How Do You Clean Garbage Disposals? | A Care Guide

Garbage Disposals can be pretty tricky and without proper care, they can become less effective, and rust, leaving you to replace them altogether. So you might be wondering, “How can I clean it?” After all, you don’t want to do it wrong and end up hurting yourself!

There are a number of steps you need to go through in order to clean your garbage disposal. Using a kitchen sponge, ice, bleach, salt, and dish soap, you can safely clean your garbage disposal without worrying about hurting yourself, or your kitchen.

There are a few great ways to clean your garbage disposal, and here are just a few!

Standard Cleaning Procedure

While there are some cool tricks that can go into cleaning, here’s a standard way of cleaning, not matter your disposal, this will always work!

1. Turn Off Your Power

You want to turn off your power before you get into cleaning your disposal, as a precaution in case the disposal gets turned on. This way you aren’t hurt in the process. You don’t want anyone accidentally flipping the switch while your fingers are in the drain!

2. Clean The Baffle

If you don’t know what the baffle is, the baffle is the “catch” or the rubber piece before the entrance of the garbage disposal. It’s what keeps things like spoons from getting into the disposal. This is the one thing that’s the easiest to clean, and often one of the things that causes a bad smell.

To clean the baffle, use the abrasive side of a sponge, and dish soap. Scrub the underside of the baffle to get rid of any build-up underneath it that may have occurred. Rinse the sponge frequently for a better clean as well.

3. Clean The Grinding Chamber

This is where your food gets cut up, and is one of the dirtiest parts of the disposal. The grinding chamber is a tricky section with grinders and sharp edges. Carefully using your sponge, wipe over the inside of the grinding chamber applying only slight pressure so as to not cut through the sponge, and hurt yourself. Use dish soap and rinse your sponge regularly to ensure a better clean.

Repeat until there is no residue on the sponge.

While this is genuinely where you could stop, and have a clean disposal; if you want an extra clean disposal, continue to follow along.

4. Clean The Drain

Pour 1/2 a cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal. Leave it for five to ten minutes, and then pour 1/2 a cup of vinegar into the drain to rinse. Then, put a stopper over the drain. If you’ve ever taken a 7th grade science class you’ll know these two kitchen items create a large amount of “fizz.” Stopping the drain will allow the “fizz” to clean the inside of the chamber better.

After waiting another 10 minutes, remove the stopper, and turn the tap on using hot to warm water. Then run your disposal as you would normally to get rid of anything remaining in the chamber.

These are great steps if you’re looking to clean your disposal. However we know how messy it can get, and if you’re an extra cleaner we have a few more steps you can take!

Cleaning Your Disposal With Ice and Salt

Using ice in your cleaning process helps scrape the inside of the grinding chamber and better cleans any build-up that has occurred. While it isn’t necessary, it is an extra step. Here’s a great way to clean your disposal with ice, salt, and vinegar!

Add Your Ice

Fill your disposal with a cup of ice cubes, or until they lead up to the top. While you can’t really add too much to the disposal, having a little bit less than full allows for there to be a bit more space for the ice to move. This will help with reaching any part of the disposal that you cannot! And can safely scrape away any residue without severely damaging your disposal. Make sure you’re not overflowing it with ice, and instead, just fill it to the top of the disposal. Overflowing it can require it to work too hard, and exert too much pressure, and can damage it or even break it. So make sure it’s not so much it will overwork your disposal.

Add Vinegar and Salt

For our next step, you can add vinegar, salt, or both! Pouring 3 tablespoons of salt and 1/2 cup of vinegar into your ice concoction will help better with the cleaning. Wait 10 minutes for this mix to sit in the disposal.

Then, turn your tap on with extra hot water, and turn the disposal on until you hear no more grinding and everything has fallen down the drain! Viola, a clean drain that is ready to be used again!

How Often Should I Clean The Disposal?

There are a few indicators that should let you know when you need to clean your disposal. One of the biggest ones is when your disposal takes a longer time to clear. Clean time is super obvious as the more build-up in your disposal, the longer it takes to clear the more is probably stuck in it! Another not-so-great sign is the smell. If your kitchen sink is starting to smell, no matter how clean it may be, it might be at your disposal. Making sure your disposal is properly cleaned will help avoid a smell occurring in your sink and kitchen.

Avoid Cleaning Your Drain With…

While ice may be a unique way of cleaning, there are a few things you should avoid cleaning your drain with!

Funny enough, many experts say to avoid cleaning your disposal with commercial disposal cleaners. While the cleaning product can clean, without friction against the grinders nothing will get cleaned. You’ll just be cleaning it with soap and water.

It’s also important to make sure you know what chemicals you’re mixing if you are using household cleaners at your disposal or to make sure you don’t mix harmful chemicals and make toxic fumes. This could cause severe damage to anyone who breathes it in! It isn’t just breathing in you want to worry about.

There are certain cleaning products that are going to be great for cleaning your pipes and your disposal, but are terrible for your septic system! These can be dangerous, and cause damage to your septic system. Things like lye, or certain drain de-cloggers, can cause issues in your septic system. These issues can be harmful and super expensive to fix! Make sure you do some research before pouring anything down your disposal!

Also, avoid using anything too abrasive in your cleaning process. As we mentioned earlier using things like ice is safe, however things that may be stronger could cause damage to the blades within the disposal. This could damage your disposal blades, and wear away at them faster, making you more likely to replace the disposal altogether.

If you’ve made the mistake of doing any of these, then make sure you call your local plumber, and see what can be done to fix it!

When Is The Smell a Bigger Problem?

If you’ve cleaned it, and it still smells bad or doesn’t work the way you want to, then it’s just time to replace it. A good rule of thumb to know whether or not it’s time to replace your disposal is to know when it was installed. 10 years is roughly the lifespan of garbage disposals, so anything older than that is probably in need of a replacement soon.

Another issue that may occur if your garbage disposal is smelling especially bad is a problem with your water tank or pipes. Something could be caught in the pipes, garbage disposals are convenient but don’t always break things down the way you need them to. If this occurs you need to contact a plumber and see if there’s a bigger issue at hand.

It’s also important to note that the smell coming from your disposal could just be a food you made recently. If you made strong-smelling food or happened to pour sour milk down your sink, the smell might linger for a little while. This is normal, and nothing to worry about!

What If Something Gets Stuck?

If something gets stuck in your disposal, or you happen to drop something accidentally, then you might be half tempted to just reach your hand in there. DON’T! Sticking your hand in can be super dangerous, and push whatever is stuck in farther. Instead, take a light and look into the disposal. If whatever is stuck, is in a safe spot for you to grab you can try picking it up with either tweezers, tongs, or another object. If not, you need to call a plumber.

What you don’t want to do is turn your disposal while something is in there. This can damage not only the item but also your disposal. When in doubt, a plumber is going to be your best bet for fixing anything you need.

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