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How To Clean A Garbage Disposal (Cleaning Hack)

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal (Cleaning Hack)

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Stinky kitchen sink? Learn how to clean a garbage disposal with a simple cleaning hack…

If you have a stinky garbage disposal, this post is for you!

When we first moved into our old house 5+ years back, I fell in love with how homey everything felt.

The oak cabinets were polished and rustic, the sink reminded me of my parents back home several states away, and the living room was so cozy.

I knew from the moment we walked through the house, it was a done deal.

I immediately felt at home – and that’s a feeling you can’t replace.

But several moving boxes and months later, I was doing the dishes in our kitchen sink when I was hit smack dab in the face with a revolting smell.

It was…STINKY.

Where was it coming from?

For a while, I thought it was the dirty dishes.

I was working long hours and would occasionally have to leave a pile of dishes for our then family of three in the sink overnight just to make sure I could drive in the morning without falling asleep.

And that’s not too far-fetched, because dishes can certainly smell after a few hours!

I sacrificed sleep to ensure dishes were done each night, and dirty dishes were put away in the dishwasher so nothing sat in the sink.

After so much lost sleep over a week and a broken dishwasher episode, my husband finally leaned in and smelled the sink.

“I think it’s the garbage disposal, babe…”

Ahh, that makes sense.

He was right! 

It took me a bit to figure out it was the garbage disposal, but when I did, I put my cheek stripes on and went to war.

I came up with a quick way to clean your garbage disposal that can really help when you’re dealing with some serious funk…

*This post contains affiliate links, however, all opinions are my own, as always. 

What You Need To Clean Your Disposal

Here’s what you’ll need (and most likely already have on hand) to clean and deodorize your garbage disposal…

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal

To clean your garbage disposal, unplug it.
unplugging our garbage disposal
Safety first.
Turn your disposal on after unplugging it to make sure you’ve unplugged the correct plug.
At this point, I like to take our sink grate out, scrub the sink out completely, and deep clean the grate with a good scrubber like this one, but you can always skip this step if you’re in a rush.
With a damp rag, wipe along the grooves and folds of the rubber gasket in your sink to remove any food or debris.
wiping the folds in our garbage disposal while cleaning
The stinky odor you’re smelling is most likely coming from grime buildup in these folds or old food that is escaping the chopper of your garbage disposal.
grime on washcloth after wiping garbage disposal folds
Here is where many people use the vinegar and baking soda method, which you can certainly do – but I don’t.
More on that below…
To clean our garbage disposal, I sprinkle baking soda down into the disposal.
baking soda in a measuring cup in front of a baking soda bag
baking soda sprinkled into garbage disposal
Then, I drop in about 5-8 ice cubes and pour in about 1/4 cup of Kosher salt.
pouring ice cubes into the garbage disposal kosher salt poured into garbage disposal
I plug the garbage disposal back in and turn it on.
The Kosher salt and ice cubes help break down any grime that is lingering, while the baking soda helps dissolve gunk and deodorize.
I rinse it with cold water and drop a few drops of lemongrass essential oil down the drain.
pouring lemongrass essential oil into garbage disposal
Alternatively, you can grind up thin strips of lemon peel if you have a newer garbage disposal.
Older disposals may not be able to process the lemon peel.

Why You Shouldn’t Mix Baking Soda And Vinegar

Okay – I might get some backlash on this one because this is certainly a popular cleaning method/solution for a lot of people.

But, I have to say it.

Mixing baking soda and vinegar together cancels both of them out.

Is there a crazy cool reaction to watch when you do mix them?


Does anything actually happen?


It’s really fun to watch and can make you feel like all that foam is going to break down grease and grime for you…

But it doesn’t – you’re just watching them cancel each other out so they aren’t really all that effective anymore.

I know I see plenty of cleaning videos where people sprinkle baking soda and then pour some vinegar onto a cleaning surface and it looks like something really cool is going on.

Unfortunately, as much as I wish that were true – it’s basic science.

The same goes for mixing castile soap and vinegar (the two don’t mix, they just become a sludgy ineffective mess together).

In the case of castile soap and vinegar – you could instead use Sal Suds with vinegar while making an effective DIY cleaner. 

My advice is to use either or, but not both baking soda and vinegar. 

Here’s an article on what happens when you mix these two together that can help clear up some cleaning myths.

Have you tried this easy cleaning hack? Let me know in the comments below!

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