Garbage Disposal Do & Don’t

Detail of the plumbing system under a modern kitchen sink

One of the handiest appliances in the kitchen is also one of the smallest: the garbage disposal. They can also be the one with the most issues – although you won’t have as many problems if you know what to do – and what not to do.

Garbage Disposal Dos

Use cold water. It may seem like the best way to help everything flow is by using hot water, but cold water will help keep grease from solidyfying down in the pipe. Run the water cold, and run plenty. If there is a large amount of things to grind, half fill the sink using the plug, and release the water all at one time while grinding.

Break up large items. Smaller pieces of food trash will grind easier than large ones.

Keep the disposal clean and fresh. Use a bit of dish soap when you’re done and run the disposal with cold water briefly. You can also grind some peels from citrus fruit such as lemon, lime or orange, to help combat smells naturally.

Grind ice cubes periodically. This can help sharpen the disposal blades and clear waste that is stuck on the sides of the unit.

If your garbage disposal stops working, see if it has a reset button on the bottom. If the button has popped out, push it to reset, and your disposal may work again.

You can also try hand-cranking your disposal if it gets stuck using an allen wrench in the slot at the bottom to manually crank the blades and help clear the jam.

Garbage Disposal Don’ts

Don’t dispose the wrong things. Animal bones, grease, fat, glass, plastic and metal should not go into the garbage disposal. Fibrous vegetables, such as artichoke, celery, rhubarb, lettuce, kale, cornhusks, onion skins, asparagus, and chard tend to tangle around the blades, which can cause issues.

Don’t use chemical drain cleaners. These type of cleaners that are made to unclog a drain can damage a garbage disposal. Your best bet is to call a plumber.

Don’t try to dispose of rice, potato peels, noodles, or similar starchy items. They can either swell, or become a gooey glue-like mess and clog the drain. Similarly, fruit and vegetable peels can be an issue, especially thick peels such as bananas.

You may have heard to use egg shells or coffee grounds to help clean your unit. This is actually a bad idea as they create a very grainy residue which can stick to grease in the pipe and quickly create a clog.

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