Stainless steal kitchen sink with water drops

Garbage disposals are convenient appliances helping to minimize food waste and keep kitchen sinks clear of clogs. Unfortunately, we often take them for granted until they stop functioning properly. Your garbage disposal doesn’t have to be a mysterious contraption under the sink.

The garbage disposal—although generally unseen and under-appreciated—likely works harder than any kitchen appliance. Yet, like any other piece of equipment, it requires care to function at its best. With a bit of time and knowledge, you can keep it running smoothly every day.

How a Garbage Disposal Works

Few homeowners generally see past the rubber splash guard at the bottom of their sink, and most of us don’t consider how a garbage disposal works. 

Beneath the splash guard, you’ll find the upper chamber where the food scraps accumulate. Inside this chamber are the shredding ring, flywheel, and impellers. These pieces grind up the waste, enabling it to pass into the lower chamber. Here, the smaller food particles mix with water before moving into the P-trap and down the drainpipe. Other parts of a disposal include a 1/3- to 1-horsepower motor, plumbing attachments, and a reset button.

Most of us opt for a standard 1/3 horsepower disposal because they’re affordable. Yet, these smaller units have only one grinding wheel so they can’t tolerate all foods. Larger, more powerful units include up to three grinding wheels, which will pulverize just about anything you throw at them. 

Since the inner workings of a garbage disposal are, for the most part, out of sight, out of mind, here are some pro tips to keep yours running in top form:

Garbage Disposal Dos and Don’ts

Do… regularly operate and clean your disposal. Food and debris allowed to accumulate in the upper chamber for an extended amount of time will begin to decompose and smell.

Don’t… put your hand in the unit…EVER. Always disconnect from the power before addressing any malfunction, and use tools to access the grinding chamber.

Do… hand-crank the unit to loosen a jam. By inserting a hex key into a slot located at the bottom of the disposal, you can turn the blades and free them up.

Don’t… forget to use the reset button, which is designed to trip when the motor overheats. If the unit doesn’t turn on, press the reset button and try again.

Do… keep the cold water flowing when you run the disposal. The water moves the small particles through the P-trap and prevents a clogged drain.

Don’t… use drain openers. Such chemicals can damage your disposal and potentially splash in your face. If you have a clogged drain, call a professional.

Do… use cold water. Hot water turns some foods like fats and starches to soft and slippery icky masses, making them harder to grind, and this leads to clogs. Hot water also moves fats farther down the pipe where they’ll cool, stick to the sides of the pipe, and form a clog.

Do… cut or break food waste into small, pea-sized pieces before putting it into your garbage disposal. This allows the appliance to grind and drain food efficiently. Whole food items like corn cobs, eggshells, and fibrous fruits can jam the disposal. Cutting food into bite-size morsels prevents clogs and potential damage from overworked motors.

Don’t… grind non-food or hard-to-break-down food items. Your unit was not designed to dispose of animal bones, plastic scrubbers, paper towel scraps, broken glass, metal, hard fruit pits, or nutshells. 

Do… grind ice cubes once a month. The ice helps keep the blades sharp and removes food particles stuck to the inside of the upper chamber.

Do… run citrus fruit rinds through your disposal periodically to help deodorize and keep drains clean. The oils in citrus rinds sanitize and degrease. Using citrus and ice to clean disposal blades reduces the need for chemical cleaners. Let citrus rinds and ice grind with cold water for one minute.

Don’t… grind the following items with a low-horsepower, single-blade unit:

  • Fibrous foods: Their strings will wind around the blades, causing the motor to seize. And, even if they get processed through the disposal, they’re liable to clog your pipes. Examples include celery, cornhusks, asparagus, artichokes, edamame pods, banana peels, and rhubarb. The same goes for long peelings of apples, carrots, potatoes, and the like.
  • Pits and meat: With only one blade, and minimal power, these items tend to bounce around inside smaller units without grinding. Over time, they may get through but will likely lead to a clog.
  • Grease and fat: No matter which size unit you have, avoid fatty sauces, gravy, butter, and cheese, which are apt to congeal. Oily-food waste should not be disposed of in the drain, with or without a disposal.

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Flader Plumbing and Heating is uniquely suited to assist you in determining the solution that best fits your home and family’s needs. We’ve been serving your neighbors and our community for over 100 years and 4 generations. 

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Only Flader Plumbing and Heating delivers:

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Whether your garbage disposal needs replacing, you need a new water heater, or your furnace needs cleaning, we are knowledgeable and provide expert service. Our professional technicians arrive on time, listen to your concerns, and answer your questions. They will recommend the right solution and deliver as promised.

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