Garbage disposals are one of the most convenient appliances to have in your kitchen – until something goes wrong. Maintenance repairs can be expensive and pretty involved. To keep them at bay – and prolong the life of your system – proper cleaning is necessary.
Although the best garbage disposals offer a few additional cleaning options, there are some universal procedures that apply to virtually all of them. We’ll be listing the most important, along with why they are necessary, below.
Does a Garbage Disposal Really Need Cleaning?
Garbage disposals are frequently exposed to running water and antibacterial dish soap – the very hallmarks of home cleanliness. So shouldn’t they be cleaned automatically every time they’re used? To an extent, yes. Regular use will, in itself, clean away much of the particles that would otherwise be left behind.
However, smaller particles will still fall and collect between the blades, seals and motors. Over time, they will build up, which causes a variety of problems from performance issues to short circuited motors. Needless to say, additional cleaning is sometimes necessary to keep your disposal running strong.
After Washing Dishes
After you have finished washing or rinsing dishes, don’t turn off the sink or garbage disposal just yet. Rather, drop in a little extra dish soap and keep both running for 30 – 60 seconds after you’ve finished.
This will offer some preliminary and consistent cleaning that will help make the rest of the process even easier.
Ice cubes actually offer a great method for cleaning garbage disposals. How? As we mentioned previously, food particles will eventually build up between the blades.
However, when you grind ice cubes in the disposer, they also turn into small particles and fly (at high rates of speed) into these small crevices. As particles impact leftover food materials, it loosens them.
And as the ice melts, the water loosens them more in areas that the faucet water cannot reach. That’s why we recommend beginning your cleaning regimen with this method. Add some rock salt with the ice cubes to enhance the cleaning even further.
An Easy Cleaning Solution
At least once a month (ideally once a week), you’ll want to use a more thorough cleaning method to keep your garbage disposal running at its best. It’s easy, and uses things that you probably already have lying around the house.
First, here’s what you’ll need:
- Lemon slices or juice (or any citrus essential oil)
- Distilled vinegar
- Dish soap
- Baking soda
The exact amount is up to you, but use equal proportions of each ingredient fairly generously – unless you chose to use a citrus essential oil, in which case you likely won’t need more than 15 drops. Once you’ve mixed the cleaning solution together, ensure that the garbage disposal is off, dip the toothbrush, and begin scrubbing.
You’ll have to feel your way around for the most part, but try to reach under the blades and (if applicable) rows of blades. Pull the brush back up frequently to check for dirt or grime. If you see it, use some running water and the solution to rinse it off (and the blades by proxy).
Then, continue carefully scrubbing. Eventually, the toothbrush will return clean every time. At this point, keep some hot water running as you slowly (or in intervals) pour the cleaner down the drain through the disposal.
Never use conventional cleaners, such as Liquid Plumber, bleach or really any other household cleaner to clean your garbage disposal.
Check to see if your machine is compatible with a Disposer Care cleaner packet. This is a great way to save the time of mixing and scrubbing, but they’re not compatible with all disposals. Also, many argue that they are not as effective. Therefore, a little testing may be in order.
After completing the thorough cleaning procedure noted above, you may want to pour some backing soda in and let it set before the blades dry. This will help further kill bacteria and prevent odors. In fact, you can do this regularly if your garbage disposal frequently emits pungent smells.
However, please remember that this can also be indicative of a more serious problem that requires professional assistance.
Always read through your owner’s manual. We’re bombarded with so many with virtually all products that we buy that it’s easy to overlook. However, you really do need to read the manual for your disposal.
There may be some special cleaning considerations. For example, some may be compatible with certain household cleaners, or a brand specific cleaner, that most others are not.
If your garbage disposal features a filter or baffle, be sure to clean it out at least once a month. These are incredibly convenient, and we recommend doing this after your thorough clean.
However, you will have to do more than just simply pour the contents out and put it back in. Filters and baffles are almost always covered in a think grime or sludge. Often, this film is a combination of rotting food and, sometimes, the early stages of mold (hence the smell).
You’ll need to use a more powerful cleaning solution for these. And you’ll definitely want to wash your hands after. It may be best to do this after you’ve cleaned the sink and disposal, as some of that film will (hopefully) be washed away.
Filters and baffles typically don’t need to be replaced frequently, but the owner’s manual for specific disposals may say otherwise. Always check.
Just imagine the convenience of going decades – the amount of time it takes to watch your children grow – without every needing to repair or replace your disposal. With proper maintenance, it’s possible, and you won’t necessarily have to buy the best garbage disposal for it.
Proper cleaning is probably the most maintenance you’ll have to do regularly for your disposal. As an added bonus, the cleaning solution we detailed here typically fills the entire kitchen with a fresh, clean scent.
Just make sure that you do so consistently, as the functionality of your garbage disposal (and the cleanliness of your sink) will depend on it.