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How to Safely Clean a Garbage Disposal

Does your kitchen smell like a landfill? Try these simple steps to clean out the culprit.


  • : Never put your hand in a garbage disposal! Call a professional if you can’t clear it with tongs or pliers.
  • Step 1: Add ice and salt For routine cleaning, pour the ice down the drain and then the rock salt. If you don’t have rock salt, use vinegar.
  • TIP: Never use bleach or other chemicals, including drain cleaner. These can damage the disposal or splash back!
  • Step 2: Run the disposal Run the cold water and the disposal for five to 10 seconds. The ice and salt or vinegar will clear the grinding elements of any built-up gunk and bits of food.
  • TIP: Use cold water only. Hot water can melt fats in foods you are grinding and gum up your disposal’s parts.
  • Step 3: Disconnect the disposal If your disposal is clogged, disconnect it or remove its fuse before you try to remove anything. Use tongs or pliers to remove any objects that can't be ground, such as rubber, glass, or fibrous foods like artichokes.
  • Step 4: Clear the drain line Fill your sink with three or four inches of cold water. Remove the drain plug and run the disposal to clear the drain line of debris.
  • Step 5: Freshen Throw lemon peels down the drain (be sure to remove any seeds first), run warm water, and turn on the disposal.
  • Step 6: Repeat Keep your disposal working at its best and your kitchen smelling fresh by cleaning your disposal every couple of weeks.
  • FACT: The garbage disposal was invented in 1927 and first sold to consumers in 1938.

You Will Need

  • 2 c. ice
  • 1 c. rock salt or vinegar
  • Tongs or pliers
  • Lemon peels

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