Garbage Disposal 101

While most people know that things like grease, rocks and nails (looking at you, teenage me) should never go in to a Garbage Disposal, sometimes the dos and don’ts for this kitchen fixture might not be so clear. I thought it would be helpful to start with a list of some maybe not so obvious items you should avoid putting down your garbage disposal.

  • Coffee Grounds and egg shells. Unfortunately, while you might not see the problem coffee grounds are causing, they can pack densely into your pipes, causing clogs. While the eggshells themselves may not be causing too much damage themselves, the membrane holding the shell together can lodge in the drain, or wrap around the motor.
  • Pasta and Oatmeal. In small quantities scraped off a plate, food like this might not cause too many problems, but, these foods do expand a lot in water, and will eventually break down into a sticky mess that can jam the motor, or cause clogging in your pipes.
  • Bones, fruit pits, and shells. Garbage Disposals are the HeavyWeight champs of the kitchen, but, even they have limits.
  • Onion Skins, Pumpkin, other fibrous vegetables. In large pieces, fibrous vegetables can wreak havoc on your disposal and plumbing by wrapping around everything and getting stuck.
  • Potato peels and peanuts. In large enough quantities you can start to have problems with these items. Your garbage disposal is a pretty quick way to turn peanuts into thick sticky peanut butter, and this can jam up you disposal and cause pipe clogs. Potato peels, much like onion skin, or pumpkin, can get stuck and act like a trap holding up a lot of waste in your disposal, and your pipes.
  • Paint, harsh chemicals, and trash. Garbage Disposal might be a slightly misleading name in this regard. Some things were just never meant to go down your home’s Drains.

Your Garbage Disposal is one of the most useful appliances in your kitchen. Aside from being careful about what you are putting down it, here are things you can do to help make sure you are getting the most out of it, and keeping it running tip top for years to come.  

  • Always run a strong flow of cold water before and during use of garbage disposal-Disposals are meant to work with wet substances, and using cold water will help solidify any grease as well as help small pulverized bits move freely through the garbage disposal and your pipes.
  • Keep the water and disposal running for about 30 seconds after it sounds like it is done grinding up debris. This will ensure everything is running out of your disposal.
  • Cut larger items into smaller pieces. You also want to avoid pushing everything through your disposal at once; feeding items through slower will help to ensure your disposal does not jam.
  • Once you turn off the garbage disposal rinse with hot water for 10-15 seconds. This will help remove anything still left within the system.
  • Even if not needed, be sure to run your garbage disposal every other day to help avoid rust and corrosion, and keep everything running smoothly.
  • Try not to keep small objects around your sink/counter area. This will help you avoid small foreign objects falling into your garbage disposal, which can cause costly damage.
  • If you ever have to remove anything from your garbage disposal, it is very important for your safety that you turn the power off by either flipping the switch underneath your unit, or turning it off from the breaker box. You should always try to remove foreign objects from your disposal by using a flashlight and tongs, or other long handled tool. We do not suggest you ever put your hand into the garbage disposal unit.

It’s time for everyone’s favorite part of our Garbage Disposal tutorial-How to keep your Garbage Disposal Clean and Odor Free! Because of the moisture involved, it does not take long for excess food debris in your garbage disposal to start creating a funk in the kitchen. It is usually suggested that you clean your garbage disposal once every week or two. We recommend that you never put chemical drain cleaners in your disposal as it could weaken the integrity of your pipes, as well as any plastic and rubber pieces of your disposal. There are plenty of effective way to keep your disposal clean and odor free using often natural products from around your home.

  • Dish Soap-Food particles can often get stuck between the disposal rim and sink basin. Whenever you clean your sink, use dish soap and a sponge or brush to clean this area. If you have an old toothbrush, this would be a great time to also clean your disposals splash guard. The underside of your disposals Rubber splash guard loves to collect ick. It is important to make sure your disposal is turned off to clean this part. Once the disposal is turned off, just put some dish soap on the bristles, and gently pull up the edge of the splash guard and brush away anything stuck to the underside of it.
  • Citrus and Ice-This is one of the most popular and natural ways to combat odors and help keep your disposal fresh. Citrus peels won’t do a lot for cleaning your garbage disposal, but, the oils in the peels produce a pleasant and lasting scent. A handful of ice and a few citrus wedges or peels will help keep your disposal smelling fresh, and remove some of the buildup.  Make are to keep the citrus wedges small so that they don’t cause a backup.  
  • Ice and Salt- This helps to remove build up, or 'slime'. Rock salt, or Kosher salt works as an excellent abrasive cleaner. The best way to use this method is to drop about a dozen or so ice cubes into your disposal, then pour 1 cup of Rock or Kosher salt in. Turn the Garbage disposal on while running water. Leave both on for around a minute or until the ice and salt have dislodged and scraped away any buildup.
  • "The Volcano"-This one is my favorite. Just like the science experiment, all you need for this method is some Baking Soda and Vinegar. First, lift the rubber flap splash guard and pour about half a cup of baking soda into the disposal. Next, pour between one half and one full cup of vinegar into the disposal. The bubbling and fizzing will clean your disposal, so, if you can, use a stopper keep that reaction happening just within the disposal. After 10-30 minutes, run hot water and turn the disposal on to flush it.

I hope this has taken some of the mystery out of how to keep your garbage disposal happy and healthy. And remember, when all else fails, if your disposal is clogged, humming, or won’t turn on, it might be time to call in the professionals.  We are on hand 24/7 to take care of all of your plumbing needs.

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