Current garbage disposals are manufactured to provide decades of trouble-free service. But, like any household device, they will act up if abused or fed waste products that the disposal is not able to process. Under normal use most people will never need garbage disposal repair or to call a plumber or disposal technician.
Here are four tips to keep the garbage disposal running smoothly and keep your self out of disposal repair hell.
1. Avoid these problem foods
Garbage disposals do a great job of grinding up small bits and pieces of leftover food. They are not however, designed for grinding up metal, plastic, bones, or any materials harder that household food. Do not pour harsh chemicals down a garbage disposal. Chemicals can damage the disposal’s seals, O-rings and rubber splashguard.
Avoid stringy foods: asparagus, lettuce, celery, cornhusks and artichokes. Vegetables with tough peels like potatoes and squash should be avoided as well. The peels may partially grind up, but they are prone to plugging up the sewer line downstream. Don’t put eggshells down a disposal. The thin membrane inside the egg can wrap around the disposal’s shredder ring. Coffee grounds can cause problems. Coffee grounds can combine with oils and grease in the drain and cause a stoppage in the sewer line. Save the coffee grounds and sprinkle them across the lawn and flowerbeds. Worms love them and drain lines hate them.
Grease should not be poured down a disposal. It will solidify and clog a portion or all of the drain line. Grease almost guarantees the need for a service call from the drain rooter people.
Raw rice and pasta should be avoided as well. They can never be broken down small enough with the disposal blades. The secondary danger is that rice and pasta can swell when mixed with water and build up in the drain trap until it is completely blocked.
Avoid pits and large seeds from fruit and vegetables. They can damage the blades of the disposal.
Non-vegetable waste such as: twist ties, pull tabs, rubber bands, glass, screws, nails plastic utensils, cigarette butts, bottle caps, paper, fabric, string, rags, sponges, flowers and hair should all be avoided. None of these materials will break down enough to rinse down the drain.
2. OK foods for garbage disposals
Garbage disposals easily grind small pieces of household scraps like soft skinned fruits and vegetables. Hard skinned fruits and citrus can go down the disposal, but cut them into several pieces first. Otherwise they will bounce off the blades and sides of the motor housing.
Begin by running cold water down the disposal then slowly feed the food scraps. Keep the cold water running for at least 30 seconds after grinding to wash scraps down the drain line.
3. Safely un-jamming a disposal
If a disposal becomes jammed, there is an easy and safe way to clear the jam. Garbage disposals have a small ¼-inch hole on the bottom that allows hand cranking the unit to free the jam. There are two tools that can be used. The first is the garbage disposal tool usually included with each disposal. The second is a ¼-inch hex key wrench called an Allen wrench. Allen wrenches are L-shaped metal bars having a hexagonal head at each end which is used to turn bolts and screws with matching hexagonal sockets.
Switch off the electricity for the disposal, insert the Allen wrench and rotate the disposal unit to free up the jam. Do not use your hand inside the garbage disposal in an attempt to free the jam!
4. How to reset a garbage disposal
If the garbage disposal has stopped after a jam or it just hums and won’t restart, it is time to press the reset button, a small red button on the motor housing. The button usually is in a recessed position, but will pop out after a serious jam, or if the disposal locks up. Push the button back in and the disposal should restart immediately.
5. Cleaning and maintaining your disposal
Keep the garbage disposal clean. This will help keep it running efficiently, be more sanitary and more pleasant to use. Adding a small amount of dish soap in the disposal and letting it run for a minute or so with cold water will keep it smelling fresh. Grinding peels from any citrus fruit will clean off the disposer’s sidewalls. The acid contained in citrus will get eliminate germs and bacteria. Running a tray of ice through the disposal will help clean off the edges of the unit’s teeth and keep it cutting and grinding.
A well maintained garbage disposal should provide a minimum of 10 years of trouble-free service or longer if properly maintained.
Important: always make certain that a garbage disposal is either unplugged or switched off before attempting to service it.