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The Do’s and Don’ts of Garbage Disposals

Your garbage disposal isn’t a garbage can. It’s also not a compost bin. Yet many homeowners treat them as one and the same, thanks to clever marketing by the garbage disposal manufacturers. What you should know is that while these handy tools can be timesavers in the kitchen, they can also cause serious plumbing headaches. Here’s a rundown of how to use your garbage disposal the right away and avoid a costly plumbing emergency.

What Can Your Garbage Disposal Handle?

Your garbage disposal can grind up many types of food. They’re best used for:

  • Small meat scraps
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Citrus foods
  • Soft or liquid foods
  • Vegetables without the peel
  • Ice

The “soft food” category has some exclusions, which we’ll share next.

What Not to Put in Your Garbage Disposal

Your garbage disposal might have the horsepower to grind certain foods, but that doesn’t mean you should test its power. Avoid putting these foods down the disposal:

  • Bones
  • Foods that are starchy (pasta, potatoes, etc.), stringy (celery, pumpkin, etc.), or hard
  • Grease, fat, or cooking oil
  • Coffee grounds
  • Artichokes
  • Corn husks
  • Clamshells or oyster shells
  • Fruit pits
  • Eggshells

Starchy foods, fats, and coffee grounds can clog your pipes, leading to blockages. Stringy foods contain fibers that could get wrapped around the disposal blades and affect how they function.

When it doubt, use the trash can or place a strainer over the garbage disposal drain to prevent bits of food from entering it.

Do Keep Your Garbage Disposal Clean

Foods that linger in your garbage disposal may start to rot, leaving a foul smell in your kitchen. Keep your disposal clean with natural products like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice.

Do Use Cold Water

Hot water could cause fats and oils to congeal and stick to the disposal blades. Always run cold water when using the disposal.

Do Run Your Disposal Often

Even if you don’t think there’s much in the disposal, run it anyway. This helps keep your pipes clear and makes your disposal work less hard.

Don’t Use It for High-Volume Disposal

Garbage disposals aren’t meant for grinding all of your food waste. The best practice is to scrape off plates into the trash before rinsing them in the sink. The disposal can handle whatever is left over. If you’re doing food prep at the sink, place a strainer over the disposal drain so items don’t accidentally enter the disposal. Reducing your use will prolong its lifespan.

Don’t Run Your Disposal for Too Long

Running your disposal for minutes at a time will wear down the motor. They’re not meant for high-volume needs. If something won’t grind up in less than a minute, it probably shouldn’t be in the disposal.

When to Call for Garbage Disposal Maintenance and Repairs

If your garbage disposal clogs often, runs louder than it used to, takes longer to grind foods, leaks, or requires you to set the reset button frequently, there might be more going on than you realize. Our plumbers can help — contact us today and let us get you back on track.