Garbage Disposals

Prevent Serious Plumbing & Drain Issues with These Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts

Any Ann Arbor homeowner with a kitchen garbage disposal knows what a handy appliance it is when it comes to leftover food and disposing of it.  With garbage disposals, you can simply disintegrate foods rather than placing them in the trash, which can result in odors and a mess.  However, if not properly operated and maintained, your garbage disposal could malfunction or even cease to work.  Not only that, a breakdown could result in costly plumbing repairs, clogged drains, and more.

Garbage Disposals Installed by Haley Mechanical

The fact is, garbage disposals are a wonderful invention – but when a drain becomes blocked or the disposal won’t work properly, the cost for plumbing repairs can be more than you expect.  Thankfully, taking proper care of your garbage disposal is very easy, and most issues you face with this appliance are unnecessary if you maintain it as you should.  If you’ve been neglecting your garbage disposal, the time to start taking care of it is NOW, so that you don’t face an unexpected (and costly) plumbing or drain issue.


We’ve included a few do’s and don’ts below to keep your garbage disposal working like new.

Under Sink Garbage Disposal

Garbage Disposal Do's

  • Grind food waste using a strong flow of cold water, not hot. Why?  Cold water helps oils or grease solidify, so these substances can be ground up before they reach the trap.
  • Use your garbage disposal on a regular basis. By using your disposal regularly, “gunk” won’t accumulate which will help moving parts work properly.  Regular use also helps prevent corrosion and rust.
  • Don’t be afraid to grind fish and small chicken bones, and other hard foods in your garbage disposal. This actually creates a scouring action that cleans the walls of your disposal.
  • Keep it clean. How?  Put a dab of dishwashing liquid into your disposal while running cold water and let it run for a minute or two after you wash dishes.
  • Large food items such as pieces of steak should be cut into smaller pieces and put into the disposal one at a time. Avoid shoving large pieces of food into the disposal all at once, as this could cause problems.

Garbage Disposal Don'ts

  • Keep in mind that a garbage disposal is not a trash can, it’s designed for scraps such as biodegradable foods. If you’re not sure whether you should put something in the disposal, err on the side of caution and don’t do it.
  • Items you should NOT put into your garbage disposal include cigarette butts, items that may be combustible, metal, plastic, glass, grease, fat, oil, or foods that are really fibrous such as onions skins, corn husks, and artichokes. Fibrous foods can block drains and jam the disposal due to tangling of skins/fibrous tissues.
  • Avoid placing too many potato peelings in the garbage disposal all at once, as this can result in blades sticking because of the thick paste that can develop from starchy foods.
  • Leave the water and motor running until foods are thoroughly grinded. After you turn the disposal off, let water run for 15 or 20 seconds for thorough rinsing.
  • Feed a little food at a time into your disposal. With cold water running, small amounts of food will flow freely helping you avoid plumbing or drain problems.
  • Never grind large pork or beef bones in the garbage disposal.
  • Avoid putting foods that expand into your disposal, such as rice and pasta. Doing so is a disaster waiting to happen, as your pipes or drain may become clogged.  The same is true of coffee grounds, which some homeowners use to eliminate odors.  While this is true, coffee grounds accumulate in drains and pipes.
  • Avoid the use of drain cleaners and bleach, as harsh chemicals can cause damage to pipes and blades. If you need to clean and sanitize the sink, use a product such as Borax which is natural and reduces the growth of mold and mildew that can cause odors in the disposal.

How to Maintain Your Garbage Disposal

Cleaning your garbage disposal and sharpening blades is simple; simply use ice!  Inexpensive, ice helps break up grease build-up and scours areas that are difficult to reach.  Toss a few ice cubes into the disposal once or twice each month, and your garbage disposal will operate perfectly.

What If an Object Has Fallen into the Garbage Disposal?

Sometimes an eating utensil (fork, spoon) or other item not meant to go into the disposal will accidentally fall in.  When this happens, NEVER attempt to retrieve the item with your unprotected hand!  If there is no other option, wear safety gloves and either turn off the circuit breaker or unplug the disposal before putting your hand inside.

The best solution is to use a flashlight so that you can determine exactly where the object is, then extract the object using an automotive finger gripper or extra-long needle nose pliers.  Sometimes other things you have on hand may work, such as a bent coat hanger or chopsticks.

Eliminating and Preventing Garbage Disposal Odors

There are many natural solutions to keeping your disposal odor-free that are environmentally friendly.  These include:

  • Toss an orange or lemon into the disposal every now and then; the citric acid will clean the walls, and the scent is fresh and will last for a substantial amount of time.
  • Baking soda is wonderful for stubborn odors; just pour some into the drain, allow it to sit for a few hours, then turn on the cold water and garbage disposal for a minute or two.
  • Vinegar is great for killing bacteria that cause odors, so freeze some in ice trays and run down your disposal. This also helps keep blades sharp and in good working order.

Again, Borax is outstanding for stubborn odors – and safe for your garbage disposal.  Put 3 or 4 tablespoons in the drain, allow it to stand for about an hour, then flush it away with hot water.

When All Your Attempts Fail, Call a Plumbing Professional

When you have a problem and have tried all of the suggestions above to no avail, call our plumbing professionals at Haley Mechanical. Serious problems may require our know-how and special tools, so don’t hesitate to request a service call! Call Haley Mechanical at 734-424-9170.

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