A reliable garbage disposal makes kitchen cleanup and meal preparation a breeze. Though this appliance can take on tough jobs, it does have its limits—and like all drains, not everything should go down your kitchen sink. Fortunately, it’s easy to keep your garbage disposal humming with some simple maintenance. As long as you remember the following disposal do’s and don’ts, you won’t be constantly calling your local plumber.
Keep It Clear
Only biodegradable food items should be put through your garbage disposal: No glass, paper, plastic, packaging, or other types of trash. Even certain foods should be kept away from the disposal. Beef and pork bones, avocado and peach pits, shellfish shells, and popcorn kernels are all too hard and may dull or clog the disposal’s shredder. Fibrous food items can also get caught in the works, such as corn husks, celery stalks, banana peels, onion skins, and artichokes. Try to avoid putting too many starchy vegetables, like potatoes and yams, down the disposal. They may leave a paste-like residue that gums up the shredder. Though not a danger to the disposal itself, pasta, rice, and coffee grounds are also likely to clog the drain.
Grinding up ice cubes in the garbage disposal is an easy and surprisingly effective way to keep it maintained. Each month, put a handful of ice cubes into the garbage disposal and simply run it as usual. The ice is just hard enough to sharpen the blades of the shredder without harming them. The ground-up ice chips will also act as tiny scrubbers that scour hard-to-clean areas inside the disposal. Once the ice is chopped up, your work is done—simply allow it to melt away down the drain. For an especially clean garbage disposal, freeze vinegar in an ice cube tray and follow the same steps. Vinegar will eliminate odor-causing bacteria on its way through the disposal.
Freshen It Up
Vinegar can also be combined with baking soda to cleanse and freshen your garbage disposal. Start by putting half a cup of baking soda into the disposal, and then gently pour in a cup of white vinegar. The mixture will bubble, fizzle, and froth up—the same ingredients are used to create science fair volcanos, after all—so don’t overdo it. Let the baking soda and vinegar sit for about 10 minutes, and then rinse down the mixture with water while the garbage disposal is on. This combo will effectively bust odors, but you can take some extra steps to help your sink and kitchen smell even nicer. Grind up some citrus peels in the garbage disposal for a fresh, clean scent. Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits all work equally well, so pick your favorite. The citrus acids and oils will even clean the blades.
Cool It Down
Most plumbers recommend using cold water when running a garbage disposal, not hot water, in order to prevent clogs. The best protection against clogs is to avoid putting grease, fats, and oils down the drain in the first place, but cold water can help too. When grease or oil is cool, it solidifies. If you use cold water, your garbage disposal can chop up bits of grease before they reach the trap. Hot water, in contrast, will allow liquid oils to flow down the drain and into your pipes, where they will naturally cool down, solidify, and accumulate to form clogs. Also remember to keep the faucet running before, during, and after using the garbage disposal to prevent the shredder from seizing and to flush away food particles.
Do you take good care of your garbage disposal?
- I try to, but it still gets clogged occasionally.
- I always keep it cleaned and maintained!
- Yes, but it doesn’t work like it used to—I could use some troubleshooting tips.