Garbage disposals are great for getting rid of unwanted leftovers, expired food, and discarded peels. But we often take our disposal for granted—until it becomes clogged or stop working altogether.
Follow these five simple tips to extend the life of your garbage disposal and prevent clogs and jams.
Tip #1: Run Disposal Regularly
Run your garbage disposal on a regular basis. Even if you don’t have anything to grind up, turn on the water and run the disposal every few days to move the parts around. Otherwise, the disposal can freeze up, rust, or corrode; and any leftover food inside can harden, leading to odors and clogs.
Regularly running your garbage disposal is similar to exercising your body to keep it in top shape.
Tip #2: Use Cold Water
Run cold water—not hot—when using your garbage disposal. Hot water works great for cleaning most things, but not your garbage disposal.
Hot water can melts the food your disposal is trying to grind up, allowing the waste to cling to the sides.
Cold water, on the other hand, hardens food, making it easier for the garbage disposal to grind it up and push it out the drain pipe.
Tip #3: Run Disposal Longer
After your garbage disposal has finished grinding up the waste, keep it and the water running for a minute. This ensures that all the food has been flushed out the drain pipe to prevent clogs.
You can also run cold water and a little dish soap down the drain after you’ve finished grinding up the waste. This will help clean out the disposal and make sure nothing remains behind or is clinging to the sides.
Tip #4: Cut Waste into Small Pieces
Your garbage disposal is only so big, and its blades and motor are only so powerful, so don’t expect miracles if you feed it large chunks of meat or fruit.
Go easy, cut waste into smaller chunks, and only put in a few pieces at a time. Otherwise, you can overwork the disposal and clog or jam it—or worse, break it altogether.
Tip #5: Grind Citrus Fruit
Soap and cold water will go a long way toward keeping your garbage disposal clean; but once in a while, toss the peel from an orange, lemon, or lime in your disposal.
The peel will help clear excess waste in the disposal and eliminate any unpleasant odors.
What Not to Put in a Garbage Disposal
Some foods don’t grind up easily, so avoid putting the following items in your garbage disposal:
- Grease or oil can solidify inside a garbage disposal and cause clogs in the drain pipe.
- Potato peels contain starch which can cling to the sides of the disposal, making it difficult to flush out into the drain pipe.
- Glass, plastic, metal, or paper can jam or dull the blades of a garbage disposal.
- Big bones, seeds, or pits can also dull the blades, jam the disposal, or become lodged in the drain pipe.
- Egg shells can stick to the pipes and having enough of them in there could result in a clog.
- Expandable foods, such as pasta and rice, also contain starch which can cling to the disposal. In addition, water can cause them to expand in the disposal and cause a clog.
Following theses tips can keep your disposal clean and fully functional. If you do run into problems with your garbage disposal, turn the power off at the circuit breaker before attempting to remove a clog or jam, or call a qualified plumber to handle the repairs for you.
- How to Clean a Garbage Disposal (video)
- How to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal (video)
About the Author
Candice Harding enjoys writing about home improvement tips. She recommends the services of the Plugged Piper (a Hamilton, Ontario, plumber) to anyone looking for excellent plumbing help. When she’s away from the computer, she loves riding her bike and exploring the outdoors. She also scours the Internet for quality deals to publish on her website, myredbicycle.com.
Does the badger brand garbage disposal tend to rust? I ran it last night and it started making this crazy noise. I found a piece of rusty screw inside after I turned it off. Is there a screw inside that could dislodge or just break off when it gets rusty? Thank you. Looking forward to your response.
My garbage disposal leaks profusely when grinding food. When not in use, there is no leak no matter how much water I flush down the drain. How do I resolve this problem?
When we are on vacation for weeks and can not run the garbage disposal it will freeze up due to rust. Is the anything I can do before we leave?
Those who end up in a bad position and have their disposal break will need to call the plumber to solve the problem. Fixing a grabage disposal unit is not an easy task.
You said that should be avoided putting potato peels in garbage disposer, but I found on this sites http://www.insinkerator.com/en-us/Household-Products/Garbage-Disposers/Pages/Disposer-Dos-and-Donts.aspx and http://garbagedisposalexpert.com/insinkerator-comparison/ that, for some models, says “Stop worrying about what food you can or can’t put in your disposer”.
We are gone for 4-5 months at a time. I have to use the wrench to get the disposal to work. Is there anything we can do to prevent this?
My husband and I have a disagreement.The sink was full of water. I turned on the disposal to clear it. I think that was sufficient since I do believe you should have water running through while running the disposal. My husband says I also need to run the spickot. I disagree. Isn’t the point to have water in there whether by the faucet or by water in the sink?
what to do so disposal won’t freeze up when your on vacation .
I am glad to read this article and I find it very useful to have a knowledge in the proper disposal of garbage. Thank you for the big help, it means a lot to me.
Is there anything that can be put down into the garbage disposal when it is not in use? I have rental properties that are sometimes vacant for a few months and the garbage disposals seize up because of rust and inactivity:/
We’re not aware of a product that can protect a garbage disposal between long periods of no use. Of course, people are inventing things every day and we may just not have encountered such a product!
Do you live near the rental properties, or do you have someone on call who can handle odd jobs? Because we do recommend running the disposal in each property every few days. This could be added to the list of tasks needed to maintain the properties.
I am truly wondering why even have a garbage disposal? When I was on the Internet it told me to use only organic foods. So what is the point?
I found it helpful when you talked about how it is important to keep a garbage disposal system, and the water, running for about a minute after using it. My son recently put some chicken bones down our sink instead of the garbage, so now our pipes are clogged. It would probably be best for me to hire a plumber to come and remove the clog so that I don’t cause any more problems.
When my daughter and I were doing dishes last night after our Christmas feast, we noticed that the garbage disposal was making a different noise than usual. I think that we may have a plumber come in and install a new one so that it works properly and well. When we do that, I will remember to run cold water when using it so that it hardens the waste, easing the grinding process for the disposal, as you said.
Great tips. Surprised to know that eggshells are bad for your garbage disposal. Thanks for sharing!
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