Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about their garbage disposal; you flip the switch, it does its job. But there really is more to it than we realize and a little knowledge can go a long way when it comes to that garbage devouring machine in your sink.

You probably take for granted that your garbage disposal does its job every single time, but they do break down and are fairly pricey to replace. Knowing what to do and what to never put down there will keep your disposal in tip top condition for as long as possible. Here is a list of things to remember when it comes to your garbage disposal.

DO: Protect Your Drains

Some of the major problems associated with garbage disposals have to do with the drains getting clogged up. Run your disposal regularly to keep a buildup from happening. Certain foods and debris can accumulate and cause a major drain clog. Also use cold water when using the disposal. A gush of cold water through the drains helps the grease build-up to solidify so that it can be broken up before going down the drain. It’s also a good idea to fill your sink when doing the dishes; the strong flow of water through the drains on a regular basis helps to keep them clear.

DO: Give Your Disposal Some TLC

Your disposal will only last if you take proper care of it. Considering the job they are required to do, they are resilient little appliances and can handle a lot if you give them a little attention every now and then. Even if you don’t necessarily need to use it, run your disposal on a regular basis. Try running for a few minutes while running cold water after doing the dishes. Even 60 seconds will keep it clear and help prevent corrosion.

Certain materials like small bones (such as chicken), egg shells, and fruit pits are great to chop up in the disposal. Allowing materials like these to be ground up gives your disposal a good scouring and gets it nice and clean. You can also keep your disposal blades nice and sharp by throwing in some ice cubes and allowing the disposal to chop them up. It’s a great way to give the appliance a nice cleaning and sharpen the blades.

DO: Find Your Reset Button

Nearly 90% of the time, if your disposal does not turn on, it simply needs to be reset. Far too often, people call plumbers, only to be charged a service fee for the push of a button. The reset button is generally a little red button located on the disposal unit underneath your sink. Look around and find it so that you can access it quickly when you need it. Press and hold it for a few seconds (make sure the unit is switched off while resetting, and that hands and objects are out of the way), then try turning it on again.

DON’T: Throw Everything In

Treat your disposal nicely and it will give you a nice long working relationship. When you have large objects to grind up, quickly cut them into smaller pieces before putting them into the disposal. Also place items in one at a time rather than trying to force a whole bunch in at once. Overloading the disposal will cause it to jam and can even cause your drain to clog up.

There are certain things you should never put into your disposal, and you will save yourself a lot of time and trouble if you remember as many of them as possible:

• Glass, plastic, metals, and other non-food items.

• Foods that have a lot of fibers or strings such as corn husks, onion skins, and artichokes; their fibers can wrap around the blades and jam everything up.

• Potato peels; while a few peels put in one at a time may be alright, it’s generally best to avoid these altogether. The starch in the potatoes form a paste and cause everything to stick.

• Pasta and rice; these foods expand (think about what happens when you cook them) and will continue to do so inside your disposal and pipes, meaning major clogs.

• Large bones.

• Coffee grounds.

• Harsh chemicals; people believe that bleach or liquid drain cleaners are good for your drains, but they actually cause more damage than anything else. Many of these chemicals actually damage the blades and can even eat away at the pipes.

DON’T: Suffer With a Smelly Disposal

A smelly drain or disposal is nothing to call a plumber over, but it’s also something that is easily fixed and does not have to be suffered through. There are a few quick tricks that work almost every time.

• Citrus fruit peels; throwing a few orange or lemon peels into your disposal can not only get rid of bad smells, but keep your drains smelling fresh all the time. The natural oils inside of the peels give the disposal a good cleaning and the scent lasts for quite a while.

• Try freezing vinegar in your ice cube trays. Just like using the plain ice cubes, the vinegar cubes will sharpen the blades and give the disposal a good cleaning, but it will also disinfect it and destroy all odor-causing bacteria.

• Pour some baking soda directly into the disposal and allow it to sit for a few hours. After, run some water and the disposal to give it a nice cleaning and de-stink treatment.

• If nothing else works, try a cleaner that has been proven to be safe, such as Borax. Throw in a couple of tablespoons, give it an hour or so, then wash it out.

DO: Know When to Call a Professional

If none of the tricks above solve your problem, it may be time to call in the professionals. Stinky drains that just don’t go away can sometimes be indicative of a serious underlying problem. If you’ve checked the switch, the circuit breaker, and pressed the reset button and your disposal still won’t turn on, there is not much more that you can do. Have a plumber take a look at it, but it is likely that it’s time for a new disposal.

Always call a plumber if you see the food that you’ve sent down the drain coming back up in the drains. One strange but fairly common problem to watch out for is the food you put down the disposal coming up through other drains in your house. This means you’ve got serious drain issues and need a professional cleaning right away.


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