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How to clean a garbage disposal and how often to do it

Get rid of garbage disposal smells and grime on the blades with these easy tips.
An easy way to remove food buildup on the blades is to place frozen orange and lemon peels in the disposal and grind them up, according to Leslie Riechert.
An easy way to remove food buildup on the blades is to place frozen orange and lemon peels in the disposal and grind them up, according to Leslie Riechert. Shutterstock
/ Source: TODAY

The garbage disposal is handy, but cleaning isn't much fun. The thought of putting your hands into that smelly no man’s land sounds terrifying, but there's no need to abandon this cleaning chore. Green-cleaning expert Leslie Riechert shares her best tips for cleaning garbage disposals with TODAY Home.

How to clean your garbage disposal:

  • An easy way to remove food buildup on the blades is to place frozen orange and lemon peels in the disposal and grind them up. The oil from the citrus peels will help remove buildup while leaving behind a clean, fresh fragrance.
  • No peels on hand? “You can also use a tray of ice cubes and 1/2 cup of baking soda to clear buildup from the blades,” Reichert said.

How often should you clean your garbage disposal?

Your garbage disposal works really hard (and can easily get stinky) so aim to clean it on a weekly basis. Often, people also want to know, do you have to empty a garbage disposal to clean it? Garbage disposals can typically grind down foods on their own, however, it may help to cut large foods into smaller pieces before putting them in the garbage disposal.

How to get rid of garbage disposal smells:

If you have a nasty smell coming from the disposal, there could be two causes: the drain and/or the rubber splash guard.

To clean the garbage disposal drain: Pour a 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain, add a cup of hot distilled white vinegar (just heat it in the microwave), then watch it foam, says Reichert. “Let it sit for a few minutes, then pour a quart of boiling water down the disposal to flush everything down the drain. That will leave the chopping part of the disposal lovely and fresh.”

To clean the garbage disposal splash guard: Cleaning the rubber splash guard takes a bit more work, but it’s worth the effort. Slime and gunk that accumulate on the underside of the splash guard are a major source of odors and a breeding place for germs. To tackle the chore, you’ll need rubber gloves, an old toothbrush and hot, soapy water.

  • For removable splash guards: While wearing gloves, remove the splash guard, then scrub the top and bottom of the rubber guard with a toothbrush and soapy water. Rinse and replace.
  • For non-removable splash guards: While wearing gloves, first scrub the top side of the guard. Rinse. Then, lifting up the rubber guard a section at a time, scrub the underside of the splash guard until all slime and gunk are gone. Rinse.

This article was originally published Aug. 10, 2015 on TODAY.com.