How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Prevent Clogs and Odors with Routine Service

Kitchen sink drain with disposal
-Oxford- / Getty Images

Cleaning your garbage disposal regularly can help keep the kitchen drains clear and prevent foul odors. The kitchen waste and food particles that accumulate inside the garbage disposal over time can quickly breed bacteria and mold. When the kitchen sink begins to give off bad smells, it’s a sign that the garbage disposal and drains could use some cleaning. A weekly cleaning can keep the garbage disposal clean and free of smells.

Requiring only a few minutes and using typical household items, you can use one of several very easy methods for cleaning your garbage disposal, eliminating and preventing odors, and reducing the chances for drain clogs. 

Baking Soda and Vinegar

A homemade drain cleaner made of a solution of baking soda and vinegar can be used to clean the garbage disposal. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal, then slowly and carefully pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into the disposal. Use the stopper to keep the fizzing baking soda inside the disposal. After a few minutes, when the fizzing has stopped, remove the stopper and flush with hot water while running the garbage disposal. If the sink has two basins, the cleaner will work best when both sides are cleaned at the same time. Use the same amounts of baking soda and vinegar in the other sink drain.

Ice and Vinegar or Rock Salt

Ice and either rock salt or vinegar are also great for cleaning a garbage disposal.

Fill the disposal with ice cubes, then pour a cup of salt or vinegar into the disposal and run it for a few seconds with the water turned on. The ice helps to scrape the inside of the disposal, dislodging any buildup.

Citrus Peels

Using citrus peels is a popular way to block the bad odors that can come from a garbage disposal.

Grind a small handful of citrus peels (cut into small pieces) in the disposal with cool water. This can be done with or without a few ice cubes. The citrus oil can give the disposal and the sink drains a pleasant smell that lasts a good while. Keep in mind that this freshening method works best on a relatively clean disposal.


  • Before trying any of the cleaning methods, run the garbage disposal for several minutes using plenty of water to clear out food waste that may be lingering.
  • Clean the garbage disposal splash guard regularly, since the various folds can quickly accumulate buildup.
  • Use the garbage disposal regularly to keep it clean and in good working order. Disuse isn’t good for any plumbing fixtures.
  • Fix a jammed or clogged garbage disposal right away. Leaving any food waste in the disposal can quickly allow bacteria to grow.