How often you should clean your garbage disposal — and the right way to do it

Sure, the garbage disposal is handy, but cleaning isn’t much fun. Just the thought of putting your hands into that smelly no man’s land is slightly terrifying. But before you totally abandon this cleaning chore, read these easy tips from green cleaning expert Leslie Riechert.

How to clean garbage disposal
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Use citrus

Because your garbage disposal works really hard, it should be cleaned on a weekly basis. An easy way to remove food buildup on the blades is to place frozen orange and lemon peels in the disposal and grind them up. The oil from the citrus peels will help remove the buildup while leaving behind a clean, fresh fragrance.

No peels on hand? “You can also use a tray of ice cubes and ½ cup of baking soda to clear buildup from the blades,” Reichert said.

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Odor busters

If you have a nasty smell coming from the disposal, there could be two causes: the drain and/or the rubber splash guard.

To clean the drain: Pour a half cup of baking soda into the drain, add a cup of hot white distilled vinegar (just heat it in the microwave), then watch it foam, says Reichert. “Let it sit for a few minutes, then pour a quart of boiling water down the disposal to flush everything down the drain. That will leave the chopping part of the disposal lovely and fresh!”

To clean the splash guard: Cleaning the rubber splash guard takes a bit more work but it’s worth the effort. That’s because the slime and gunk that accumulate on the underside of the splash guard are a major source of odors, and a breeding place for germs. To tackle the chore, you’ll need rubber gloves, an old toothbrush and hot, soapy water.

  • For removable splash guards: While wearing gloves, remove the splash guard, then scrub the top and bottom of the rubber guard with a toothbrush and soapy water. Rinse and replace.
  • For non-removable splash guards: While wearing gloves, first scrub the top side of the guard. Rinse. Then, lifting up the rubber guard a section at a time, scrub the underside of the splash guard until all slime and gunk are gone. Rinse.

For more garbage disposal tips, check out these 10 things your plumber wishes you wouldn’t do.

This article was originally published Aug. 10, 2015.