An Expert Weighs in on This Viral Garbage Disposal Hack

Find out whether the popular garbage disposal cleaning hack from TikTok actually works—and get some expert tips on how to do it better.

If you notice an unpleasant aroma coming from your otherwise clean kitchen, there's a good chance your garbage disposal is to blame. This tough-to-clean area can harbor unseen food scraps, grease, mold, and bacteria, creating an unpleasant odor that can be difficult to eliminate. However, a kitchen cleaning hack that has recently gone viral on TikTok suggests you only need a few ice cubes and a bit of hot water to clean a garbage disposal.

close up of a garbage disposal with water draining
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These garbage disposal hack videos, such as this one posted by @dm3lt, show users pushing ice cubes down the kitchen sink drain, turning on the disposal, and running hot water down the sink. This often results in dark, dirty water surging up from the drain, which many assume is the odor-causing grime being lifted from the dirty disposal and drain. But is that really what's happening here?

Mark Dawson, chief operating officer at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, warns this hack might not be as effective as you think. "While ice cubes have always been noted as a source for cleaning a disposal, that doesn't necessarily mean the viral hack is doing what homeowners expect: removing the unpleasant smell," he says. Ice cubes can help sharpen the disposal blades and remove food scraps stuck underneath them, but without adding a deodorizing agent, such as lemon, the odor could persist.

Dawson also notes that using too many ice cubes could cause bigger issues. "With the amount of ice stuffed down the disposal in the video, homeowners can simply be clogging their drain line, which results in the black water backing up into the sink," he says.

The hot water step is another potentially problematic element of this cleaning method. You should only run your garbage disposal with the tap on cold, as hot water can break down oils and fats trapped in the drain and result in a clog. "Pouring grease and oils down the drain should always be avoided, but should a small amount inevitably end up in your drain, cold water will keep the fat solid and allow it to pass through your pipes more easily," Dawson says.

To clean your garbage disposal the proper way, combine ice with salt, which helps scrub the blades clean, and lemon to neutralize odors and create a fresh scent. Fill the disposal with ice cubes, a sprinkle of coarse salt such as rock or sea salt, and a few lemon wedges. Then turn on the cold water and run the disposal until the ice has cleared.

Cleaning your garbage disposal can be an easy task, but perhaps not as simple as these viral videos make it seem. By adding a few other ingredients to the mix, you'll get a much more effective fix for cleaning your sink drain.

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