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03/02/2012 08:53 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal

Nobody likes to think about their garbage disposal, though no one can deny that it's a wonderful convenience. But if you've been putting off cleaning the disposal, now's the time to do it. An occasional (every 3-weeks) cleaning can maximize the appliance's lifespan. And though you can't often see what's lurking on your disposal's hardware, bacteria growth coupled with residue food particles and built-up sludge can leave your sink, and eventually your entire kitchen, with an embarrassing smell.

Remove any blockages. We would never suggest reaching into the disposal to remove large scraps. Instead, make sure the disposal switch is in the off positon, and remove any fragments with cooking tongs or pliers. Be sure to be very gentle around the blades or grinders; you don't want to dull or break them.

Clean the grinders or blades. Pour two cups of ice into the garbage disposal, followed by one-cup of salt or vinegar. Then, run cold water and let the disposal run for five to 10 seconds. The ice will clean off any sludge or particles off the disposal's blades, while the salt or vinegar will reduce any foul odors.

Empty the drain pipe. Take preventative measures and rinse down any particles from the garbage disposal's drainage system. Much like unclogging a bathtub drain, plug the drain with a stopper, fill the entire sink with water and a few drips of dish detergent, and then let all the water drain with the disposal running at the same time. Gravity and the weight of water will rinse through the garbage disposal and clear out any debris in the pipe.

Make it smell good. Finally, to give your sink and kitchen a fresh scent, add a few lemon or lime peels, run cold water, and turn on the disposal. The acidity of citrus fruits will neutralize any malodorous aromas.

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