The Dos and Don’ts of Garbage Disposals

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Under the sink garbage disposal unit .

Not everything on your plate necessarily needs to go into the trash. Garbage disposals offer a quick and easy way to dispose of a lot of your personal waste, but definitely not all! Knowing what you can and can’t put down your disposal is the first step to keeping it running long term. Let’s break down what it means to have a disposal and what you should and shouldn’t do.

So How Do They Work?

Garbage disposals are the large loud machines attached to the bottom of your sink. They’re usually connected to a switch around your sink. When the switch is flipped, spinning metal pieces called impellers are activated and cut up and grind away at anything in the actual disposal. Most often, this process is aided by having running water going down at the same time. This action forces any smaller ground up bits down the waste line into the normal drain pipe.

What Should Go Down The Disposal?

Small pieces of food waste, such as small meat scraps, cut up citrus rinds, most vegetable and fruit scraps are all good to go down the disposal. The reason these can go down is because they break up fairly easily into smaller individual pieces. This allows for them to be washed away without incident.

What Shouldn’t Go Down The Disposal?

Anything that isn’t food should never go down the drain. Plastic, metal, and glass can damage the impellers and lead to jamming and potentially damaging your expensive appliance. Harsh chemicals can also wear away at the inner workings of your machine. Sometimes, even food waste is not okay to send down. 

Powdered and mashable food waste might seem like they’re okay to put down the disposal, but they can lead to issues further down your lines. Because things like coffee grounds can clump up and block pipes, they should be avoided at all costs in your disposal. 

Fibrous foods like onions, broccoli, corn husks, and celery especially should never go down. This is because the stringy fibers can twist up around the spinning portions of the disposal and cause a jam or even burnout of the motor.

These are just a few of the kinds of things that can damage your garbage disposal. If you pay attention however, you can easily avoid accidentally trying to grind the wrong kinds of waste.

How Can You Go About Cleaning A Disposal?

Because of the nature of a garbage disposal, it’s actually pretty effective at cleaning itself. However, sometimes you need to get in there and give it a little extra TLC. There are a few different methods when it comes to getting this done however. Try whichever feels most comfortable.

Getting Your Hand In There

This one requires you to unplug the disposal as the first and most important step. You definitely do not not NOT want there to be any possibility of the disposal turning on while you clean it. Next, you reach down with a soapy sponge to get all of the built up residue from the sides of the grinding chamber. This method can give you a better understanding of how your disposal is put together and what can end up left behind from the grinding process.

The Sink Volcano

Remember way back when you used to make volcanoes at school using baking soda and vinegar? This method uses the same materials to get into all of the nooks and crannies that you might not be able to get to with a sponge. First, you need to pour ½ of a cup of baking soda into the drain, and then ½ of a cup of vinegar.

Once both ingredients are added, plug the drain with the sink stopper to keep all of the fizzing mixture down. After giving the reaction some time, you can plug your disposal back in and flush it with hot water while the disposal runs.

Cut The Smell

Sometimes you don’t need to reach in to get at whatever is causing your disposal to give off a bad odor. A diluted bleach solution can be poured down the drain along with a good amount of hot water. This might give off a different, more chemically smell but works effectively. Additionally, citrus peels can be cut up and ground up in the disposal along with ice. The peels give a nice scent while the ice is abrasive enough to knock out some of that leftover gunk. This is a good followup to the other cleaning methods listed above.

Is It Worth It?

So in light of the special rules about what you can put down, what you can’t, and how to clean it, is it worth getting this kind of equipment installed? It can be expensive to purchase up front, and if something goes wrong, it could be just as expensive to repair. So what it comes down to is if it makes sense for you.

If you don’t mind the occasional upkeep for your disposal, and are prepared to keep an eye on what goes down your drain, a disposal can be a huge asset in the kitchen. If you’re not up to the task of taking care of your garbage disposal however, it might not be the appliance for you.

What Next?

If you’re looking to install a disposal under your sink, you might need to set up wiring and piping to accommodate it. This can be done yourself, but unless you know what you’re doing, can be dangerous and costly. 

Calling a professional to have a look at your sink and discuss your disposal needs is a great first step. This can stop you from getting a disposal that isn’t right for you or your sink. Once you have the professional’s opinion, they can usually set it all up without a problem. 

Making sure your disposal is installed and serviced correctly right at the beginning is the best way to set yourself up for success down the line. Whenever you’re looking for a professional touch on a home plumbing project, go with the experts who have years of experience. Give the Plumbing Works a call and get all of your plumbing needs taken care of!