Care & Feeding of Your Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are a wonderful convenience and having one means you never face a sink full of dirty dishes alone. Yet, poorly maintained garbage disposals, or failing to fix one that is acting up, increase your chances of a plumbing disaster. It’s better to be smart than soggy.

Here are some tips for helping to keep the disposal humming. Please review your disposal’s manufacturer’s instructions before following any of the tips below.

  • Read the instruction manual. It tells you to run the garbage disposal regularly. Frequent use prevents clogs, rust and corrosion.
  • Use plenty of water when flushing contents. Run the faucet before you turn the disposal on, and keep it running a few seconds after the shredding stops. A strong water flow helps flush remaining food all the way down the pipe to prevent clogs.
  • Use cool water when the disposal is on. Hot water may turn some items to mush; it’s okay to use hot water between grinding periods, however.
  • Keep the disposal clean by pouring a bit of dishwashing soap inside. Follow with running water to bubble away debris.
  • Put citrus fruit peels into the disposal to freshen it. Don’t use large pieces of fruit; they’ll put a strain on the drain and could actually plug it up.
  • Do not pour grease, oil or fat into your garbage disposal or drain. Grease builds up, and the accumulation impedes both the grinding power of the disposal and the ability of the drain pipes to keep things moving.
  • Do not put expandable foods into the disposal. Pasta and rice absorb water, and once in your pipes, they don’t stop — and that can cause jams.
  • Do not put fibrous food waste into the disposal. Potato skins are a big culprit, along with corn husks, onion skins, pea pods, artichoke leaves and carrot tops and skins. Backups of these foods can cause extensive damage to your plumbing.
  • Do not put your unprotected hand into the drain. Food wedged between the blades may jerk the disposal into action once the tension is released. Use tongs or long-handled pliers to remove food – or call a plumber to fix badly-jammed gears.

Often, it’s not only what you toss down the garbage disposal, it’s how much. For example, coffee grounds won’t hurt the disposal if they get gulped slowly. But dumping several days’ worth at once could be a problem. And, remember that the coffee filter belongs in the trash can, not the disposal.

Should your disposal become clogged or start malfunctioning, it is always best to call a professional plumber to remedy the problem. It is well worth the cost of the visit to avoid a potential disposal disaster.

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Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.