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7 Ways to Clean a Garbage Disposal Effectively: Deep Clean Guide

Deep cleaning garbage disposal involves removing all the gunk and food scraps stuck inside it. There are several quick and easy ways to do this, from grinding ice cubes and utilizing liquid dish soap to techniques like using Coke or a rack of ribs. It is also equally important to clean the rubber flange (also known as a stopper) of the garbage disposal as food particles can stick there.

Regularly deep cleaning a garbage disposal prevents rotten smells and rust.

Do not use broken glass, coffee, eggshells and chemicals to clean a garbage disposal, as these can clog the disposals and cause corrosion and leaks.

By implementing these proven cleaning techniques, you’ll be able to maintain fresh, efficient, and odor-free garbage disposal in your kitchen.

So here are 7 easy ways to clean a garbage disposal;

1. Grind ice cubes

Grinding ice cubes is an excellent way of cleaning a garbage disposal. I am not talking about grinding one or two ice cubes, and I mean lots of them.

Step to cleaning a garbage disposal with ice cubes;

  1. Fill one or two tubs with ice cubes and place them in the sink.
  2. Turn on the hot water faucet to a moderate flow.
  3. Start the garbage disposal by flipping the switch or pressing the appropriate button.
  4. Allow the disposal to run while the ice cubes are being ground up. The hot water will aid in the cleaning process.
  5. Observe as the ice cubes and water create a vortex in the sink, and you’ll notice the water turning murky as rust and dirt are dislodged from the garbage disposal. This visual confirmation demonstrates the effectiveness of this cleaning method.
  6. Continue running the disposal for a few minutes, ensuring that hot water is constantly flowing.
  7. As the process continues, you’ll notice that the water in the sink drains slowly, effectively washing away all the dislodged dirt and rust.
  8. Once the sink is fully drained and all the ice cubes have been ground up, inspect the garbage disposal. In most cases, it will be clean at this point, with a significant improvement in its performance.
  9. If, by any chance, the garbage disposal is not completely clean, you can repeat the process and try this method again.
  10. After cleaning, turn off the garbage disposal and the hot water faucet.
Cleaning a garbage disposal with ice cubes

How do ice cubes clean?

What happens here is that the abrasive action of the ice pieces dislodges any rust and food wastes sticking to the grinding components of the garbage disposal. Grinding ice provides a similar effect as ice blasting. Moreover, any ice that may get stuck in the garbage disposal will eventually get melted, so there is no chance of the ice jamming the disposal.

Why should you run hot water?

As you might have noticed, I advised running hot water, not cold water; as normally done when we grind food wastes. The reason is, this hot water will help to melt the grease and oil sticking onto the disposal blades, and doing so quickens the cleaning process. It also helps to melt and remove the ice particles to make the cleaning cleaner!

Some people recommend adding citrus peels along with ice cubes, but I am against it. It is alright to add the peels once the disposer is clear of ice cubes, but doing that along with the bulk amount of ice may jam the disposer as both items have different natures.

2. Clean with liquid dish soap

Using liquid dish soap is the easiest way to clean a garbage disposal. It is not as effective as using ice cubes, but this method doesn’t take any preparations, so you can easily do this daily.

Here is how to clean a garbage disposal using liquid dish soap;

  1. Start by turning on the garbage disposal and running water. Hot water is recommended, but cold water works as well.
  2. Pour a generous amount of dish soap directly into the garbage disposal. You will notice the soap foaming up instantly.
  3. While the soap is foaming, turn off the water but keep the garbage disposal running.
  4. Allow the foam to sit in the garbage disposal for about a minute. During this time, the foam will dissolve the fat and grease that may be sticking to the grinding components.
  5. After a minute, turn the water back on and use it to wash away the foam. You may add more water as needed.
  6. If required, you can repeat the process by adding more dish soap and allowing it to foam for another minute. This helps ensure thorough cleaning of the inside of the garbage disposal.
  7. Continue repeating the process until the insides of the garbage disposal appear clean and shiny.
  8. Once you are satisfied with the cleanliness, turn off the garbage disposal and the water.
Easy cleaning of garbage disposal with liquid soap

This method is effective when done daily. It works against grease and fat, but it won’t remove rust.

3. Using Coke

Coke (& Pepsi too) contains phosphoric acid, and it is this acid behind its cleaning power. Phosphoric acid has grease-busting abilities, and it will dissolve any grease it comes in contact with.

Here’s how to clean a garbage disposal with coke;

  1. Start the garbage disposal by turning it on.
  2. Pour approximately half a bottle of Coke into the garbage disposal.
  3. Turn off the garbage disposal, allowing the Coke to splash over the grinding components.
  4. Let the Coke sit in the disposal for a few minutes to dissolve any grease it comes into contact with.
  5. Turn on the garbage disposal again and pour the remaining half of the bottle of Coke into it.
  6. Run hot water to flush away any remaining Coke and food waste.
  7. Continue running the hot water until all traces of Coke and food waste are washed away.

While it sounds fun, using Coke is not an effective way of cleaning a garbage disposal. If you have a bottle of Coke that you need to discard, by all means, feel free to empty it into the disposer. But it won’t remove any rust, and it won’t clean as effectively as dish soap does.

4. Using Baking soda and Vinegar

Baking soda is a mild abrasive natural substance that can easily dissolve grease and oils in water. It has neutral pH levels even though it is slightly alkaline. What makes it unique is that it can also neutralize odors instead of covering them up. So baking soda is used as a household cleaning agent very often.

Another common green cleaning agent used in all households is vinegar. Vinegar is slightly acidic in nature as it contains Acetic acid. It is often used as an alternative to bleach, which is a chemical.

A combination of vinegar and baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) is an effective cleaning agent and a deodorizer. It is the best solution to clean a smelly garbage disposal.

Here is how to use baking soda and white vinegar to clean a garbage disposal;

  1. Begin by pouring a cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal.
  2. Next, add a glass of vinegar to the disposal. The mixture will immediately fizz up due to the chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar.
  3. Allow the fizzing mixture to sit in the garbage disposal for a few minutes. This reaction helps unclog drains and removes stains and food waste from the disposal’s interior.
  4. After the allotted time, add some boiling water into the garbage disposal. This will help melt any fat and grease that may be clinging to the disposal blades.
  5. Let the boiling water and mixture sit in the disposal for a short while.
  6. Turn on your kitchen faucet and run the garbage disposal for about a minute. This will clean the inside of the disposal and help neutralize any odors.
Cleaning a garbage disposal using baking sida and vinegar

5. Cleaning with citrus peels and fruit pits

Citrus peels are a great way to clean a smelly garbage disposal. You can use citrus peels with any of the cleaning methods above. They are totally safe to grind, and the citric acid in them helps to remove stains and odors. You can also add a fruit pit, like an Avacado pit, into the disposal along with the citrus peels. The fruit pit’s abrasive action will remove rust and food particles from the grinding components inside the garbage disposal’s chamber.

Here is a short step-by-step guide on how to clean a garbage disposal using citrus peels, an avocado pit (or ice cubes), and cold water:

  1. Start your garbage disposal and simultaneously run lots of cold water.
  2. Gradually add citrus peels into the disposal, one after another. Avoid overloading the unit to prevent any clogs or jams.
  3. The garbage disposal will grind the citrus peels, releasing the citric acid present in them. This acid helps dissolve food stains and grease inside the disposal.
  4. Next, add either one avocado pit or some ice cubes into the disposal. This creates abrasive action that helps dislodge sticky particles and rust.
  5. Continuously run water throughout the entire cleaning process to aid in flushing away debris and keep the disposal running smoothly.
  6. Allow the disposal to run for a sufficient amount of time to ensure thorough cleaning.
  7. When finished, turn off the garbage disposal and the water.
Cleaning a garbage disposal using citrus peels

6. Using a rack of ribs

You can also clean a garbage disposal by grinding a rack of ribs. But make sure to grind them one by one taking plenty of time. Otherwise, this can clog the unit creating a messy situation.

Steps to cleaning a garbage disposal with a rack of ribs;

  1. Begin by inserting two or three ribs into the garbage disposal.
  2. Turn on the garbage disposal without running water at this point. The goal is to use the ribs to dislodge any dirt and rust from the disposal.
  3. As the ribs are being ground up, listen for the sound coming from the disposal. Initially, it will be noisy, but once the sound evens out, it indicates that the bones are ground.
  4. Once the ribs are ground, turn on the water to wash away all the debris.
  5. Continue running the water until all the debris from the ribs is flushed away.
Cleaning a garbage disposal using a rack of ribs

This may look a little unconventional, but it doesn’t work. You can also use chicken bones; they are softer than ribs and are better suited for low power garbage disposals.

7. Use a garbage disposal cleaner

There are ready-made cleaners, like Plink garbage disposal cleaner, available in shops with which you can easily clean and deodorize your garbage disposal.

Here are the cleaning steps;

  1. Take a cleaner sachet specifically designed for garbage disposals.
  2. Place the sachet into the garbage disposal with a trickle of water running.
  3. Start the garbage disposal, and you will immediately see the cleaner sachet bubbling up, creating a blue foam.
  4. Allow the cleaning foam to completely disappear from the disposer, which may take about a minute or two.
  5. Once the foam has dissolved, turn off the garbage disposal.
Cleaning a garburator using a cleaner

How to clean the rubber flange of a garbage disposal

All the methods I mentioned above clean the insides of a garbage disposal, but you also have to clean its splash guard. The splash guard, aka stopper, is a rubber flap between the garbage disposals and the sink, preventing the contents in the garbage disposal from splashing back into the sink.

It is vital to clean this splash guard because its underside is always full of sticky food particles. These particles will eventually rot and smell, and this is unhygienic.

For some garbage disposal models, the splash guards are removable. So they are pretty easy to clean; you only have to remove them from the sinkhole and wash them. You can also put them in a dishwasher. If you have a Waste King or an InSinkErator Evolution series garbage disposal, its splash guard is removable, and so you can clean it this way.

But the splash guard is not removable for some other disposer models, like for a standard InSinkErator garbage disposal. So what you can do in this case is to lift the flaps of the splash guard and clean its underside using a toothbrush.

You should also clean the sink flange if necessary.

Video showing cleaning of garbage disposal sink flange

Why clean a garbage disposal?

Garbage disposals are machines that require no or less maintenance. But it is important to keep them clean for their efficient working and longevity. It is also important to use the disposer once in a while because when not used, its moving parts can get rusty, and it may not work when you need it.

There are two main reasons why you need to clean your garbage disposal regularly;

  1. To remove rust
  2. To avoid smell and bacteria

The grinding components of garbage disposals are made of metal. These grinding components are made of galvanized steel in budget garbage disposal models, which will rust eventually. This rusting will prevent the free movement of the swivel lugs on the rotor, a main grinding component. Regular cleaning will reduce that kind of rust build-ups.

Even though you run water to wash away all the food debris, some may stick to the walls and the grinding parts of the garbage disposal. The rotting of this food waste is the primary reason why garbage disposal smells.

Why do I see fruit flies and gnats coming from the garbage disposal?

If you see fruit flies and gnats inside the garbage disposal it is due to the presence of food residue and organic matter that accumulates in the disposal unit. Cleaning regularly is the only way to avoid this.

Things you shouldn’t use to clean a garbage disposal

There are certain things and methods which you shouldn’t use to clean a garbage disposal. Here are they;

Broken glass

I have heard this advice from someone that you can sharpen garbage disposal blades using broken glass. That suggestion is not only bogus but also dangerous. A flying shard of glass from the garbage disposal can cause injury.

The point they are making is that since glass is abrasive it can dislodge rust and food wastes from the disposer. But glass particles are sedimentary in nature and so even if you manage to grind the glass pieces without injury they may clog the drains. It is also not possible to entirely wash away glass particles from the disposer.

So grinding broken glass in a garbage disposal is a bad idea.

Coffee grounds and egg shells

Coffee grounds and eggshells are also abrasive in nature so it is possible to remove rust and stains in the garbage disposal using them. And they also do not cause any danger to the operator of the disposer. However, like glass, these items are sedimentary in nature and so they will accumulate in the pipes, eventually leading to clogs.


Using chemicals to clean a garbage disposal is a bad idea. These chemicals can easily corrode the grinding chamber of the garbage disposals over time. This will lead to leaks and such problems. So it is not advised to use any harsh chemicals to clean a garbage disposal.


Even though mild bleach can be used once a while, you shouldn’t put bleach regularly into the garbage disposal. Regular bleaching can lead to corrosion of the grinding components and eventually leaks.

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.