How to Clean a Clogged or Smelly Garbage Disposal
All that soapy water that runs down your kitchen sink cannot keep your garbage disposal clean forever. As food and grease build up around the blades, you get that mildewy, rotten food odor. It’s actually very easy to clean a garbage disposal — you just want to avoid hurting yourself or dulling the blades.
Garbage Disposal Cleaning Tips: Before Getting Started
Before getting too far down the rabbit hole (or garbage disposal!):
- Don’t stick your hand down the drain without turning off the power at the breaker panel.
- Bleach can damage stainless steel, so don’t soak your sink or disposal system in it.
- Grinding citrus fruit can alleviate odors but don’t settle for deodorizing. A good cleaning will make the disposal smell cleaner for longer
Rid Your Sink of Smell & Debris: Deep Clean a Garbage Disposal
The best disposal cleaning method works like a simple science experiment. Using ice cubes and salt, we are going to freeze the grime until it breaks off of the disposal blades and nothing is left behind.
Step 1: Clean the Sink First
Clean from the top down is always a great idea. Cleaning the garbage disposal will be easier and more sanitary with a clean sink. Use a mild soap or the cleaning agent you prefer (we like Bar Keeper’s Friend for stainless steel).
Step 2: Scrub the Drain and Baffle
Cleaning the blades and plumbing won’t do much good if you leave debris behind in the drain cover! Use a toothbrush or scrubbing sponge to clean the edges around the drain and baffle (the rubber splash guard). Germs love to hide out under the baffle — be thorough.
Step 3: The Ice-and-Salt Method
You might expect soap and hot water to work best, but we need to freeze the food gunk so it can slide away. It’s like picking dry food crumbs off of upholstery, rather than wetting the stain.
Fill the drain with 2 cups of ice cubes and then pour 1 cup of coarse salt or rock salt onto the ice. Turn on the cold water tap and run the garbage disposal. Let it run a few seconds after the ice sounds like it’s gone.
DIY Drain Cleaning: What NOT to Do
Why not use hot water to clean my drain? The salty ice cools down the grease and grime, the same way salty ice can quickly cool beverages in a cooler. The coldness hardens the grease and grime stuck in the disposal. As the debris hardens, the blades can slough it off. Hot water would just make the stuff viscous and stuck to the blades — so trust us, use ice and cold water.
What do I do for a smelly garbage disposal? In between deep cleans, you can keep your disposal smelling great by grinding halves of citrus fruit or used coffee grounds. You can also scrub the rubber baffle with dish detergent or white vinegar to help kill smelly germs.
Need a Professional?
Pretty easy, right? You probably don’t need to even buy anything to clean your garbage disposal. If you seem to have a bigger clogged sink problem or other plumbing issue and live in the Baltimore, MD area, give us a call and we will be glad to help!
Air, Plumbing & Heating Solutions is Baltimore’s trusted plumber. Our plumbers have decades of experience assisting homeowners in the Baltimore area—from leaky pipes to drain cleaning services, we do it all!