Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts – What Can Go Down

What Can Go Down a Garbage Disposal?

Garbage disposals really help to keep kitchens neat and without bad smells, but to reap the maximum benefits from them you need to use them properly.

So, what are the do’s and don’ts of a garbage disposal? What can go down a garbage disposal and what shouldn’t you put in it?

garbage-disposal

In summary, the following are rules on how to use a garbage disposal properly:

  • Don’t run a garbage disposal without water
  • Do run a garage disposal with cold water
  • Don’t grind starchy foods in a garbage disposal
  • Do clean your garbage disposal regularly
  • Don’t use your garbage disposal for high-volume waste
  • Do grind small hard materials to scrape the garbage disposal
  • Don’t pour fats, oils and grease in your garbage disposal
  • Do keep the motor running until you are done grinding
  • Don’t grind plastics, metals, glass or large bones
  • Do run your garbage disposal regularly
  • Don’t use harsh chemicals in your garbage disposal
  • Do keep granular waste out of it

Most homeowners are disappointed to learn that you cannot use a garbage disposal as a replacement for a trash can. Not all kitchen waste should end up in a garbage disposal; if you want to avoid nasty drain clogs.

Some of the things that are not safe to put in a garbage disposal include starchy food waste (potato peels, pasta, rice etc.), granular waste (coffee grounds, egg shells, seeds etc.), grease and hard waste like glass, bones, plastic and corn cobs. Such waste will either clog the garbage disposal or jam the impellers.

There are many people (especially plumbers) who are of the opinion that a garbage disposal is actually something you don’t need.

The disadvantage of using a garbage disposal is that people use them the way they are not supposed to be used resulting in frequent clogs and/or bad smells in the kitchen. A properly utilized and cleaned garbage disposal is however a useful kitchen appliance.

Plumbers especially don’t like garbage disposals. The reason for this is because people use them to grind the wrong waste and even when they use them for the right waste, they don’t let then run long enough or don’t use sufficient water while at it.

Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts

Let us now look at garbage disposals dos and don’ts in more details starting with the do’s

1. Do Run Your Garbage Disposal with Water

If you are not sure how a garbage disposal works, I will explain it to you. If you look inside a garbage disposal, you will see blades at the bottom.

Contrary to what many people think, those blades/impellers don’t grind the food waste like a blender. As the motor rotates, the impellers rotate as well and hence the food waste is spun inside the garbage disposal against the shredder ring.

It is actually the shredder ring that slices the waste into tiny pieces which can flow out of the drain line. And that is where the water comes in.

To push the grinded waste out of the grinding chamber, you need a force which only water can provide.

As the water enters the grinding chamber, it is mixed with the waste and spun around together by the impellers creating a centrifugal force. It is this force that pushes the waste out of the garbage disposal and down the drain.

inside-a-garbage-disposal

If you want to prevent your garbage disposal from clogging, use water while grinding and use enough of it.

2. Do use Cold Water While Grinding

This is usually a controversial topic. Some plumbers say that it does not matter whether you use hot water or cold water while others insist that you should only use cold water while running a garbage disposal.

The argument is that hot water liquefies fats which then solidify in the sewer line resulting in clogs and possibly sewage backups.

With cold water, the fats remains solid and are shredded as such by the garbage disposal and will therefore not clog the drain lines.  I think this makes sense from the homeowner’s perspective.

 What you however need to do is to make sure that you don’t pour fats, oils and grease in the garbage disposal in the first place. I will discuss that point later.

potato peels in a sink

This is where most people go wrong when using garbage disposals. So, what can and can’t go down a garbage disposal?

The following are some of the waste that you should not put in a garbage disposal:

  • Potato peels
  • pasta
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Big bones
  • Nuts
  • Coffee grounds
  • Corn cobs
  • Oatmeal
  • Glass
  • Cigarette butts
  • Plastic
  • Grease
  • Egg shells
  • Onion skins
  • Pits and seeds
  • Fibrous vegetable
  • Non-food waste

The thing about starchy food waste and fibrous/stingy vegetables is that they form a paste or ball that clogs the garbage disposal drain line resulting in standing and smelly water in the kitchen sink.

On the other hand, hard wastes like bones jam the garbage disposal impellers and restrain then from spinning. A garbage disposal that can’t spin is a useless garbage disposal.

If you start your garbage disposal and notice that it is humming but not grinding then the blades are jammed. Check out this post for more details.

4. Do Clean Your Garbage Disposal Regularly

A smelly garbage disposal is caused by food scraps which decay inside it or in the drain line. Since the waste is organic, it is bound to smell when it decomposes.

Fortunately, there is a great and natural way to deal with garbage disposal smells. That involves the use of baking soda and vinegar but you can use borax instead of baking soda if that is what you have.

Pour about a cup of baking soda inside the garbage disposal then follow it up with a cup of vinegar. The 2 will create a fizzing reaction as they break down any waste inside the garbage disposal and drain line.

Let the solution sit for about 15 minutes and do its magic. You can also use this method among other to unclog a garbage disposal.

After the 15 minutes, run the garbage disposal but this time with hot water. The hot water will flush down anything that is still trapped inside the unit or in the drain line.

Another way you can clean a garbage disposal is by using ice cubes and rock salt.

Fill the garbage disposal with ice cubes then add a ¼ cup of rock salt. Run the garbage disposal with cold water until all the ice has melted.

The ice and rock salt will scrape the inside of the garbage disposal and in the process removing all the food particles which were causing the smell.

To have your garbage disposal smelling fresh, cut a lemon into several slices and through one at time inside the disposal.

Other things you can do to take care of your garbage disposal and drain line is:

  • Run it frequently. This will prevent it from corroding.
  • If you need to grind large pieces, cut then into smaller pieces before putting them in.
  • Grind small but hard pieces like fish bones. The scouring action created is very effective in cleaning the grinding chamber.
  • Keep your garbage disposal running until all food has been grinded and with a strong flow of cold water as well.

Garbage Disposal Don’ts

The following are the things that you are not supposed to do while using a garbage disposal:

1. Don’t Use Your Garbage Disposal for High-Volume Waste

What I often see people doing especially after a party is to dump all the leftovers in the sink and then start the garbage disposal. That is however not how to do it even if you have a powerful continuous garbage disposal.

Your drain lines cannot handle it and you will end up with a clogged garbage disposal drain. The best way is to only grind a few scraps at a time.

2. Don’t Pour Grease in the Garbage Disposal

cooking-grease

Fats, oils and grease (FOGs) are the major cause of clogs in kitchen sink drains. You should not pour grease in any of your drains and not just the kitchen sink.

Even if the grease makes it past your garbage disposal, it will settle inside the sink’s P-trap and form a clog especially after combining with other solids.

Most folks believe that dumping grease down the disposal drain is ok so long as you follow it up with boiling water. While that will push it out of the drain line, it will cool and solidify properly in your sewer line or the public sewer resulting in clogs or even sewage backups.

Avoid pouring grease in your garbage disposal drain especially if you are on a septic system. The grease creates a scum at the top of septic tank and which may block off oxygen to the bacteria breaking down the waste.

To properly dispose grease after cooking, let it cool then put it in sealable bags before trashing it with your domestic waste.

3. Don’t Use Chemical Drain Cleaners in Garbage Disposal

When faced with a clogged drain, most homeowners reach for their favorite chemical drain cleaner to clear the clog. You should however not do that if you have a clogged garbage disposal.

Chemical drain cleaners release a lot of heat in older to melt the clog and in the process deform plastic drain lines or corrode and weaken metallic ones.

The drain cleaners will also damage garbage disposal rubber seals and blades. If you need to unclog garbage disposal check out this post.

It goes with saying that chemical drain cleaners are a big no if you are on a septic system. They kill the bacteria responsible for breaking down waste resulting is sludge buildup inside the septic tank.

And that is pretty much it in as far as the dos and don’ts of garbage disposals are concerned. I hope this article was helpful.

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