a platform for creatives of color to connect, learn and showcase their work.