5 Tips for Caring for Your Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are hugely convenient and can definitely make your life a bit easier. With proper maintenance and care, the new garbage disposal will usually last for at least 10 years before it begins to suffer more issues with clogging. If you neglect to care for your garbage disposal properly, it may only be a few years before you find yourself needing to replace it. The good news is that caring for garbage disposal is easy, and here are some important tips that should help to ensure your disposal continues working well for years to come.

1. Be Careful About What You Put in It

The absolute worst thing you can do for both your garbage disposal and your plumbing is to treat the disposal like a second trash can. While some food particles are fine and can easily be pulverized and washed down the drain, there are many things that can also easily jam the disposal or clog it and your drain. Things like coffee grounds and flour won’t harm the disposal, but they can get stuck inside your pipes and cause a clog. The same is also true for foods like rice, pasta, oatmeal, and bread which can absorb a huge amount of water once inside your pipes and quickly lead to a clog.

There are also numerous food items that can prevent the disposal from working by either jamming it or gunking up its impellers. This includes any type of fibrous fruits and vegetables like banana peels, celery, broccoli, and potato peels. Onion skins and eggshells should also stay out of the disposal as the thin membrane can easily get wrapped around the grinding ring and slow the disposal down.

In addition, you will want to avoid disposing of anything too hard, including fruit pits and stones, bones, and shells, as these will dull the blades and quickly prevent the disposal from working properly. Nuts should also be avoided as they will turn into a thick paste that can clog both the disposal and drain.

The single biggest category to avoid is fats, oils, and grease. These can gunk up the disposal and prevent it from working as well, but the bigger issue is that they can collect inside your pipes and greatly increase the risk of clogs.

2. Never Run the Disposal Without the Water On

You should never run your garbage disposal without first turning the water on. Water makes it easier for food particles to be fully broken up, and it also is necessary to flush all of the particles down the drain and out of the P-trap into your sewer line. If you don’t have the water running, it greatly increases the risk of the disposal getting jammed up or all of the particles getting stuck in the bend in the P-trap and causing a clog. You should also always leave the water running for around 30 seconds after turning the disposal off to make sure that everything is fully washed down the drain.

3. Always Use Cold Water

Whenever running your garbage disposal, you should always use cold water and not hot. If you run the hot water, it will allow any fat and grease that goes down the drain to melt. While this may sound like a good thing, you will never be able to run enough hot water to prevent the fats from again hardening as they make their way through your drain system. Liquid fat will create a sticky mess that can eventually collect inside the drain pipes or your main sewer line and eventually lead to a major clog.

Running cold water will keep the fats from melting so that the disposal can chop them up into tiny pieces. This will ensure that they can easily be washed out of your sewer system instead of potentially collecting inside your pipes.

4. Listen for Any Unusual Noises

You should always pay close attention whenever using your garbage disposal to make sure it isn’t making any humming, buzzing, or other unusual noises. You should always immediately shut the disposal off if you hear anything unusual as it usually indicates that it is jammed. If you continue trying to run the disposal while it’s jammed, you could easily cause the motor to burn out, which will leave you with no choice but to have the unit replaced.

If you suspect that your disposal is jammed, you should first unplug it or switch off the power. You can then use a flashlight to look inside the unit for any visual obstructions. If you see anything, you can try to remove it using a pair of kitchen tongs. If you don’t see anything at first, you will want to manually move the impellers until you can see the blockage. This can be done simply by using a broom handle.

The other option is to use a hex wrench on the bottom of the unit. There should be a slot for the wrench to go that allows you to manually turn the impellers. If using a wrench, turn it as far as it will go in one direction and then turn it in the opposite direction. This will sometimes clear the jam on its own or at least allow you to see what is causing it to jam up.

5. Clean Your Disposal Regularly to Prevent Odors

Cleaning your garbage disposal regularly will help keep it working properly and prevent it from smelling, and most experts recommend that it is done at least once a month. There are commercial disposal cleaners available, but you can just as easily do it with things you most likely already have at home, such as ice, vinegar, and baking soda.

To start, fill up your sink with warm, soapy water and then use this to flush the disposal. You can then pour a mixture of vinegar and baking soda down the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes or so. This will help to loosen up any stuck-on food particles and fats and also get rid of any odor-causing bacteria. Once the mixture has set, you can again flush the disposal by turning it on and letting it run with cold water for 30 seconds. Finally, dump a couple of handfuls of ice down the drain and then run the disposal again. As the ice is pulverized, it should help to clean away any remaining grime.

Another excellent way to clean and freshen up garbage disposal is to periodically run some lemon or orange slices through it. The citric acid will help to loosen up any food particles inside the unit while also eliminating odors and giving the drain a fresh, citrusy scent.

At Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter, our team of licensed plumbers works on a wide range of plumbing fixtures and appliances, and we can help with any garbage disposal repair or installation needs. We also offer a full range of drain and sewer services, including rooting, hydro-jetting, drain cleaning, and camera inspections, and we work on and install water and gas lines and water heaters. Give us a call today if you need any plumbing or drain service in San Jose or anywhere else in Silicon Valley.

Josh Gibson

Hi, I’m Josh. I’ve been around plumbing my whole life. When I was 5-6 years old my family built a home where I did a lot of the sanding of copper pipe and definitely some playing in the mud. Plumbing is a major part of my family as I am a fourth-generation plumber. The skills I bring to the job are a good technical knowledge of plumbing and code requirements. I am often complimented on my hands-on problem-solving skills.
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