While garbage disposals can make food scraps an out-of-sight, out-of-mind part of your kitchen sink, that doesn’t mean you can forget about your disposal during your kitchen cleaning routine. A place that’s regularly damp or wet with a variety of foods being flushed down it, garbage disposals are prime spots for bacteria growth, which is smelly at best and a health risk at worst.
Once a month is a good baseline for how often to clean your garbage disposal, but heavy usage calls for more frequent cleaning. Brandon Pleshek, the third-generation janitor and self-described certified clean freak behind Clean That Up, says at the least, “If it’s starting to stink, then it’s probably time to clean your sink.”
Maintaining a garbage disposal
To maintain your garbage disposal between deeper cleans, you can flush it with soap and water. Start by plugging your sink with a stopper. Fill the sink about half to three-quarters of the way with warm water and add dish soap; then pull out the stopper and run the disposal to create a vortex as the water drains.
Make sure you’re plugging and filling your sink instead of just running the faucet – this ensures that you’re filling the entire chamber when you flush it.
To thoroughly clean your garbage disposal, you need to both loosen up grime and kill bacteria. Several combinations of the above methods will cover both steps. Only the baking soda and vinegar method will take care of both at once – indeed, it’s “a tried-and-true method that’s been around forever,” Pleshek says.
When it comes to a particularly tough job, patience is key. “If you’ve still got a little funk coming from the garbage disposal after doing the vinegar, it doesn’t hurt to do it again,” Pleshek says. “I’ve had to do that at some real nasty jobs that we’ve had, just let the vinegar do its thing and deodorize and take it off layer by layer.”