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Can You Pour Bleach Down A Garbage Disposal?

Cleaning your garbage disposal can be an essential part of its maintenance. But Can you use bleach to clean a garbage disposal?

You can pour bleach into a garbage disposal as long as the bleach is mild. Strong bleach can cause damage to the garbage disposal; therefore, it should be used only once in a while; it shouldn’t be part of your regular garbage disposal cleaning routine.

pouring bleach into a garbage disposal

risks of using bleach to clean garbage disposal

Before you use bleach down your garbage disposal or any other pipes, keep in mind that this is a highly toxic chemical that will react with other chemicals and substances it might encounter. 

Blockage and toxic fumes

If you pour plain bleach down the drain, you risk creating fumes as the bleach gets mixed with other residues inside the garbage disposal. These fumes could lead to blockage and even damage your disposal. Also, the fumes bleach could create are toxic and you shouldn’t inhale them.

Potential Damage to Garbage Disposal Components

Another risk you take is damaging different parts of your garbage disposal, even without other substances involved. Strong bleach that is not diluted with water can actually damage the blades and the pipes.

Hardening of Grease

Bleach has the ability to harden the layer of grease. So, it is recommended to only use it once you remove most part of the grease in your garbage disposal with a specific type of cleaner intended for this purpose.

Damage to Septic Tanks

A last but not least red flag that you need to consider is that bleach shouldn’t be used on septic tanks. Bleach in a septic tank can be detrimental to the environment.

Your septic tank needs some bacteria to break down the waste in a way that is not affecting your health or the environment and the system you use. But a strong bleach will kill most of the bacteria if not all of it, which works against the needs of a septic tank system. If you use bleach on such a system, you will have to add good bacteria to your tank constantly to help it regain its functions and work for you at eliminating the waste efficiently.

However, there are types of bleaches on the market that are made to be eco-friendly and those can still be used even if you have a septic tank.

Steps to safely use bleach to clean garbage disposal

Bleach and cleaners containing bleach are some of the first options when you are looking to clean bacteria and eliminate bad odors. But if you don’t use the bleach correctly, it can damage your pipes and the garbage disposal more than help it.

Here are four steps to using bleach correctly in a garbage disposal;

1. Select the right type of bleach

First of all, you will want to use a type of bleach that will not be so detrimental to your garbage disposal. Choose a chlorine-based cleaner that is mild and made for cleaning different surfaces. You want to consider eco-friendly bleaches if you have a septic tank or if you want a weaker chemical that still helps you eliminate bacteria.

Even if you go for a milder bleach, you will still need to use very little of it. Depending on the size, the amount of debris, and the odor intensity of your garbage disposal, you might be able to use only one tablespoon or two tablespoons of bleach when you clean it. 

2. Dilute bleach with water 

If you can’t find good, mild bleach and use regular bleach, you want to dilute it with water. Mix one or two tablespoons of bleach with a gallon of water and pour it down the garbage disposal. You can let the cold water run as you do that as well. Remember that cold water is much better for your pipes than warm or hot water. You should notice the unpleasant smell disappearing in a matter of minutes by following this method. 

If you need to use a larger quantity of this mix, increase the bleach and water amounts by following the same ratio. You want to use as little bleach as possible to keep your garbage disposal running smoothly and eliminate the bacteria and their odor. 

3. Mix bleach with lemon slices and baking soda

Before you get to the bleach, you will need to add six to seven ice cubes in the chamber of your garbage disposal. Make sure to turn the faucet and disposal off before you start pouring the bleach mix. 

Add three to four lemon slices, one tablespoon of baking soda, and one teaspoon of bleach into the chamber. It is important not to add more bleach than one teaspoon, even if it is milder. Finish your preparation by adding six more ice cubes to the bleach mix.

4. Clean the garbage disposal

Once you packed the garbage disposal chamber correctly, you can turn ON the device but don’t run the water until the grinding stops.

The last thing you have to do is let cold water run for 30 seconds to one minute while the motor is still running as well. Do not let warm or hot water run until the entire process is finished so you avoid potential damage to the pipes and the disposal.

How to clean a garbage disposal without bleach

There are garbage disposal cleaning methods that don’t involve bleach.

One approach is to grind lots of ice cubes, which helps dislodge debris and keeps the blades sharp. Another option is to clean it with liquid dish soap, which effectively removes grease and food residue. Using Coke can create a fizzy reaction that breaks down grease and dirt.

Baking soda and vinegar, when combined, create a foaming reaction that removes stains and odors. Grinding citrus peels and fruit pits releases natural oils and acids that clean and freshen the disposal. You can also use a specialized cleaner like Plink garbage disposal cleaner.

These methods offer various approaches to address issues such as grease, odor, and debris buildup in a garbage disposal.

Further Reading:

My name is Thomas Anderson, author of DisposalQA. I have 15 years experience working as a plumber in CA, and this is where I answer common questions about garbage disposals.