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All About Cleaning, Freshening Up & Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal

contractor installing garabage disposal unit in a white porcelain kitchen sink

If you have become accustomed to the convenience of having a garbage disposal, the thought of doing without one or having to deal with food scraps any other way is daunting! It saves you the time and trouble of dumping leftovers from your plate into the garbage bin where they pile up and, oftentimes, stink up the place. However, this isn’t to say that your garbage disposal won’t do the same thing, i.e., accumulate decaying food bits that cause a foul odour, if not deep cleaned every now and then. 

The thing about garbage disposals is that they are so nicely hidden away beneath your kitchen sink that you often forget that they are even there. What you shouldn’t forget is that, like any household appliance, especially one that deals with food remnants, the garbage disposal must be cleaned, freshened up, and maintained on a regular basis. Luckily, that’s exactly what Maid For You is here to share with you. 

Let’s begin with our 5-step garbage disposal cleaning guide!

How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal

woman wiping down external garbage disposal unit with a blue microfibre cloth

The most appealing part about this cleaning method is that the garbage disposal does most of the work for you! All you need to do is follow the right steps, in the right sequence, and your garbage disposal will clean itself. For that, take a look at the step-by-step cleaning guide below. 

Step One: Turn Off the Power

For safety reasons, and to avoid damaging the appliance, the first thing you need to do is disconnect the power to your garbage disposal. This can be done from the circuit breaker or by simply unplugging the appliance. If you are turning off the power from your circuit breaker, be sure to come back and test that the power has, in fact, been cut off to the garbage disposal. 

Step Two: Scrub the Splash Guard

Also referred to as the rubber gasket or sink baffle, the purpose of the splash guard is to keep food bits and debris from splashing upward. It also helps to muffle the noise of the appliance when the blades are chopping up food scraps. 

Considering the role it plays, the rubber splash guard gets rather grimy over time, and is prone to bacteria. Even worse, when food debris gets stuck in the holes/crevices of the splash guard, they begin to rot and give off a foul odour. Therefore, it is important to clean the splash guard of your garbage disposal at least once in two weeks, or as necessary. To do this, simply pull it out and scrub with a toothbrush and dish soap. If needed, use a toothpick to clean out holes and crevices, and finish off by rinsing the rubber gasket thoroughly.

Step Three: Manually Remove Large Food Bits

With the splash guard out of the way, look down the drain and check for any food debris that may be lodged between the blades, or just out of reach of the grinder. If you spot something, use a pair of pliers or tongs to manually remove it as opposed to your bare hands or fingers. The blades of a garbage disposal are very sharp and therefore, one should never put their fingers down the drain even when the appliance is off. 

Step Four: Pour in Baking Soda & Vinegar

The most effective way to break down grease and grime buildup in your garbage disposal is by combining the cleansing powers of baking soda and white distilled vinegar. Along with tackling gunk and killing bacteria, the baking soda also helps to neutralise foul odours.

The correct way to use baking soda and vinegar to clean your garbage disposal is by pouring half a cup of the powder down the drain, and allowing it to sit for at least 20 minutes. This should be followed up by one cup of white vinegar (poured down the drain); at this time, the ingredients will begin to react and foam upward, likely into the sink. Don’t worry when this happens as it is a natural reaction which aids in cleaning the inside of your garbage disposal. After a few minutes, pour hot water down the disposal to rinse off the interiors.

Step Five: Clean the Blades

The last thing you need to do is clean the blades which are often covered in stubborn buildup. An efficient way to do this is to make the disposal clean the blades itself! This can be done with the help of ice cubes and kosher salt; together, they work to scrub the blades when the ingredients are being ground in the disposal.

To begin, add two cups of ice cubes to your garbage disposal, followed by one cup of kosher salt, and reattach the splash guard. Plug in the appliance, turn the power back on, and run cold water down the disposal while it grinds the ice cubes and salt. When it has finished, turn the garbage disposal off and pour plain water down the drain to rinse off the blades and interiors.

How to Freshen Up Your Garbage Disposal

front view of a sponge, spray bottle and half a lemon on a white background

In between cleans, it is advisable to freshen up your garbage disposal to keep bad odours at bay. Again, this is a very simple process wherein the appliance does most of the work for you. 

There are three ways to freshen up your garbage disposal, each of which are very effective and easy to carry out. 

Citrus Peels

 You can use the peels of any citrus fruit such as lemons, grapefruit, or oranges. Gather about a handful of citrus peels and grind them in your garbage disposal. This will give off an instant fresh and pleasant smell.

Borax

This product will safely and naturally kill bad odours in your garbage disposal. All you need to do is pour 4-5 tablespoons of Borax down the drain; leave it to sit for 1 hour, and then pour hot water down the disposal to flush it away. 

Chlorine Bleach

 Another highly effective way to kill bacteria and freshen up your garbage disposal is with diluted chlorine bleach. Mix 1 tablespoon of the bleach in 3 litres of water, pour it down the disposal and wait for 2-3 minutes. Next, run hot water down the drain for a few minutes to effectively rinse away the bleach. 

How to Maintain Your Garbage Disposal

top view of the inside of a garbage disposal unit

Keeping your garbage disposal in tiptop condition goes beyond cleaning and freshening. In fact, maintaining the disposal begins with using it correctly to ensure that you aren’t damaging the blades and/or other components of the appliance. 

Here are some crucial tips to help you maintain your garbage disposal:

  • Avoid putting in items that are not biodegradable
  • Foods that expand with water should not be put in the garbage disposal as they can clog the drain
  • Starchy foods should be avoided as they leave a pasty residue which inhibits the blades from moving smoothly
  • Avoid grinding fibrous or stringy foods as they can get entangled in the blades 
  • Don’t pour oil or greasy foods down the disposal
  • Allow the garbage disposal to run for at least 20 seconds (with the water running) after the grinding is complete; this ensures that the drain is flushed thoroughly
  • Avoid putting large food scraps in the disposal such as large bones, fruits, and vegetables 

The last thing anyone wants is to have their garbage disposal stop working from lack of cleaning or maintenance. And what’s equally worse is a foul-smelling garbage disposal that carries through your kitchen and the rest of your home! So, to avoid the inconvenience and unpleasantness, all you need to do is refer to this article for everything you need to know about cleaning, freshening up, and maintaining your garbage disposal!

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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