How to Keep Your Garbage Disposal in Tip-Top Shape

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Plus, Our 4 Favorite Features of the Latest Garbage Disposal Models

The In-sink garbage disposal is the commonly used, but often overlooked, workhorse of the kitchen. Overlooked, that is, until something goes wrong!

Thankfully, garbage disposals don’t require a lot of maintenance, but it’s important to differentiate good habits from bad.

While it might seem like it can handle anything, feeding your garbage disposal the wrong items is a surefire recipe for bad odors, clogs, and ultimately, a broken appliance.

And, like any appliance or system in your home, a small amount of preventive care leads to a longer life (and fewer calls to the plumber).

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about keeping your garbage disposal in tip-top shape for the long haul. If you’re looking for a new unit or an upgrade, we’ll also explore the latest features of garbage disposals to help you evaluate your replacement options.

Never Pour These 6 Things Down The Drain

You’ve probably heard that there’s a handful of foods that should never be put down the garbage disposal if you want to avoid clogs.

When it comes to gumming up your unit, the top-6 worst offenders are:

  1. Grease, oils and fats

    While your garbage disposal can handle liquid or semi-solid fat, grease, and oil, the rest of your home’s plumbing system cannot. Seal liquid oil and grease in a can or jar first, and then dispose of it in the trash or your locality may even have a recycling program. In addition to liquids, we recommend keeping fatty poultry skins out of the disposal as well.

  2. Coffee grounds

    Coffee grounds may seem harmless, but they are actually one of the worst things to put down the drain. Eventually the grounds build up and form a clog-inducing sludge. Better use for coffee grinds? Compost for your garden!

  3. Egg shells

    Unless you have a high horsepower garbage disposal, egg shells are best tossed in the compost bin.

  4. Fibrous vegetables

    Vegetables such as celery, broccoli or fibrous onion skins or cornhusks can get tangled around your disposal’s blades. Instead, toss them in your compost heap or put them in the trash.

  5. Bones, shells and pits

    Shellfish pieces, chicken bones, fruit pits — all of these items can bend or break your garbage disposal blades, so take care to keep them out of your sink drain.

Pro tip: Be sure to remove any produce stickers before sending peels down the drain. They can stick to the disposal blades or the inside of your pipes.

Not sure if an item is safe for the garbage disposal? A good rule of thumb is to put only soft foods down the garbage disposal.

How to Properly Clean and Maintain a Garbage Disposal

At least one time per month if you’re a regular user of the disposal, we recommend cleaning your garbage disposal to keep it in good working condition.

Start by unplugging your unit completely before you work around the bladed appliance. You can then use tongs or pliers to remove any scraps.

Avoid using bleach or commercial cleaners in your garbage disposals as these caustic chemicals can fly up and out of your unit when you restart it. Instead, after you’ve reconnected your appliance, pour one cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by the same amount of vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes. While you are waiting, boil a pot of water, and then carefully pour it down the drain (avoid splashing) to help move along any residual particles.

Another disposal-cleaning method is to put a few ice cubes and a handful of rock salt down the drain and run the disposal for 10 to 15 seconds. The ice and salt will scrape off any bits of food from the blades and sides of the disposal.

If you experience any unpleasant odors emanating from your garbage disposal, follow the recommended cleaning procedures above.
Then, grind up quartered lemons while running warm water into your disposal. The citric acid in the lemons has antibacterial properties for an all-natural cleaning remedy and a pleasant, deodorizing scent.

If at any time your garbage disposal is emitting a rotten, sewage smell, first perform the cleaning suggestions recommended above. If the odor persists, call a plumbing expert immediately. This could be a sign of a more serious issue.

What to Look For When Shopping For a New Garbage Disposal

Properly maintained garbage disposals have a lifespan of about a dozen years. If yours is due for replacement, here are 4 features to evaluate as you consider your options.

  1. Horsepower

    Typically, the higher the horsepower, the more powerful and expensive the unit. If you’re not a frequent cook, or you compost most of your waste, consider a unit with less horsepower. Alternatively, a serious at-home chef might appreciate a disposal with more grinding power.

  2. Size and materials

    Garbage disposals come in different sizes so consider a more compact unit if you’re short on space. Also, we’re fans of garbage disposals made with heavy-duty galvanized steel parts, which tend to hold up better over time.

  3. Septic-friendly

    If you’re on a septic system, look for garbage disposals designed specifically for this application. In some cases, septic-friendly units come equipped with natural solutions that help break down food waste to prevent overtaxing your system.

  4. Noise control

    Some garbage disposals on the market today feature noise-reducing technology. If the sound of loud grinding bothers you, consider choosing a model with a sound guard or sound seal technology.

Sila: Your Go-To Plumbing Experts

Have a plumbing issue? Whether it’s a clogged drain, a leaky faucet, or something more involved—such as a sewer line replacement—the licensed plumbing experts at Sila can quickly and reliably help you diagnose and solve your plumbing problems.

Help (and advice) is just a phone call away! Contact us for fast, reliable service.

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