Back to the grind: How to quickly and easily clean your garbage disposal

Clean Kitchen
Flickr | Jupshaw Upshaw
Your garbage disposal is a handy tool to have while you’re in the middle of cooking meals, but over time they can start to grind your gears. Disposals can grow slow, get filled with gunk, and start making the kitchen stink, especially when used frequently. When this happens, your disposal needs a good cleaning. Fortunately, this is an easy do-it-yourself process, and you probably already have everything you need to get rid of those smells and reinvigorate your disposal’s performance. We’ll show you how to do it in six quick steps!

Required items: ice cubes, salt, white vinegar, baking soda, reliable scrubbing brush. Total time for cleaning: about half an hour.

  1. Prep work

Start by turning off power to the garbage disposal – a process that may differ based on what type of disposal you have. If you have a plug-in disposal under your sink, you can simply unplug it. If your garbage disposal is more built-in, then head over to your breakers/electrical panel and shut off power to that area of the kitchen. This is a little more annoying, but safety comes first. You may also want to grab rubber gloves, a few towels, and a couple scrubbing tools — we’ve found that narrow, long-handled kitchen brushes and toothbrushes work well for later steps.

Now, take a closer look at your impellers to see if there are any obvious problems. To do this properly, grab a flashlight, pull back the flaps, and peer inside to take a look at what’s going on. This is useful for two reasons: First, if there’s anything large or inappropriate in the disposal (trapped fibers, pieces of metal, etc.) you can see them and work on digging them out before you begin cleaning. Try using a pair of pliers or similar tool to pry out any unwanted objects — and never, ever stick your hand fully down that drain, because we’ve all seen those horror movies.

Second, use the flashlight to take a look at the impellers: It’s probably not what you expected, right? Many people picture spinning blades down at the bottom of their disposal. Actually, most disposals use a series of grinding plates to work their magic. Seeing this in person is beneficial in practicing proper disposal behavior and understanding what happens when things go wrong. Remember, if any serious problem is interfering with disposal maintenance, contact a plumber or other professional. Even a thorough cleaning can’t fix every problem.

  1. Ice and salt

You can turn your garbage disposal back on for this step. Start by applying an ice and salt combination. Take around 10-15 ice cubes and pour them into the disposal. Measure out about half a cup of salt and pour it in after the ice. Many people prefer to use rock salt, but don’t worry if you only have table salt to work with. Now flip on your garbage disposal and let it run for a few minutes. This is going to be loud: Don’t worry, the ice won’t damage your disposal, but it will take time to grind it all up.

The ice helps grind and break apart any bits of matter that may have become stuck in your disposal. (There’s also a theory that the cold temperatures help make those particulates more brittle and easier to break.) The salt helps melt the ice down a little and, to a lesser extent, also scours the inside of the disposal.

  1. Vinegar and baking soda

We all remember this trick from building classroom volcanoes or experimenting in the kitchen. Vinegar is acidic enough to help wear down stains and kill germs, while baking soda acts as a scouring agent that also deals with bad smells. Combine them, and the resulting chemical reaction creates foam that helps drive the vinegar deeper into the crevices of your garbage disposal. Start with half a cup of baking soda down the drain, and then slowly pour in a full cup of vinegar (preferably white vinegar). If the ensuing chemical reaction still makes you giggle like a kid, you can add some more.

It’s worth noting that some people like to use as much vinegar as possible to ensure a fuller cleaning. This includes freezing vinegar to create the ice cubes from our second step. If you have the time, vinegar, and curiosity, you can try that out. If not, don’t worry about it.

  1. Scrub

Don’t rinse out that vinegary foam! Instead, take your scrubbing brush and toothbrush and go to work. Scrub down the rubber folds of your garbage disposal and all their related crannies, rinsing when necessary. Clean all the grime away, and then clean any other parts of your disposal that your brush can reach. If you need additional cleaning agent, add a little more vinegar and baking soda, this time in your sink, and use the resulting paste to help your scrubbing efforts.

  1. Flood

Finally, it’s time to wash it all away. Plug up your garbage disposal (if you do not have a plug that fits in your disposal, you can usually find a plastic dish that will block it safely for this step). Fill your sink mostly full of hot water. Add a drizzle of your dish soap while the sink is filling up to create some suds. Then unblock the drain and let the water flood through the disposal all at one time. The water should carry away any bits of debris, leaving your disposal clean and smelling much better.

  1. Maintain

Run your garbage disposal frequently to help keep it clean. Every couple of weeks or so, pour some dish soap down the disposal, or add a few lemon peels and let it run with cold water to help deal with any unpleasant smells. Remember, we tend to use our garbage disposals more around the holidays, so more frequent maintenance may be necessary if the disposal is seeing a lot of action.

Deals

Roomba and Shark Ion robot vacuum cleaners get big price cuts for Memorial Day

Your Memorial Day BBQ is all planned out, but what about the post-party cleanup? If you act quickly enough you might be able to get some robot help in time for the cleanup thanks to a few good sales on robot vacuums this weekend.
Smart Home

The best stand mixers of 2019, including models at every price range

Making dough is hard work, but the right stand mixer can make free up some time (and your hands). Here are our current favorites, from the likes of KitchenAid, Sunbeam, and several other manufacturers.
Smart Home

Get your spring in full swing with 10 gadgets to clean and declutter your home

Spring cleaning is like every chore you hate to do, multiplied by 10. Luckily, technology is here to help, in some situations. These gadgets will make the tasks go a little faster. We hope.
Smart Home

It’s time for you to stop using dryer sheets. Here’s why

Dryer sheets might make your clothes feel softer and smell nicer, but there's a downside to using them. They reduce the absorbency of your towels, disable the wicking capabilities of activewear, and cause lint buildup.
Deals

Best Memorial Day smart mattress sales from Sleep Number, Beautyrest, and more

Memorial Day is one of the best holidays when it comes to online sales. If you're looking for a new mattress, a smart mattress may be right for you. Check out some of the best Memorial Day smart mattress sales of the year to take your smart…
Smart Home

Amazon Memorial Day sale: $210 off Arlo Pro wireless security camera kit

Weatherproof and wireless, the Arlo Pro security camera gives you the freedom to monitor any area or room inside or outside your home. Amazon dropped the price of the Arlo Pro HD security camera kit that includes everything you need.
Smart Home

Amazon Memorial Day deal drops price of August Smart Lock for homes to just $99

Smart lock are a strong start to any smart home security system. Now, in Amazon’s Memorial Day deal, score an August Smart Lock for the low price of just $99, down from $150. Lock in this deal now and start your summer off smart.
Smart Home

Before you sell your Google Home Mini, here's how to factory reset it

If you’re thinking about swapping out Google's entry-level smart speaker, you can get a few bucks in cash or trade-in value out of your device. You’ll need to wipe your device first though. Here's how to factory reset a Google Home…
Deals

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Everything you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a few months off, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.
Smart Home

Walmart offers sweet deals on Owlet Smart Sock 2 baby monitor

Parenting is an amazing experience, but wondering how newborns and infants are at night can be nerve-wracking. Baby monitors can ease some of the stress by letting you check on the baby without entering the room.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Nest and Ecobee smart thermostats for Memorial Day

If you’re tired of constantly adjusting your thermostat and you want a smarter (not to mention more eco-friendly) way to keep cool this spring and summer, then these Nest and Ecobee smart thermostat deals are just what the doctor ordered.
Deals

Walmart Memorial Day sale: 4K TVs, laptops, and Apple iPads get price cuts

The Walmart Memorial Day sale has begun. With some pretty nice savings on Apple iPads, Samsung and Vizio 4K TVs, laptops, and Google Home devices, now is a great time to snag some electronics for cheap.
Smart Home

Amazon slices the price on Instant Pot DUO Plus 60 for this Memorial Day sale

Amazon dropped the price on the Instant Pot DUO Plus 60 6-quart, 9-in-1 multi-use cooker for this year's Memorial Day Sale. The right size for 4-to-6 people, the 6-quart DUO Plus 60 is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, and more.
News

UN finds voice assistants aren’t helping combat sexist gender stereotypes

The United Nations believes voice assistants are reinforcing negative gender stereotypes that place women in antiquated roles. It also argues that companies haven't done enough to have A.I. rebuff hostile language.