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How Often Should You Clean Your Garbage Disposal?

A close look at a sink with food waste on it about to be sent to garbage disposal.

Keeping a tidy and clean kitchen is paramount to food safety. This includes the garbage disposal of your sink. Here are factors to consider and what to use when the time comes.

While you know how important it is to clean your dishes and keep your sink looking spotless, what about your garbage disposal? Often this is an area that gets forgotten about even during your deepest cleaning. So, this begs the question: how often should you clean your garbage disposal?

If that’s something you’ve never considered, don’t worry. We’ve covered everything you need to know about cleaning your garbage disposal down below.

How Often Should You Clean It?

First thing’s first: how often should you be cleaning your garbage disposal in the first place? This depends on how often you use your garbage disposal and how well you take care of it.

Ideally, you should be cleaning out your garbage disposal once a week. Whenever you decide to really deep clean your kitchen or kitchen sink, you definitely should be cleaning out the garbage disposal, too.

However, if you’re someone who composts or closely watches what you put in your disposal, you may get away with cleaning it out every two weeks or so. But, the second that you get a whiff of that garbage disposal smell, you know it is time to clean it out.

Smells coming from your garbage disposal are signs of food waste that have gone bad and are starting to rot or mold. As gross as that sounds, the smells are even worse and can affect the dishes in your sink, too. Don’t let these smells linger and stink up your whole kitchen! Instead, put on some gloves and start cleaning out that messy garbage disposal.

How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal

A green and yellow dish sponge on a stainless steel sink.

Cleaning your garbage disposal isn’t difficult, luckily. It takes a little bit of time, but it is more than worth it to get old, rotting food out of your disposal.

If you’ve never done this before, we’ve given you everything you need to learn, including recommended materials and how we tend to clean our garbage disposals.

What You Need

Hotec Stainless Steel Kitchen Tongs Set of 2 - 9" and 12", Locking Metal Food Tongs Non-Slip Grip (Black)
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In order to properly clean your garbage disposal, we suggest having a pair of tongs or pliers on hand, a flashlight (your phone’s will work fine), dish soap, ice cubes, salt, and an old toothbrush or scrub brush.

Crescent H26VN Home Hand Tools Pliers Slip Joint
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We know, these materials sound a little funny, but we promise, they’re the best way to get the job done. Now, it’s time to start cleaning.

Amazer Kitchen Scrub Brush Sink Bathroom Brushes with Scraper Tip Comfortable Grip Odourless Bristles for Pot Pan Cast Iron Skillet Dishes Cleaning, 2-Pack
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Step One

First, turn off your garbage disposal fuse. While it is unlikely that it will turn on when you’re cleaning it, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.

You’ll either find a small button next to your disposal’s switch or you can find it underneath the sink. Once it’s off, you can really start cleaning.

Step Two

Then, you want to ensure that nothing big is currently clogging your garbage disposal. We definitely do not want you sticking your hand down there–both because of the sharp blades and the rotten food–so this is where your tongs or pliers come in handy.

Shine your flashlight down into the disposal and see if you see anything. If you do, take your tongs or pliers and fish them out, throwing them away accordingly.

Step Three

After you’ve removed any big pieces of food waste, run some hot water down the disposal itself. Just turn the sink on and let it flow for a few seconds. Then, insert the sink’s stopper and let a couple of inches of hot water fill the sink. Add a splash of dish soap, as well.

Once the hot, soapy water has been filled a few inches, you can unplug the stopper and let the water flow through the disposal. This helps to clean out the majority of the stuck-on food or grime within the disposal.

Step Four

White Wine Vinegar - Gluten-Free, Non-GMO - OU Kosher Parve - 12.7 Fl Oz (Single)
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For all of the nitty-gritty food waste that’s still stuck in your disposal, that’s where the ice cubes and salt come in. (You can also choose to substitute this for frozen white wine vinegar if you’d prefer.)

Take about two cups of ice cubes and dump them down your disposal. Then, take about a cup of rock or coarse salt and pour it down the drain as well. Ensure your water is cold, turn on the garbage disposal, and start running your cold water through the drain.

As the disposal cuts up the ice cubes and salt, it’s working to scrape the sides of the disposal free of any food or grime. This also helps the blades stay sharp!

Step Five

Finally, turn off the water and garbage disposal after about 30 seconds. Then, take your old toothbrush or scrub brush and scrub the inside of your disposal until you feel that it’s clean.

When doing this, it’s recommended to take off the drain so you can easily see what you’re working with and have more room. Shine your light down there once more and, if you’re satisfied, you’re all done! You’re left with a clean, shiny, and good-smelling garbage disposal.

A woman wearing yellow rubber gloves scrubbing the sink.

Keeping Your Disposal Fresh

Now that your garbage disposal is fresh and clean, you’re going to want to keep it that way. One of the easiest ways to keep your disposal fresh is to avoid dumping too much food down there. Instead, invest in a compost bin and throw food waste in there, instead. This will prevent stinky food from building up and it’s great for the environment.

Utopia Kitchen Stainless Steel Compost Bin for Kitchen Countertop - 1.3 Gallon Compost Bucket for Kitchen with Lid - Includes 1 Spare Charcoal Filter
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If you have to put food products down your disposal, make sure that they’re biodegradable. This way, they can easily break down and won’t stay rotting in your sink forever. You probably already know this, but never ever pour grease down your drain, either. Also, ensure to run sufficient water into your disposal each time you use it.

Whenever your disposal begins to smell a little funky, even if you’ve just cleaned it, is to simply grind up citrus peels. As the blades cut them up, they emit smells of refreshing citrus fruits while simultaneously cleaning the disposal.

Start Scrubbing!

Now that you know how often to clean your garbage disposal, as well as exactly how to do it, you have no excuse! The next time you find your disposal smelling a little funky, it’s time to get to cleaning. As long as your disposal is off and you’re extra careful around the blades, this cleaning process will be a breeze.

For any other questions regarding the home, cleaning, or even exterior work, Home Stratosphere is here to accommodate. Check out our other super helpful blogs to get all the assistance you need in making your home your favorite place to be.

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