How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal and Keep it Smelling Fresh

Is there a mysterious odor taking over your kitchen? If you have an unpleasant smell that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how many times you mop the floor or clean out the fridge, your garbage disposal may be the culprit.

From leftover food to grimy grease, there’s a lot of debris that gets washed down the kitchen drain. And when it gets stuck along the pipes, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and pesky critters or prevent your sink from draining properly.

If you’re starting to suspect that your garbage disposal could be the culprit, we have a few tips to help you unclog the drain and keep it smelling fresh.

Step One: Clean the Splash Guard

When you turn on your garbage disposal, it works to grind up your food scraps and flush them down your drain and out of your life forever.

However, sometimes little bits of food can get caught in the grinding chamber or build up on the splash guard.

To get started, you’ll want to turn the garbage disposal off and disconnect it from its power source, which may mean unplugging it if it’s connected to an outlet under the sink or turning off the electricity from the breaker box.

Start by cleaning the splash guard, or the rubber flange along the top of the drain that helps to prevent water and food waste from splashing out of the garbage disposal and acts as a sound muffler when you have it running.

Use an abrasive sponge or small brush and some dish soap to scrub away any gunk trapped in its grooves and crevices.

You may also be able to remove the splash guard and place it in the top rack of your dishwasher.

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Step Two: The Grinder

Next, shine a flashlight into the disposal to check for any food blockages or utensils that may have gotten trapped. Use tongs or pliers to reach into the garbage disposal and carefully remove the blockage.

Although most garbage disposals don’t have sharp blades, you should avoid putting your hand inside unless necessary and only if the power is off.

After you’ve checked for blockages, pour a pot of boiling water into the garbage disposal, followed by half a cup of baking soda, a natural deodorizer.

Let it sit for half an hour before adding one cup of vinegar. The chemical reaction between these two household objects creates an inexpensive natural drain cleaner that can help to break up the fat, grease, or oil that can hold together a clog.

Wait three minutes and then pour another boiling pot of water down the drain, which can help to dislodge a stubborn clog.

Next, reinstall the splash guard and reconnect the garbage disposal to its power source.

Pour two cups of ice and one cup of either kosher or rock salt into the garbage disposal.

Pulse the garbage disposal a few times without any water running to help sharpen and clean the blades. Then, turn on the cold water tap and then turn the garbage disposal on until all of the ice cubes are gone.

Grounding up the ice can help to clear away any gunk that may be caught on the blades.

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Step Three: Refresh

Flush the peel of your favorite citrus fruit down the drain with some cold water to keep your garbage disposal smelling great.

The oil from citrus fruits like oranges and lemons is a great way to keep your garbage disposal smelling fresh and can help to cut through any fat or grease build-up.

To prevent the peels from getting clogged in your garbage disposal, be sure to cut them into smaller pieces and avoid throwing in more than a cup of food waste at a time.

How Often Should You Clean Your Disposal?

Tucked away under the sink, garbage disposals often fall prey to being “out of sight, out of mind.” And although garbage disposals do a pretty great job at keeping themselves clean, this appliance needs a little regular TLC too.

Regular maintenance can help you keep your garbage disposal working and smelling great. Here are a few ways to keep your garbage disposal in great shape:

  • Don’t overload your garbage disposal. Avoid grinding more than about one cup of food waste at a time.
  • Avoid pouring grease into the garbage disposal.
  • Avoid using your garbage disposal to get rid of any food waste that can clog it in the long run, including fibrous vegetables, coffee grinds, and eggshells.
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How Hard Water Can Clog Your Garbage Disposal

When the minerals in hard water react with soap, they can create stubborn soap blockages that keep food and grease trapped in your garbage disposal. If you start to notice that your garbage disposal is being frequently clogged, hard water could be the culprit.

While baking soda and vinegar should be able to do the trick in the short term, these clogs may be doing permanent damage to your garbage disposal and other water using appliances.

Investing in a home water softening solution can help you prolong the lifespan of your garbage disposal and keep it smelling fresh. As an authorized dealer of Kinetico Water Softeners, our team is committed to helping our customers in Minnesota and Wisconsin find a water filtration system that meets their needs.

At Aquarius Water Conditioning, we believe every family deserves to have access to clean, clear, and great-tasting water, which is why we want to offer you a free water analysis to help you learn more about what’s in your water. If you’re concerned about the quality of your water supply, contact us today to get your complimentary water analysis.

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