How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal

How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal. Most homeowners turn their kitchen waste and food scraps into compost as an alternative to throwing them in a dumpster, which then goes to a landfill. But for other homeowners who aren’t into composting, having an in-sink garbage disposal unit offers a suitable alternative, allowing waste to go through the wastewater system instead.

In-sink garbage disposal units are hardworking home equipment that food waste into small particles. They offer an optimal way of reducing household waste and preventing pungent odors from that waste.

Unfortunately, your garbage disposal isn’t perfect. With prolonged use, the unit will retain residue and develop unpleasant odors, which is a sure sign that garbage disposal cleaning is required.

This blog will provide a comprehensive guide on garbage disposal cleaning. We’ll be answering the following questions on garbage disposal and drain cleaning, such as:

  • Why and how regularly should you clean your garbage disposal?
  • What items should you not throw into your garbage disposal?
  • How do you clean your garbage disposal?
  • Does your garbage disposal need to be deep cleaned?
  • How do your remove debris from your garbage disposal?
  • How do you prolong your garbage disposal’s lifespan?

Why and How Regularly Should You Clean Your Garbage Disposal?

With prolonged usage, your garbage disposal unit can retain pieces of waste that get stitched into its moving components and walls. Over time, these bits and pieces can accumulate and decay, becoming a breeding ground for bacteria.

Not only does this give off pungent odors, but it can also impact your health negatively as you breathe in fumes and come into contact with affected surfaces.

Regular garbage disposal cleaning helps you remove particles and residue buildup inside your garbage disposal, eliminating the breeding grounds of bacteria and germs and preventing any chance of your kitchen sink drains being clogged. Doing so on a weekly basis can make all the difference in preventing common garbage disposal problems and prolonging its service life.

Food Items You Shouldn’t Throw Into Your Garbage Disposal

Your garbage disposal unit is one of your home’s most crucial and reliable appliances. However, there are some food items that you should avoid putting in your garbage disposal to avoid damaging your unit or creating other problems down the drain. These include:


Your garbage disposal isn’t made to grind up tough items like bones. While the occasional accidental chicken or fish bone should be no cause for concern, a rack of ribs can do a lot of damage.

Pasta and Rice

Glutenous food items like pasta and rice can stick to your drain walls and cause clog issues. These food items expand when soaking water, which can cause significant blockage in your drains.

Fibrous Vegetables

Vegetables like celery and rhubarb have fibers that become strings when ground up, which clump together and block your drains.

Egg Shells

While the shells don’t actually do any damage to your garbage disposal, it’s the thin membranes inside the shells that can lodge in the drain or around the impeller and do damage.

Coffee Grounds

They can help reduce odors, but they can also become pasty whey they absorb water and block your drains.

Fruit Pits

As mentioned earlier, your garbage disposal unit isn’t built to grind up hard materials, including fruit pits like peach and avocado.


In most cases, grease won’t even make it to your garbage disposal and instead clog up your drains.

Potato Peels

Like egg membranes, potato peels can get lodged in your drains and block water flow and other wastes. This is especially true if they’re thin enough to avoid being ground by your garbage disposal.


Peanut butter is a product of nuts being ground and mashed inside a nut grinder. With your garbage disposal being similar to a nut grinder, you might need a thorough drain cleaning session.

Everyday Items That Damage Your Garbage Disposal

Your garbage disposal ia made to grind and pulverize food waste and kitchen scraps to make waste disposal easier. In some cases, however, some non-food items can make their way into the drain and damage your garbage disposal. These include:

  • Cigarette butts
  • Rubber bands
  • Sponges
  • Pull tabs
  • Twist ties
  • Spoons
  • Plant clippings
  • Fabric

If these items make their way into your drain, your garbage disposal won’t be able to break them down. Ultimately, they could do costly damage to your unit or clog your drain. Don’t attempt to pull them out without unplugging your appliance. Above all, it’s important to seek professional help.

How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal

If you’re starting to hear strange noises from your appliance or a strange, musty smell won’t go away, it’s time to start cleaning your garbage disposal. Follow the steps below for some step-by-step garbage disposal cleaning instructions.

Cut the power to your garbage disposal unit to avoid any accidents. Unplug the appliance or turn off the electricity from the breaker box. Double-check by trying to switch on the appliance before doing any work on it.

Pull out the splash guard from the drain. Clean it using an old toothbrush or scrubbing brush with plenty of detergent to remove debris and slime buildup.

Check for food particles inside the drain using a flashlight. If you see visible food debris, remove them using tongs or pliers. As a safety precaution, never use your fingers to remove them, even if the power is off.

Using an abrasive kitchen sponge, scrub under the disposal baffle and around the drain to remove gunk. Run the tap regularly to rinse the sponge as well as the cleaned area.

Continue scrubbing until just around the top of the grinding chamber. Be careful when scrubbing, as the blades are very sharp. Rerun the tap to rinse the sponge and the drain.

Garbage Disposal Deep Cleaning Tips

The instructions provided above are intended for light garbage disposal cleaning. However, if your unit hasn’t been cleaned for a long time, you may want to do some deep cleaning to remove odors thoroughly and other substances lodged in there. You can follow any of these three methods below:

Baking Soda and Vinegar Method

After cleaning your garbage disposal using the instructions above, you can proceed with this method. You will need to create a cleaning solution using equal parts vinegar and baking soda.

Simply pour the baking soda down the drain. Then, pour white vinegar, allow it to fizzle, and let it soak for about 15 to 30 minutes. Finally, flush out the solution using hot water to remove the grease in the drain.

Ice and Vinegar Method

Similar to the baking soda and vinegar method, this cleaning method utilizes ice and rock salt or vinegar to create some contact with the drain. You can use it as a standalone cleaning method or as a follow-up to the previous method supplied. Simply fill the drain with ice cubes and pour a cup of vinegar or rock salt. Be sure to flush it with hot water to remove food particles and grease.

Oxygen Bleach Method

In this method, you will need to mix one part of oxygen bleach with two parts of hot water. Then, slowly pour the solution down the drain while making sure to try and create contact with the entire circumference. Continue doing so for a few seconds, then run the tap to flush out everything.

Deodorizing Your Garbage Disposal

After deep cleaning your garbage disposal, it should be back to smelling good. At the very least, the pungent smell should be gone. If you’ve tried all the above methods and the foul odor remains, you can use a diluted bleach solution. Never pour undiluted bleach down the drain, as strong chemicals can damage your unit.

Instead, dilute one part bleach with two parts warm water and pour it slowly down the drain, trap, and garbage disposal. After a few minutes, flush everything with warm water.

Alternatively, you can opt to use citrus peels to add a fresh, citrusy smell to your garbage disposal. First, cut a few peels and drop them down the drain with ice cubes. Then, run your garbage disposal for some added cleaning and deodorizing action.

How to Remove Debris From Your Garbage Disposal

When your garbage disposal unit is unable to grind a hard object, there is a higher likelihood that the object can jam the blades and cause your appliance to stop working. If this happens, you may need to remove the debris manually before it starts working again.

Follow the steps below to remove debris from your garbage disposal and clean your garbage disposal:

  • Take safety precautions by switching off the appliance and unplugging it from the outlet to avoid accidents and injuries.
  • If your drain is clogged and standing water is in your sink, use a pair of tongs to grab the lodged debris to free up some space for the water to flow.
  • Next, look under the garbage disposal unit for a small hexagonal hole in the center of the appliance’s bottom.
  • Using a ¼” hex or Allen wrench, work it back and forth one revolution until the debris is dislodged from the appliance.
  • Remove the wrench and manually remove the debris from inside the appliance.
  • Allow sufficient time for your unit’s motor to cool down. Then, push the red reset button found on the bottom.
  • Plug the unit back in and turn it on. If the unit is back running, then you have fixed the issue. Otherwise, repeat the steps above to remove any debris lodged in the blades.

If that doesn’t fix the issue, call for professional assistance.

Trust the Drain Cleaning Experts At Flatley’s Plumbing

By following the instructions above, you can clean your drains and prevent the buildup of bacteria that can lead to strong smells and various health risks. In some cases, your drain issues may be challenging to solve with simple home fixes.
For professional drain cleaning services, you can rely on Flatley’s Plumbing to solve your issues in no time. We are a family-owned and operated company with over 60 years of industry experience. Get in touch with us today!

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