A garbage disposal is one of those appliances that you don’t really notice until it stops working. In that unsettling moment, your once-dependable unit makes its importance known through metallic grinding noises, alarming vibrations, utter silence, or a complete back-up of dirty water.
To avoid unpleasant surprises, check out these 8 best practices for keeping your garbage disposal humming and happy.
Avoid Hard Foods
The best garbage disposals cut, dice, and puree with aplomb, but some items should never be shoved in its maw. Even the sharpest blades will be tested against hard items like bones, seafood shells, unpopped popcorn kernels, and fruit pits. And if anything metallic slips down the drain—say, a wedding ring or a stray teaspoon—shut off the power as soon as possible so you can fish it out.
Avoid Fibrous Foods
The fibers in stringy foods like celery, banana peels, corn husks, and artichokes can wrap around the blades. Accumulation over time can inhibit the blades’ ability to spin freely and can also catch other foods and grease to cause clogs.
Avoid Starchy Foods
Starchy foods such as pasta, rice, potato peels, and couscous have a tendency to clog the drain. Pasta products absorb an immense amount of moisture, expanding and filling the small spaces. Potato peels can turn into a sticky paste and cling to the blades.
Grease, oils, and animal fats have a tendency to coat and congeal. Multiple coatings over time will narrow the pipe diameter and also serve as a catch-all for other debris you’re putting through the system. Flushing the system with hot water doesn’t solve the problem. Though that practice may clean the oils out of the disposal, it’ll just push the inevitable congealing to a place deeper into the pipes.
Bite-Sized Servings Are Best
Though the sharp blades of your garbage disposal may be able to slice through a whole carrot or pieces of uncooked turnip, you should dice these hard items into smaller pieces before shoving them down the drain. Not only will you avoid the possibility of stopping your rotor blades in mid-clean-up, but you’ll also preserve the longevity of your motor.
Drink Lots Of Water
To make sure all debris has passed through the disposal and deep into the pipes, run water through your working disposal for a good minute after the rotors spin freely. Cold water is best to keep the unit cool and avoid overheating.
Avoid Binge Eating
Stuffing your disposal with everything all at once is a sure-fire way to strain the motor. If you’ve just finished chopping and peeling the Thanksgiving dinner vegetables, take your time feeding the disposal discrete amounts of debris, separated by generous flushing with cold water.
Keep It Clean
Professionals disagree as to whether pouring ice cubes into the disposal sharpens the blades, but all agree that the practice certainly cleans them. Dropping a dollop of dish soap helps in that regard, with the added bonus of dissolving any residual fats or oils that may have inadvertently accumulated. Tossing small pieces of citrus rinds into the disposal is another easy way to clean and deodorize the unit.
With a little care, you’ll not only avoid a dinner-time catastrophe but also stretch to the max your garbage disposal’s useful lifetime.