How to Maintain a Garbage Disposal

Having a garbage disposal in your kitchen makes cleaning up after a meal much easier. Using it correctly, choosing the right food scraps to dispose of, and cleaning it regularly will keep your garbage disposal in perfect working order for a long time. You can keep these rules in mind every time you use your disposal to keep it in tip top shape.


[Edit]Using a Garbage Disposal Correctly

  1. Run cold water into the disposal as you turn it on. Before you put any food in, turn the disposal on and let cold water from your sink flow into it. Keep this going for about 30 seconds to lubricate the blades inside of the disposal first.[1]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 1 Version 2.jpg
    • Always use cold water, not hot, when using your disposal to avoid melting any fat or grease on the food as you dispose of it.
    • Keep the cold water running the entire time you use your disposal.
  2. Avoid pouring grease, starch, or non-food items into your disposal. Garbage disposals are made for food scraps only, meaning you should never pour anything inedible down them. Similarly, grease and fat can solidify inside of the disposal, causing it to clog or jam. And, starchy foods like corn husks, artichokes, and large amounts of vegetable peels can also cause clogs and jams. Foods to avoid putting down your disposal include:[2]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • Oyster shells
    • Clam shells
    • Large amounts of egg shells
    • Coffee grounds
    • Expandable foods, like pasta
    • Grease or fat
    • Animal bones
    • Corn husks
    • Celery stalks
    • Onion skins
  3. Put bite-sized pieces of food down the disposal. Garbage disposals are meant to handle food scraps, not full pieces of food. If you’re trying to dispose of anything larger than bite-sized, use a sharp knife to cut it up until all the pieces are about long.[3]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • If you can’t cut up your food, consider composting it instead.
  4. Drop the food down the disposal slowly. Grab your food scraps and drop them into the disposal one handful at a time. Try to avoid overloading the disposal, as that can clog the blades and cause expensive repairs.[4]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • Wait until you stop hearing a grinding noise in the disposal to drop another handful in.
  5. Keep the disposal on for 30 seconds after you’re done putting food in. Once you’ve put your last handful of food scraps in the disposal, wait for about 30 seconds to let the disposal finish working. If you don’t, you could leave food scraps in the blades, causing it to jam up the next time you use it.[5]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 5 Version 2.jpg
  6. Turn the disposal off, but let the water run for 15 more seconds. Flip the switch to turn your disposal off, but keep using cold water from your sink for a little bit longer. This will help to flush out any remaining food that might be stuck in the disposal.[6]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 6 Version 2.jpg
    • Remember to always use cold water, even when the disposal is off, to avoid heating up any grease or fat stuck on the blades.

[Edit]Cleaning Your Garbage Disposal

  1. Use 1 drop of dish soap after every use. After you’re done cleaning your kitchen, pour 1 drop of dish soap down the disposal and turn it on. Flush some cold water from the sink down your disposal, and leave it running for 1 minute to clear out any grease or oil that may have built up.[7]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 7 Version 2.jpg
    • Dish soap works to cut grease and grime, leaving the blades free to run like they should.
    • Avoid using commercial garbage disposal cleaning products, as those usually don’t clean much and can even damage the blades.
    • Bleach and drain cleaners can also damage the blades of your disposal.
  2. Place ice cubes and lemon slices in the disposal to freshen it up. With the disposal off, pour about 6 ice cubes down it and follow it up with 2 to 3 lemon slices. Top it off with 6 more ice cubes, then turn the disposal on. Once the grinding noise stops, flush the disposal with cold water for about 30 seconds, then turn it off.[8]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 8.jpg
    • Ice cubes help to dislodge any stuck food scraps on the blades, while the mild acidity of lemons work to freshen the scent and get rid of bacteria.
  3. Pour baking soda down the disposal to get rid of any odor. If you notice a smell coming from your disposal, pour 1 tbsp (17 g) of baking soda into the disposal, and follow it up with about 6 ice cubes. Turn the disposal on, then wait until the grinding noise stops before flushing it with cold water.[9]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 9.jpg
    • Baking soda is slightly corrosive, so it will scrub away any odor-producing grime on the blades.
  4. Turn your disposal on regularly to avoid rust and buildup. The best way to keep your disposal in working order is to turn it on and use it regularly. You don’t have to use it every day, but try to use it at least once a week, if not more often.[10]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 10.jpg
    • Using your disposal will help to reduce hard water and food buildup on the blades.

[Edit]Fixing Common Problems

  1. Push the red reset button if your disposal won’t turn on. If you flip the switch to your disposal and nothing happens, it may have overheated and shut itself off. Open up the cabinet under your sink and find the red button on the engine part of your garbage disposal. Push the button in to reset your disposal.[11]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 11.jpg
    • If you still can’t turn on your disposal, it may have flipped a circuit breaker. Check the electrical box in your home to see if the breakers are all on.
  2. Run hot water through the disposal to unclog it. If your disposal is draining slowly, try pouring 2 large bowls of hot water down the disposal. Wait for 10 minutes, then turn the disposal on and flush it with cold water to wash away any food scraps.[12]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 12.jpg
    • If flushing the disposal doesn’t work, you may need to take apart the pipes to manually clean them out, in which case you should call a professional.
  3. Turn the blades manually with an allen wrench to unstick them. If the disposal makes a humming noise when you turn it on, it could be because the blades are stuck. Turn off the power supply to your garbage disposal before you start. Grab an Allen wrench and find the small opening near the red reset button, then turn the Allen wrench clockwise to spin the blades.[13]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 13.jpg
    • You may have to wiggle the allen wrench back and forth a few times before it works.
    • You should never manually turn the blades while your disposal is on.
  4. Call a service company if your disposal still isn’t working. If you’ve tried flushing your disposal, cleaning it, and resetting it, and it still doesn’t work, you may need some professional help. Contact a plumber near you to get a thorough explanation of what your disposal needs to get working again.[14]
    Maintain a Garbage Disposal Step 14.jpg
    • If your disposal is more than 10 years old, you may need a replacement.



  • If your garbage disposal isn’t working properly, try cleaning it before calling for a repair.


  • Never stick your hand in the disposal to clean it out. Although the blades can’t seriously harm you, they’re still sharp and could cut or nick your hands.[15]

[Edit]Things You’ll Need

[Edit]Using a Garbage Disposal Correctly

  • Cutting board
  • Knife

[Edit]Cleaning Your Garbage Disposal

  • Dish soap
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon slices
  • Baking soda

[Edit]Fixing Common Problems

  • Allen wrench

[Edit]Related wikiHows



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