If you’re not cleaning your disposal regularly, you should probably start ASAP.
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If you’re like most of us in the world, you don’t want to live in garbage. That's why it’s important to keep your home and kitchen orderly—which (unfortunately) includes not-so-fun tasks like cleaning out your sink's garbage disposal. But if you don't regularly clean your disposal, it can get backed up after too much junk goes down there over time. 

“You really want to clean it to prevent a stinky mess or slimy build-up. Like anything in your home, the cleaner it is, the more likely it will last you for a long time,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. But, how do you clean it exactly? Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning your garbage disposal, however works best for you.

Clean With Soap

Take a soapy sponge, and clean the top area that doesn’t hit the actual blade. If you have a two-part disposal, take the top part out and clean the underneath area that collects all the junk. If not, use a soap sponge, and clean the top area right under the runner (making sure that the disposal is not on and will not be turned on), says Rizzo.

Clean With Baking Soda

Baking soda and vinegar will also do the trick. “Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal, then pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into the disposal. It will start to bubble and fizz—let this continue for a few minutes. Then rinse with hot water while running the disposal,” says Rizzo.

Clean With Ice and Vinegar

Instead of baking soda and vinegar, you can also use ice and vinegar. “Ice and vinegar together will clean the disposal,” says Rizzo. Fill the disposal with ice cubes, then pour one cup of vinegar into the disposal. Run the disposal with the water turned on, so the ice gets all around in there and dislodges any buildup.

Citrus May Help, Too

“Many people think grinding citrus peels helps clean the disposal, but the jury is still out on that. The oil in the citrus peel definitely adds a nice smell, but it probably doesn’t dislodge any of the gunk in there,” says Rizzo. So, you’re better of sticking with one of the above options, instead.

Be Careful What You Throw Out

What’s more, you also don’t want to throw foods that can decrease efficiency down there, either. “Don’t put just anything down there. Generally, fruit and vegetable scraps are fine to throw down. But don’t load the disposal with starchy items, like pasta, rice or beans, produce pits, egg shells, coffee grinds, seafood shells, or any non-food item,” says Rizzo. Those can lead to more clogs and a mess.

And avoid non-food items or super greasy foods, too, says Doyle James, President of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly Company. “The extra grease from making gravy, bacon, and ground beef doesn't belong down the garbage disposal. This substance may be liquid when it's hot, but as it cools it solidifies into a gelatinous glob,” he says. As you can imagine, this is bad news for your plumbing. To properly dispose of grease or oil, pour it into an old can or jar and throw it in the trash.

Never put anything you wouldn't eat down the drain, either, he says. “This includes twist ties, rubber bands, string, cigarette butts, bottle caps, and plant clippings. These items don't break down in the disposal, allowing them to clog the sink,” he explains.

The same goes for hard materials, which the disposal blades can’t handle, including turkey bones and fruit pits. “Feel free to pull apart the wishbone with a family member; just dispose of it in the trash afterward,” he says.

Lastly, be careful with cleaners. “Drain opener, lye, and other chemical cleaners are not appropriate for the kitchen sink. If the drain becomes clogged and the disposal isn't helping, call a plumber for professional assistance,” he says.

As for maintenance, clean your disposal regularly. “If you use it often, I would suggest cleaning at least every other week or once per month,” says Rizzo.