Garbage disposals are a nice convenience and can make cleaning up around the kitchen easy. For the most part, garbage disposals are easy to maintain and only require regular use and some insight to what can and cannot be put inside of them. Failing to operate and maintain the garbage disposal properly can cause it to break down mechanically and clog the pipes. This can result in frustrating and costly plumbing problems. Garbage disposals are not highly advanced pieces of equipment that need a skilled hand to maintain, but they do require some simple care. Here is a quick breakdown of what to do and what not to do when using a garbage disposal.
What to Do:
The first thing to always remember is to keep the garbage disposal clean. Like any piece of equipment, it functions best when clean. An easy way to clean the disposal is to pour some dish washing soap into the disposal, run cold water, and let it run for a couple of minutes. On this note, part of keeping the disposal clean is using it frequently. Running the disposal will prevent corrosion and keep the mechanical parts from accumulating rust.
Some basic operational tips include running cold water through the disposal instead of hot water. Cold water will prevent grease and oil from building up in the trap of the sink pipe and causing a clog. The cold water solidifies these substances so they can be broken down before reaching that part of the sink. Additionally, putting egg shells, fruit pits, small bones, and fruit peels into the disposal is a good idea to help clean the garbage disposal walls and freshen up the smell of the drain.
Finally, always put smaller food items into the disposal to reduce the strain on the blades and motor. Break large pieces of food into smaller pieces before putting them in the disposal. This may prevent premature wearing and breaking down of the disposal since it will use less energy to process food scraps. Using the disposal regularly but taking care not to damage the system will extend the life of the disposal and prevent any plumbing problems.
What Not to Do:
Garbage disposals are meant only for biodegradable food products. Never put anything but food scraps into the disposal. Many people treat the garbage disposal like a trash can and quickly damage the blades and motor, and experience plumbing problems. This includes any plastic, metal, glass, and paper. Also, pouring large amounts of grease and oil into the disposal will eventually accumulate in the pipe and clog the drain. Using hot water when operating the disposal can also lead to a similar kind of build up in the drain pipe, so always use cold water.
Avoid using the disposal for food products that can tangle and block the disposal motor. In general, you shouldn’t overload your disposal with food products. Even though the purpose of the disposal is to process food waste, some things you may just want to throw in the trash. Things like corn husks, onion skins, and celery stalks are fibrous and can easily get caught in the motor during grinding and lead to clogs. Potato skins can also clog the disposal blades by turning into a paste when processed. Also, avoid putting large bones into the disposal since they can break the blades.
When cleaning the disposal, don’t use caustic chemicals like commercial drain cleaners or bleach. These can adversely affect the blades and drain pipes. Using a natural cleaning solution like vinegar and baking soda will effectively clean out the disposal and pipes. This will also eliminate odors. Ice cubes can also be used periodically to break up grease on the disposal walls and sharpen the blades. Finally, if you need to retrieve something from the disposal, never put your hand into the disposal. Turn off and unplug the disposal to prevent an accident. Alternatively, use a pair of pliers or another tool to retrieve an object.
Ben Vaughn writes on garbage disposal use and maintenance, Utah water softener repair, and transitioning to energy efficient plumbing fixtures. (217)