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Fifty percent of homes in the United States today have a garbage disposal installed in their kitchen; are you taking care of yours like you should? Disposals are a convenience that many modern homeowners take advantage of to quickly and easily grind food waste, then let it go down the drain.  The average garbage disposal will grind away for about eight years, but you can keep it going longer by following some simple rules.

You should:

  • Keep it clean.  Flush your disposal simply by running it regularly, and use plenty of cold water every time you do.  The use of cold water is to ensure that any oil or grease will solidify before it reaches the trap.
  • Keep it fresh.  Grind peels from citrus fruits, or even small chunks of whole citrus fruits, to keep your disposal smelling nice. The juice cleans the disposal’s walls with its citric acid and eliminates foul odors.
  • Keep it small.  Cut large food items into smaller pieces, and put things into the disposal one at a time instead of in large amounts all at once.
  • Keep it sharp.  Throw a few whole ice cubes into your disposal a few times a month to sharpen the blades.  Go a step further and use a natural antibacterial cleaner—make ice cubes out of vinegar to sanitize the disposal and sharpen blades simultaneously.

You should not:

  • Grind anything that isn’t food.  It’s actually a food disposal; garbage disposal is a misnomer.  No paper, metal, plastic, cigarettes or anything else that isn’t biodegradable food.
  • Grind any foods that will cause your disposal to clog:

    • grease
    • cheese
    • fibrous foods such as corn husks celery, artichokes, and onion skins
    • potato peels
    • foods that expand such as rice, breads, and pasta
    • bones
    • coffee grounds
  • Use hot water, which will cause grease to melt and cause drain clogs far down in the pipes
  • Use any chemicals to clean it.  Use Borax, citrus fruits, or vinegar ice cubes instead.

If, despite your best care, your garbage disposal has stopped working, try resetting it. Most disposals have a reset button on the underside of the disposal.  You may need to hand crank it with an Allen wrench to free up a jam. Check your owner’s manual for the proper steps for either method. If neither method gets your disposal going, it’s time to call a plumber.

Should you need to invest in a new garbage disposal, consider:

  • Most homes require around a ¾ horsepower garbage disposal; anything less won’t get the job done and much more power may shake the surrounding counters and cabinets.
  • Would a batch disposal be better than the standard continuous feed model for your needs? This type requires a stopper for operation, thereby eliminating the chance of children getting hurt, or of anything that doesn’t belong in the disposal getting ground up.
  • Which features you’d like.  Some models offer quieter operation, anti-jam circuitry, and stainless steel components.
July 25, 2013