Is your garbage disposal clogged or stinky? When a garbage disposal is clean and working properly, it’s a great tool to have in your kitchen. But when it’s backed up or smelly, it can be a hassle and may require emergency services.
The priority when using, cleaning or repairing your disposal is safety. That means making sure you don’t put your hands in it when it’s on and, if before you dig into it to clear an obstruction, the safest approach is to flip the breaker switch so there’s no way it can come on.
Here are five tips to clean out your garbage disposal:
#1 Clearing a clog
When removing obstructions, you do not want to use your fingers. This is a big safety risk. If the rubber gasket is removable – the black rubbery thing that you push the food through – you should take it out so you can see what you’re doing more clearly. If it’s not removable, that’s okay. Use a pair of long kitchen tongs or long needle nose pliers to remove what’s stuck there. Turn on the disposal to see if you are still hearing clog sounds. If you can’t get it out with tongs or a tool and absolutely must use your hand, turn off the breaker first so there’s no chance that the disposal can start.
#2 Monthly garbage disposal maintenance
You likely don’t think about your disposal at all unless it isn’t working right. But it actually needs occasional cleaning and maintenance to keep it from clogging and getting odorous. About once a month, you should make up a tray or two of vinegar ice cubes and put these down your disposal, turn it on and let it run. This will de-gunk your chopping blades and help clear any odor-causing particles that remain. Alternately, you can freeze water with some rock salt mixed in to clean your blades. Also clean the rubber gasket about once a month – see below.
#3 Cleaning the rubber gasket
If the gasket is removable, pop it out and use an old toothbrush or scrub brush to clean it. Spray it with an anti-bacterial cleaning spray and scrub it thoroughly top and bottom. If the gasket doesn’t pop out, you’ll have to scrub it where it is. If you have to scrub it without removing it, a toothbrush is likely your best tool since it’s got a long reach but can get into crevices. Be sure to scrub thoroughly between the sections of the gasket and try to scrub both the bottom and the top side of the gasket so you clean it as thoroughly as possible.
#4 Dealing with garbage disposal odors
Sometimes sink disposals can get stinky – particularly if you don’t run it long enough for all the food product to be chopped and rinsed down. There are a number of methods to freshen up your disposal and get it smelling better. Consider trying one of these to deal with odors:
- Volcano method – Pour ½ cup of baking soda down the disposal. Follow that with a cup of white vinegar. It will foam and bubble like an elementary school volcano science project. Leave it down there for 5-10 minutes. Then boil some water and pour that down the drain while the disposal is running.
- Citrus method – Cut the peels off of a citrus fruit such as an orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit. Put two or three pieces of peel down the disposal and turn on hot water while you run the disposal. The citrus scent freshens the smell and the abrasiveness of the rind helps clear your chopping blades of anything that may be causing the smell.
#5 More serious disposal clogs
If your disposal is backing up or not working properly, you may have a faulty disposal or a problem with your pipes. If you’ve got some home improvement experience, you can try and check it yourself. Under the sink, you can check the pipes that are connected to the disposal. If you know how, you can take the pipes apart and look for obstructions to clear out. On the underside of the disposal, under your sink, there’s a reset button you can try depressing if the disposal isn’t coming on after you cleared the clog.
One of the best ways to prevent clogs and odors is to use your disposal properly. Turn on the water before you start putting food down it, keep the water running while putting food down the disposal and let both water and disposal run until you hear no more chopping sounds. Turn off the disposal and a few moments later turn the water off. Never run the disposal without also running the water. And don’t use a drain cleaner to clear your disposal – these are chemically caustic and can destroy the workings of your disposal.
If you’re having any pipe or sewer troubles, call Budget Sewer for a free estimate. We are Seattle’s expert trenchless sewer repair professionals. Trenchless repairs cost less and leave your landscaping intact. Call us at (206) 381-1904.