Simple Tips to Clean and Freshen the Garbage Disposal …

Tips for Cleaning the Garbage Disposal 001


I love my garbage disposal! It’s such a convenient appliance that helps me keep on top of food scraps in the kitchen but it does need to be operated and maintained with some tender loving care to keep it clean, hygienic and smelling fresh as a daisy.

A garbage disposal is self-cleaning to a degree, as it’s constantly flushed with water when operating, however, sludge can build up around the sides and the grinding blades and stinky odours can develop. Here are a couple of different methods I’ve used to clean and freshen my garage disposal that all work quite well:


  • At the end of each day, when there are no more dishes to be cleaned, I put the plug in the garbage disposal sink, fill it with 3 or 4 inches of water and add a squirt of dishwashing liquid. I then turn the disposal on and remove the plug. This allows the disposal to completely fill up and the detergent cleans and flushes the garbage disposal to get rid of any remaining food scraps.


  • Usually, once a month, I pour half a cup of bicarbonate of soda to the garbage disposal. I then add one cup of white vinegar and seal with the plug. The combined bicarb soda and vinegar will bubble and fizz and work some magic. After 5 – 10 minutes I pour a jug of boiling water into the disposal to flush it through.


  • Another alternative is to add 2 cups of ice to the garbage disposal, followed by 1 cup of rock salt. Run some cold water through the disposal and turn on for approximately 15 seconds. The ice and salt work together to clean the inside of the garbage disposal unit and dislodge any food caught around the grinding blades. If you don’t have any rock salt you can substitute with a cup of white vinegar instead.


  • Citrus peels from lemons, limes and oranges will freshen up a garbage disposal in seconds. Roughly chop any leftover peels, run the garbage disposal as normal and your kitchen will smell citrusy fresh.


  • Most garbage disposals have a rubber Splash Guard that sits inside the neck of the drain. The underside of this can get very slimy and dirty. To clean this I unplug and disconnect the garbage disposal and, wearing a rubber glove, I push my hand into the neck of the disposal and use a brush or toothbrush and detergent to clean the underside of the rubber. It’s a yucky job but it needs to be done otherwise the disposal hasn’t been fully cleaned. I usually do this once a month.


Safety …


  • Never put your hand down the garbage disposal while it’s still connected to the power supply. If I’m concerned something in the disposal isn’t breaking down, I try to remove it with a set of tongs. If that doesn’t work, I turn off the power point and pull out the plug before attempting to remove the offending item by hand. If I am going to do this I always wear a set of rubber gloves to prevent my fingers from being cut on the grinder or any other sharp food item stuck inside. Anything that is jammed and can’t be removed easily, I’d consider calling a plumber.


  • Keep small kids away from the garbage disposal until they are at an age you feel they can operate it safely and they’re aware of the dangers.


What not to put down the Garbage Disposal …


  • As a general guide, only edible food items and peelings should be put into a garbage disposal with all other items going into the regular rubbish bin.


  • Don’t pour fat, oil or grease down the garbage disposal as it might solidify with the cold water and clog the motor, blades or drain.


  • Food that expands when mixed with water like rice or pasta shouldn’t be put down the disposal either as it may cause blockages in the pipe. I’ve learned this from personal experience when I once poured outdated psyllium husk into the disposal. It swelled to almost four times its original size and completely blocked the plumbing. Fortunately, hubby and I were able to remove some of the plumbing pipes under the sink and clear the blockage without calling a plumber, which would have been expensive … lesson learned!


  • Fibrous foods like celery and onion can also tangle in the blades and motor so I generally avoid putting those in the disposal.


  • I don’t put any bones into our garbage disposal. Our user manual says chicken bones and small, soft fish bones are ok but I’ve never felt comfortable putting them through the disposal. I also avoid putting prawn shells through the disposal as I worry about the smell.


  • I don’t put bleach or drain cleaners down my garbage disposal. Some of these chemicals may be too strong and damage the motor and they may also splash back when the disposal is operating.


  • I don’t usually have any problems with small seeds from oranges, watermelons, lemons, etc. but large avocado seeds are a no-no.


  • I’m careful not to overload the disposal by jamming it full but instead feed food scraps in at a reasonable pace. Also, roughly chop up large items as they will be easier to grind than one large lump.


A few other tips and tricks …


  • If you have a garbage disposal, use it. This will keep all the parts moving and prevent blockages from items falling into the disposal and not being ground up and flushed away.


  • When using the garbage disposal, always run it for an extra 10 seconds even after the grinding noises stop. This will ensure that even small food particles get completely flushed away.


  • Always read the user manual. This will give clear instructions about the use and maintenance of your garbage disposal. For example, my instructions state to use cold water only when operating the garbage disposal.


And one final tip … if you are considering installing a garbage disposal, consider the power of the motor and buy the best quality that you can afford. We’ve been using ours now for over 10 years, it gets a work out almost every day and it’s never missed a beat.

So tell me, do you have a garbage disposal and, if not, do you dream of owning one? Do you think it would make your life in the kitchen easier?


  1. I don’t have a garbage disposal but I would love one as we had one in a former house and it was very handy. Like you, I used to clean it with vinegar and baking soda – my two most favourite cleaning ingredients xx

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