Tips for Keeping Your Garbage Disposal in Great Shape

Citrus fruits.

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.

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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.

Food going into garbage disposal.

What Can’t You Put Down the Garbage Disposal?

Only biodegradable food items should be put through your garbage disposal. Even certain foods should be kept away from the disposal, such as foods that are too hard and may dull or clog the disposal’s shredder. Fibrous food items can also get caught in the works and try to avoid putting too many starchy vegetables down the disposal.

  • Don’t put non-food items, like glass, paper, plastic, packaging, or other types of trash.
  • Don’t put hard foods, like beef and pork bones, avocado and peach pits, shellfish shells, and popcorn kernels.
  • Don’t put fibrous foods, such as corn husks, celery stalks, banana peels, onion skins, and artichokes.
  • Don’t put starchy vegetables, like potatoes and yams. They may leave a paste-like residue that gums up the shredder.
  • Don’t put foods that are likely to clog the drain, like pasta, rice, and coffee grounds.

Maintain Your Garbage Disposal with Ice Cubes

Grinding up ice cubes in the garbage disposal is an easy and surprisingly effective way to keep them 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.

How To Combat Garbage Disposal Odors

Vinegar can also be combined with baking soda to cleanse and freshen your garbage disposal.

  1. Start by putting half a cup of baking soda into the disposal.
  2. Then gently pour in a cup of white vinegar.
  3. 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.
  4. Let the baking soda and vinegar sit for about 10 minutes.
  5. 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.

Use Cool Water to Avoid Clogs

Most plumbers recommend using cold water when running a garbage disposal, not hot water, 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.

For more plumbing tips, check out the Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Portland blog today!

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About the Author: Steve Ferree, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Portland

Steve has been a trusted Mr. Rooter owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Portland since 1999. With over 20 years to back him, Steve has experience with a wide range of plumbing-related solutions and systems. He and his team specialize in drain cleaning, sewer repair, re-piping, and more.