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Published July 2, 2015


Taking your garbage disposal for granted could lead to trouble down the road.

Garbage disposals fall under the category of “plumbing”. Since we are plumbers, I thought I’d share these “nice to know” facts about the lowly Garbage Disposal.

When it comes to garbage disposal units, some people have misconceptions about their use; some even think they are potentially dangerous.

If you own or are considering purchasing a new garbage disposal for your kitchen, here is a list that will clear up some of the myths that are floating around.

It can turn on by itself: Won’t happen. The unit must either be turned on manually or the water must be running for it to work.

Hot water should be used: Hot water can melt fats and clog up both the unit and pipes after it solidifies. Always use cold water when grinding food.

The unit could sever your hand: It certainly makes sense that you should never stick your hand into the garbage disposal to clean it without ensuring that it is first turned off. There are two types of garbage disposal units: 1) the batch-feed type, which is activated by turning a stopper after loading the disposal with garbage, and 2) thecontinuous-feed style that is activated by a switch when you run the water, but these units also have a safety switch to ensure against accidents.

You can use chemical cleaners: Never pour bleach, drain cleaners or other chemicals into the garbage disposal as they can erode the unit.

Putting in ice will sharpen the blades: Garbage disposal units don’t have blades. They have impellers that are not sharp.

Garbage disposals smell bad: If your unit is not cleaned regularly, this can happen. Debris can collect under the rubber flaps that can create a strong odor. To get rid of it, turn off the disposal and use a stiff brush or rag to clean underneath the flaps. If the unit is free of debris and still smells bad, simply grind up a couple of ice cubes and some lemon rinds, orange rinds or baking soda for a fresh clean smell. Ice cubes and vinegar can also be used.

10 Things That Should NOT Go In The Garbage Disposal:

  1. Grease or oil. Not good. Although the unit may have “disposed” of it, it usually solidifies and begins to build up in the pipes.
  2. Vegetable peels. You may get away with this on occasion, but eventually this will probably catch up with you and leave you with a soupy, backfilled mess in your sink.
  3. Egg shells. This was a new one to me. Believe it or not, the membrane on the inside of the egg can wrap around the impellers and wreak havoc.
  4. Coffee grounds. These may seem like they go down fine, however over time the little grounds build up like sediment in the pipes causing trouble.
  5. Pits or seeds. Think: peach pits, avocado pits, cherries, etc.
  6. Bones. Nope, not good.
  7. Anything in bulk. Your disposal likes being fed small meals.
  8. Garbage. Such as cigarette butts or paper. The unit is not really designed for these sorts of things.
  9. Rice and pasta. Basically, every time you turn the water on, the pasta and rice will continue to expand even after it is ground up.
  10. Stringy veggies. Things like celery, cornhusks and some types of lettuce. The stringy parts can wrap around the impellers causing resistance on them.