Cleaning our dirty dishes and any number of items in our kitchen sinks send all that dirt and food particles down into the garbage disposal. Oftentimes, dirty water pools in the garbage disposal making it a home of nasty bacteria in a cover of slime. That can be gross and stink up the kitchen, but with some cleaning and maintenance, you can cut down on all that nastiness.

When Should You Clean Your Disposal?

Garbage disposals are such a useful tool in our kitchen, but we quickly forget about them as they’re hidden away. Because of that we often forget to clean them and let’s be honest, it can be a long time until we bother cleaning them.

Ideally, garbage disposals should be cleaned or treated every week, but depending on how often you use your sink and disposal it can be different for anyone. We recommend a weekly rinse with a cleanser and a monthly scrub to keep your disposal staying fresh and free of disgusting bacteria build up.

Tools Needed

  • Dish soap, always available
  • A scrubbing sponge, we recommend saving old ones for dirty jobs like this
  • Long-handled brush

Optional tools for different methods of cleaning:

  • Gloves
  • Bleach, to be diluted
  • Baking soda and vinegar
  • Ice with vinegar or salt

How to Clean:

  • Run hot water and turn on the garbage disposal for it to clear away any large debris that is already lodged within. Once no odd sounds are coming from it, turn it off.
  • To stay safe please cut the power to the garbage disposal. You’ll be putting your hand into the garbage disposal, and while it won’t rip limbs off, it can nick your fingers badly. We recommend not trusting the switch, so please do either of these options: Either unplug the garbage disposal from underneath the sink if you can or find the fuse box and switch the power off to the kitchen or disposal area. Test the switch on the wall if it is off.
  • One of the primary places where smells can collect is the rubber baffle above the garbage disposal. Take your soapy sponge and scrub the top and most importantly the bottom. (For a deeper clean you can remove the baffle and soak it in bleach overnight.)
  • The inside of the garbage disposal is deeper down. Since the disposal has no way to turn on, it’s safe to put your hand inside. You may take the brush and scrub larger pieces off the inside, and then the sponge to get the smaller areas.
  • Rinse with hot water, and run the garbage disposal.

Going Deeper

By just doing the following of scrubbing the baffle and the interior of the garbage disposal, that should rid your kitchen of most smells. However, it doesn’t deep clean the disposal or the pipes lower down. This is just the surface.

There are a few methods to deep clean the garbage disposal and piping below which is optional, but while you are cleaning the disposal it’s worth getting in deep.

The first method involves baking soda and vinegar from earlier:

  • Take equal portions of baking soda and vinegar, about ½ cup each.
  • Dump the baking soda into the garbage disposal, then chase it with the vinegar. They will react and foam up like a crazy science experiment. This foaming is reactive and will crawl into many nooks and crannies within the disposal and piping.
  • Cover the drain tight with the stopper and let the baking soda and vinegar mixture do its work for about 30 minutes.
  • Run the disposal with hot water to rinse it away.

Another option involves a rather interesting method of hand-free scrubbing and non-reactive cleaning agents.

  • Dump about two cups of ice cubes into the disposal. Once the disposal is on, these will break up and bounce around to scrub the inside.
  • Add vinegar or salt as the cleaner and deodorizer.
  • Run the disposal with cold water, pulsing on and off a few seconds until the ice is all gone. You may repeat this method a few times with more ice.
  • Flush the disposal with hot water and run it.

Maintaining a Clean Disposal

Now that you’ve worked hard to clean your disposal, let’s talk about keeping it clean. If you maintain it every week, there’s a good chance you won’t need to deep-scrub the disposal again for a long time.

The easiest method we recommend is this:

Take a mixture of bleach and hot water, in a mix of one part bleach and two parts water. That’s ⅓ cup bleach and ⅔ water, but you can use less bleach and more water.

Pour this mixture down the drain. You may let it sit. The bleach will kill off any bacteria within the sink, the hot water can help dislodge any build-up.

Then run the disposal as normal with hot water until clear.

Another popular method for keeping your disposal smelling good is running citrus peels, either orange or lemon, or lime, through your garbage disposal. This can smell great, but citrus doesn’t provide any cleaning or antibacterial properties.


Cleaning your disposal can be a scary event, but with this guide, it’s quick and easy to do. Once you scrub the years of the grime away and start on a bleach regiment to keep your disposal fresh, it’ll stay clean and working great for years to come.

Feel free to contact us for a free estimate on regular home maintenance. Hubbard’s Maid Service provides reliable and responsible professional cleaners for residential homes and offices. We operate in the Savannah, Georgia, metropolitan area as well as covering Chatham, Effingham, and Bryan Counties. 

If you have any questions about this article or you would like to schedule a cleaning for your home or office, please call us at (912) 961-9131.