How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

A woman admires the clean garbage disposal after cleaning with affresh disposal cleaner.

A garbage disposal can be an indispensable appliance in your kitchen, helping you clean up quickly and get rid of common food waste. Yet, like every appliance, garbage disposals need regular cleaning and maintenance. Here are some tips for the best way to clean a garbage disposal.

What Causes Garbage Disposal Smell?

You may think a garbage disposal is a self-cleaning appliance, flushing all food waste down the drain. But with each use, bits of food can become trapped under the impellers, along the sides, or between the rubber flange and the disposal. These trapped food particles begin to decompose in the moist environment, creating a not-so-nice disposal smell.

Without proper care, bacteria and mold could also take up residence in your disposal, enjoying the food waste remnants as their daily snacks. Between rotting food bits and soap, you can be dealing with a stinky garbage disposal in no time. Hard water residue can also contribute by acting as a sealant to the unwanted remnants.

Fortunately, learning how to clean out a garbage disposal isn’t difficult.

Steps for How to Clean a Garbage Disposal with affresh®

With affresh® garbage disposal cleaner, there’s no mixing, measuring or pouring required to clean your garbage disposal. Each tablet is designed to create a foaming, scrubbing action to help clean and remove odor-causing residues from your disposal. You can use affresh® disposal cleaner whether you are on a septic system or a municipal water supply, and it’s made with EPA Safer Choice certified ingredients.

Step 1
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Here’s the simple process to clean your garbage disposal with affresh®:

Step 1: Turn on Your Faucet

TURN ON hot water to a low flow.

Step 2: Add affresh®

Open package of affresh® disposal cleaner and select one tablet. Place 1 affresh® tablet in the disposal. Keep hot water running.

Step 3: Run the Disposal

TURN ON disposal for 15-30 seconds. Foam may rise. TURN OFF disposal.

Step 4: Rinse Away Residue

Rinse away foam and any residue down the drain. TURN OFF the water and enjoy the fresh, citrus scent.

How Often Should I Clean My Disposal?

Use affresh® disposal cleaner monthly to maintain a clean disposal or whenever you get a whiff of that rotten disposal smell coming from your sink.

Schedule your monthly affresh® disposal cleaning on your calendar so you don’t forget! There’s a calendar right on the box for you to check off as a reminder.

What Not to Put in a Garbage Disposal

There’s an old adage that says just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. The same goes for what to put in your garbage disposal, and more importantly, what not to put in your garbage disposal. By using your disposal properly and avoiding putting in items that don’t belong, you can keep your disposal smelling clean and fresh.

Plumbers, handymen, and disposal manufacturers agree that some items are not meant to go in the disposal. Here’s a list of things to avoid:



  • Fruit and vegetable peels. Avoid grinding large amounts of potato skins, melon and fruit rinds in your disposal at one time. Instead, gradually feed fruit and vegetable peels in while running the water and the disposal.
  • Fibrous materials. Celery, corn husks and artichokes should not be put in your disposal. However, some higher horsepower models can handle limited amounts of these food types.
  • Bones. While your disposal is hardy, it’s not designed to crunch up extremely hard objects, such as bones. Always place large whole bones in the trash. For small bones, you can gradually feed them in while running the water and the disposal.
  • Eggshells. There is controversy about whether eggshells can go into your disposal. If you choose to put them in the disposal, be sure to avoid grinding large amounts at one time. Gradually feed them in while running the water and the disposal.
  • Hard materials. For other hard materials like fruit pits and lobster, crab, and shrimp shells, gradually feed them in while running the water and the disposal.
  • Oyster and clam shells. While a seafood feast is a delight, skip putting the shells of oysters and clams into your garbage disposal. Place these items in the trash.
  • Grease or fat. Pouring hot grease down your disposal may seem like a good idea, but it can build up in pipes and cause drain blockages. Put grease in a jar or can and dispose of in the trash, not your disposal.
  • Non-food items. Do not put items like plastic, glass, china, metal, tin cans and bottle caps into the disposal. Always place these items in the trash.
  • Fingers and hands. To avoid injury, don’t reach inside your disposal.

Not all DIY Garbage Disposal Cleaning Hacks are Appropriate

There are all kinds of advice about how to clean a garbage disposal that you may hear from friends, family, conventional wisdom or an online search. Not all of this advice is good for your disposal, drain, pipes or septic tank, however.

Here are some common garbage disposal cleaning methods and whether they are effective or appropriate to use in your disposal:

Never Use These Items to Clean Your Disposal

  1. Cleaning your disposal with coffee grounds – just say no. Although dropping coffee grounds into your garbage disposal can reduce odors in the short term, coffee grounds can create problems for you down the road when they accumulate in your pipes and cause slow or blocked drains.
  2. Keep chlorine bleach or drain cleaners away from your disposal. These corrosive chemicals can damage your pipes.

DIY Disposal Cleaning Solutions that May Help

If you don’t have affresh® handy, the following home remedies can help clean your disposal.

  1. Baking soda. First, turn off the disposal and disconnect the power supply. Then reach through the sink opening and clean the underside of the splash baffle and inside the upper lip of the grind chamber with a scouring pad. Place the stopper in the sink opening and fill the sink halfway with warm water. Lastly, mix ¼ cup baking soda and water. Turn the disposal on and remove the stopper from the sink at the same time to wash away loose particles.
  2. Citrus peelings. To combat a bad garbage disposal smell, grind your citrus peelings in your disposal on a regular basis for a fresh fruity scent. Always run cold water with your disposal and allow water to run for at least 15 seconds after grinding is complete.

affresh® Disposal Cleaner for Easy, Safe Disposal Maintenance

Take the worry out of disposal cleaning with affresh® disposal cleaning tablets. They’re easy-to-use, safe, and effective. affresh® makes a suite of appliance care products for all of your kitchen and laundry appliance cleaning needs. Once you’ve cleaned your disposal, try affresh® dishwasher, coffee machine, ice machine, cooktop, or stainless steel appliance cleaners to get your entire kitchen clean and smelling fresh.