If there’s a horrible stench in your kitchen, chances are it’s coming from the sink—or, the garbage disposal to put it more accurately. It’s no secret the garbage disposal is an indispensable kitchen appliance. Not only does it shred food scraps into tiny pieces to keep your drains and pipes clear, but it’s also useful for washing away crumbs and pesky sauces in the sink. Despite its benefit in reducing food waste, collecting all those food particles, bacteria, and debris comes at a dangerously smelly cost. Although garbage disposals are a pain to clean, it’s important to clean it every week to keep your drain working properly and your home smelling fresh.
Now that you know how often you should be cleaning your garbage disposal, here are some quick and easy tips to make it less of a chore, courtesy of green cleaning expert Leslie Reichert.
To actually clean the drain, make a "volcano."
The drain and splash guard are usually the culprit for foul odors in the kitchen sink. The volcano method (yes, the same one you used in science class) involves using baking soda and vinegar to deodorize the garbage disposal. Reichert suggested pouring a half cup of baking soda into the drain, while adding a cup of hot white distilled vinegar. You can safely heat the vinegar in the microwave. From there, watch the foaming, bubbling magic happen.
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"Let it sit for a few minutes, then pour a quart of boiling water down the disposal to flush everything down the drain," Reichert said. "That will leave the chopping part of the disposal lovely and fresh."
A cleaning combination of ice cubes, rock salt, and cold water will also keep your garbage disposal running smoothly (and odor-free) for the long haul.
To combat odors, use the power of citrus.
The next time you have leftover citrus peels, whether it be lemon, grapefruit, orange, or lime peels, toss a few pieces of the peel in your garbage disposal, while simultaneously turning on the disposal and running cold water down the drain. Why? The rough texture of the peel will clean the blades, and the oils from the citrus fruit will serve as a natural freshener and help to remove excess buildup.
According to Reichert, if you don’t have a stash of orange or grapefruit peels, use "a tray of ice cubes and a half cup of baking soda to clear buildup from the blades."
Whatever you do, don’t use bleach or abrasive liquids.
To avoid damaging your septic tank (if applicable), pipes, and disposal impellers, it’s best to use natural alternatives instead of corrosive cleaning agents like ammonia.
Lastly, avoid putting these food items in the disposal.
Eggshells, bones, coffee grounds, peach and avocado pits, corn husks, grease, and oil are just a few things that don’t mesh well with a garbage disposal. They often lead to clogs. Most importantly, if washed frequently down the drain, you’ll end up purchasing a new disposal before you intended or, worse, you’ll have to call an expensive plumber.
The garbage disposal is a big help in the kitchen and can handle just about any and everything you toss its way. But to keep it humming along in tip-top shape, clean it regularly and don’t put the wrong scraps and liquids down the drain.