How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal in Under 20 Minutes

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As much as we'd like to believe that a garbage disposal is self-cleaning, the machine requires routine upkeep just like any other household appliance. Between wiping countertops and mopping the floors, among other kitchen chores, it's easy to let your garbage disposal fall to the wayside. But considering its frequent usage, it only makes sense that a garbage disposal would get the same amount of love and attention as, say, your stainless steel sink.

Did you know that a garbage disposal should be cleaned every 10 to 12 days — or weekly, if used daily? While a disposal doesn't require tons of maintenance, it also doesn't take much for the contraption to succumb to built-up grime and stinky odors. Moreover, ignoring garbage disposal cleaning can result in dull blades, and consequently, an increase in bacteria growth and weird smells.

Fortunately, how to clean a garbage disposal is a fairly easy task that can be completed in 20 minutes or less. We researched the best garbage disposal cleaning products and at-home remedies that will get the machine spick and span.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Before you even think about touching the garbage disposal, empty your sink so it's bare naked. Clean any dirty dishes that may have accumulated throughout the day, and if you have a sink strainer, you'll want to remove that as well.

Now that you have an empty workstation, you can clean the splash guard (the black rubber safety barrier), which helps prevent utensils from falling down the drain, and conversely, blocks water and food particles from flying out when the disposal is in use. (Before beginning, ensure the appliance is off.) To clean, apply a liberal amount of dish soap to the abrasive side of a sponge and scrub the underside of the guard. Rinse and repeat until no more food comes off.

Once squeaky clean, turn the appliance back on. Then, try one of the garbage disposal cleaning methods below.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal With Ice

If you're short on time (or just feeling lazy), one of the easiest and most effective ways to clean a garbage disposal is with ice and a generous amount of salt. Simply, dump two handfuls of ice into the garbage disposal followed by one cup of salt — table salt will do, but if you have rock salt that's even better!

Turn the sink tap on so that cold water is flowing, and flip on the disposal until the ice is gone. The ice helps loosen and break down food remnants, while also sharpening the blades. Salt, meanwhile, is a natural deodorizer.

Tip: if you want to get extra fancy, you can make ice cubes using vinegar and citrus peels (oranges, lemons, and limes), which won't only sterilize a garbage disposal, but leave it smelling super fresh. In this instance, the vinegar replaces the salt.

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal With Baking Soda and Vinegar

Alternatively, you can also clean a garbage disposal with baking soda and vinegar. Start by distributing a half-cup of baking soda into the chute, and then steadily pour one cup of vinegar. Take a 10-minute dance break while the solution gets to work dissolving built-up grime. While running the garbage disposal, flush out the solution with hot water.

If you go this route, tossing an arrangement of citrus peels can be added to help with eliminating lingering odors.

The Best Garbage Disposal Cleaners

If you don't feel like cleaning by hand, however, we recommend two inexpensive yet durable garbage disposal cleaners that will also get the job done.

The Glisten Garbage Disposal Cleaner and Odor Eliminator ($9) is a four-pack of biodegradable and lemon-scented cleanser pods. Its powerful foaming formula works to break down the most stubborn food particles and odor-causing build up. Plus, its unique design targets harder-to-reach nooks and crannies, too.

The Arm & Hammer Sink Garbage Disposal Cleaner ($8) is a 12-pack of citrus-scented cleaning capsules made with baking powder. This solution is particularly excellent at dissolving fat, waxes, oils and dirts, and other organic matters. It also contains essential oils.

Emily Weaver is an entertainment and lifestyle contributor for POPSUGAR. Her writing focuses on celebrity relationships, movie and book news, and product shopping guides. Her bylines include PEOPLE, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, HelloGiggles, Scary Mommy, and more