How to Clean a Garbage Disposal the Fuss-Free Way

Updated: Nov. 15, 2023

Learn how to clean a garbage disposal quickly and easily—goodbye odor! Here are our favorite methods and products to do the job.

After cleaning a mess of dishes, it can be a relief just to flip a switch and have all those scraps go down the drain. Well, it’s a perk until your garbage disposal doesn’t smell so fresh anymore. It’s happened to all of us! When your garbage disposal smells bad, get rid of the odor—and bacteria—with these methods.

When to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Besides being hit with an obvious odor coming from your garbage disposal, there are other signs that will tell you when it’s time for a cleaning. One is a slimy texture around the garbage disposal’s grinding chamber, which is caused by a build up of leftover food particles and can lead to bacteria growth. Another is if you notice a decrease in the performance of your garbage disposal or notice it getting clogged more often.

It’s vital that you tend to them weekly—not only to keep your kitchen smelling fresh, but also for general cleanliness. More than that, you can avoid a stinky disposal before it becomes an issue or bacteria starts to grow.

Check out our ultimate kitchen cleaning guide.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

The first thing you should do to resolve your garbage disposal situation is to clean all the visible parts. Take a sponge or scrubber wand with a decent amount of dish soap and scrub the heck out of it. This cleaning method works with all stainless steel appliances.

Editor’s Tip: Use a toothpick to scrape out that nasty grime that builds up in the groove.


Step 1: Turn off the power

You don’t want to get hurt while cleaning your garbage disposal. If you want to clean the inside of your unit, unplug and remove it from the sink.

Step 2: Clean the splash guard

gloved hand Cleaning Garbage Disposal Splash Guard in a stainless steel sink with an old toothbrushTMB Studio

A splash guard keeps food from going down the drain. This is especially important to clean so no food particles stick to it, growing bacteria later on.

Step 3: Pay special attention to the rim

Food particles can get lodged in the grooves, causing bacteria to grow. Even with a splash guard, you should take the time to clean underneath it in case anything slipped through the cracks.

Step 4: Flush the system

Next, flush the system using one of the natural methods or products mentioned below.

Natural Products to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Ice and salt

Ice And Salt To Clean Garbage DisposalTMB Studio

An alternative to store-bought cleaners is the simple combo of ice and salt. Simply pour two cups of ice cubes into the garbage disposal followed by one cup of rock salt. We prefer rock salt for its coarse texture, but kosher or table salt will work just fine as an alternative.

Run cold water down the garbage disposal for 5-10 seconds while it crushes the ice. While being crushed, the ice will clean the blades of any slimy residue that has stuck to the blades, while the salt with help deodorize it.


For a natural deodorizer, use citrus to get rid of any odor coming from your garbage disposal. Grab a couple lemons or whatever citrus fruit you have on hand, chop them up and toss them in the disposal for 5-10 seconds while running cold water.

The acid in the citrus will help break down the grimy slime and naturally deodorize your whole kitchen. Still have citrus peels leftover? Here are more ways to use lemon peels.

Combine methods

If you really want to get serious about it, freeze vinegar with chunks of citrus fruits in an ice cube tray. Put a cube or two in the disposal. Make sure you run cold water along with the disposal so no chunks of fruit get stuck to the blades.

Baking Soda

We couldn’t talk about cleaning and leave out our tried-and-true baking soda cleanser. Simply pour two cups of baking soda into the garbage disposal followed by a half cup of vinegar. This will cause a fizzy reaction that somehow satisfies our urge to fully disinfect.

Let the solution sit for one hour. When the hour is up, turn on the garbage disposal and cold water and let it run for at least one minute. Here are some other ways to clean with baking soda.

Store-Bought Cleaning Products

Sometimes a wedge of lemon or a bit of baking soda can do the trick when it comes to cleaning up your disposal. Other times, like when your disposal is extra dirty, you need a specialty cleaner to do the job.

Like any product, not all cleaners are created equal. Our team of editors put some tried and true garbage disposal cleaners to the test. These are our favorites:

The Best Garbage Disposal Cleaner: Glisten Disposer Care Cleaner

Glisten Disposer Care Cleaner Ecomm Via Walmart.comvia merchant

For stubbornly dirty sinks, grab Glisten Disposer Care Cleaner. Using this cleanser is simple—just run the water, drop one of the biodegradable packets in the sink and flip the switch on your disposal.

Inside, the cleaning product froths up and gets into all those nooks and crannies inside the disposal. When it’s all done, Glisten leaves the disposal and sink smelling clean and fresh—all within just two minutes.

You can be sure that your disposal runs its best (and that Glisten does its best job) by keeping these foods away from the disposal in the first place!

Other Great Products for Cleaning Your Garbage Disposal

CLR Garbage Disposal Cleaner Pods

CLR Fresh And Clean Garbage Disposal Cleaner Foaming Podvia merchant

Classic cleaning brand CLR also makes a great disposal cleaner. Testers could see these foaming pods pulling away gunk and bits from the sides of the disposal. It left the sink looking clean and smelling fresh.

Lemi Shine Disposal Cleaner

Lemi Shine Disposal Cleaner Ecomm Via Walmart.comvia merchant

Lemi Shine, a non-toxic, biodegradable and phosphate-free cleaner, is also a good bet for freshening up your disposal. This easy-to-use pod formula foams up and cleans your disposal in less than two minutes. The lemon scent is pretty powerful, so if you’re sensitive to smells beware (though, it dissipates within a few minutes).

Any of these products would be a welcome addition to your shopping cart. What we really liked most—besides their cleaning power—was the convenient pods and packets. It made a dirty chore easy and incredibly quick.