Garbage Disposal Dos and Don’ts (How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal)

How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal

What do you do when you find an old, smelly container of leftover soup in the back of the refrigerator? If you have a garbage disposal, it is easy to dump old food into the sink and get rid of it quickly. Without a garbage disposal, you’ll have to strain the food (yuck) or risk a clogged drain (annoying). But keep in mind that you need to understand how to clean your garbage disposal if you dump that old soup down the drain.

If you are thinking of installing a new one, need a maintenance tutorial, or simply want to know how to clean one, we’ll give you our top do’s and don’ts of garbage disposal plumbing. Properly caring for your disposal can prevent problems like odors or malfunction.

What You Can and Cannot Put in the Garbage Disposal

The truth about what you can put down the garbage disposal is that it depends on the make and model in your home. Modern, high-end garbage disposals can grind more types of food then basic or older models. Most cities’ plumbing systems cannot handle large amounts of food waste. Just because your disposal can grind something down does not mean that your home’s plumbing can handle it or that your cities’ waste system can process whatever you send down the drain.

There are some things that should never be put down any garbage disposal. Why? For one, when it is clogged, it is not usually the garbage disposal itself but the pipes that are clogged from accumulated grease and food sludge. This can lead to more problems and the need for pipe repairs.

Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts

garbage disposal dos



  • Follow the manufacture’s instructions. Each garbage disposal is different.
  • Have your garbage disposal professionally installed to avoid problems. Garbage disposal plumbing is not particularly complicated, but it is important to do it right and make sure the garbage disposal is hooked up to the plumbing and dishwasher correctly.
  • Turn off the disposal and use tongs when retrieving items that have fallen into the garbage disposal.
  • Teach children garbage disposal safety.
  • Make sure you understand how to clean the garbage disposal and clean your garbage disposal regularly to prevent odors.
  • Use cold water. This helps fats coagulate so they can be ground instead of stickling to pipes further down.
  • Check the disposal for fallen items like spoons, bottle caps, jewelry, and other small things before running the disposal.
  • Grind lemon and other citrus peals to give your kitchen a fresh, clean scent.

garbage disposal plumbing - Bleach Don't



  • Put your hand in the garbage disposal to retrieve fallen items. Turn off the disposal and use tings to retrieve any fallen items
  • Pour grease or other fats down the disposal.
  • Grind anything other than food scraps.
  • Put anything metal, wood, or glass in the disposal.
  • Dispose of cigarette butts in the garbage disposal
  • Use the garbage disposal as a trash can. It is for food scraps, not large amounts of food.
  • Grind with hot water, it causes grease clogs. Use cold water instead.
  • Pour bleach or drain cleaner down the disposal, both can damage plumbing.
  • Put coffee grounds in garbage disposals. Coffee grounds will not harm the garbage disposal but can accumulate in your plumbing which causes other issues.
  • Put excessive amounts of pasta, rice, potatoes, potato peels, or other starchy foods down the garbage disposal. Just like coffee grounds, they won’t harm the garbage disposal but can build up in your home’s pipes and cause clogs.
  • Fibrous items like eggshells, celery, and banana peels are borderline. A small piece of celery is not likely to jam your garbage disposal, but several stalks of celery or a banana peel can jam the disposal. When in doubt, toss it out (in the garbage) and not down your sink.



How To Clean Garbage Disposals

Good news! You do not need a special garbage disposal cleaner. You can keep your kitchen’s garbage disposal clean and fresh with natural items you already have in your home. Three of the best ways to clean your garbage disposal:

  1. Ice and Salt– throw 3-4 ice ices in the garbage disposal with rock salt. Run cold water and grind. The rough texture of the ice and salt helps loosen oil and grime from the garbage disposal.
  2. Baking Soda and Vinegar– Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the garbage disposal. You can use a rubber spatula to push it through the opening. Pour 1 cup of vinegar down the disposal and enjoy your homemade cleaning solution.
  3. Flush – Put a stopper in the sink drain. Fill the sink ¼ full of water and ad a small amount of dish soap. Remove the stopper and turn on the garbage disposal to thoroughly flush your garbage disposal and pipes.

Once your garbage disposal is clean, you can freshen it up and make your kitchen smell great by grinding lemon, line, orange, or grapefruit peels.

Typical Problems

Garbage disposals are typically worry-free appliances when installed correctly. An improperly installed garbage disposal can leak, clog, cause foul odors or result in the garbage disposal not draining. If your disposal is leaking, call a plumber. If the garbage disposal is not turning on, check to see if it is unplugged. Otherwise, it might just need to be reset. Most garbage disposals have a red or black reset bottom on the bottom of the unit. If the button is popped, simply reset it.

Modern, high-quality garbage disposals are generally easy to operate and trouble-free. Garbage disposals make cleanup a breeze and keep you from having to handle nasty food scraps. With professional installation and a little time and attention, your garbage disposal can operate worry-free. If you do need help and your garbage disposal is clogged, the friendly plumbers at Benjamin Franklin Bay Area are always ready to help.