How to Clean a Garbage Disposal (the quick & easy way)

Simple Ways to Clean a Garbage Disposal

If you are anything like me you can’t imagine life without your garbage disposal.

The quintessential “magic bullet” of the kitchen clean up routine, this amazing little contraption shaves time and aggravation off your post-meal chores. I definitely give very little thought to doing the dishes and disposing of everyday food waste since owning a disposal, especially after feeding small children or a large crowd.

The “out-of-sight; out-of-mind” component to the convenience of you garbage disposal has a flip side, however.

Unless you start to notice an unpleasant odor you may not give much thought to cleaning or disinfecting your garbage disposal. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways to clean a garbage disposal and neutralize those nasty odors so you can ensure it goes on grinding food waste for a long time to come.

If you think your garbage disposal might be beyond cleaning, checkout some top recommendations in our best garbage disposal roundup.

The good news is that garbage disposals are surprisingly easy to clean! 

Ice Cubes

Ice Cubes

Tossing in a few ice cubes and some rock salt then running cold water while grinding the mixture up does an excellent job de-gunking the disposal.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking Soda

You could also pour about one cup of baking soda and then some warm vinegar down the disposal and use it as an opportunity to show your kids a science experiment with natural germ killing power. (Or maybe I am the only one whose kids would think that was cool). Volcanic eruptions in the kitchen sink aside, baking soda and vinegar will most certainly disinfect that garbage disposal and scrub away dirt. 

Citrus Peels (orange, lemon, or lime)


As for those unpleasant odors, citrus peels do a lovely job of replacing them with a fresh, clean scent. Simply cut up some lemon peel or other citrus rind and toss them into your disposal. Run the cold water and grind away for a clean smelling kitchen. I should mention here that the temperature of the water does make a difference. You always want cold water running through your disposal so that any grease or fats won’t melt onto the pipes on the way out. The idea here is to have solid pieces that the mechanism can pulverize and then are easily washed away; not liquid fat that slips past the mechanism and goes straight into the pipes where it can harden and gum up the works. 

Tea Tree Oil (NOT bleach)

Surprisingly bleach is not a good option for cleaning the disposal. Bleach can get caught in the pipes and cause a chemical reaction to occur the next time a different chemical goes down the drain releasing toxic and dangerous Chloramine fumes. Vinegar or even tea tree oil or citrus can have the same disinfecting power without the added risk. 

Check the Splash Guard

Make sure you don’t forget about the splash guard at the opening to the disposal. In my experience the underside of that little rubber piece can become caked with old food residue without you even realizing it. Some disposals have removable splash guards in which case you can soak that little guy in some hot soapy water and then scrub it and rinse it clean. If yours doesn’t come off though I suggest using an old toothbrush with baking soda and lemon juice or warm water and going to town scrubbing. The top side should be much easier to clean but could also benefit from a good scrubbing with an old toothbrush. 


After all of this you really can enjoy a clean garbage disposal and the peace of mind knowing you have done your part to help extend the life of this little secret weapon superhero and get back to enjoying time around the table instead of dreading the cleanup that comes afterward. Good luck! 

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