Garbage Disposal Dos and Don'ts: Tips and Maintenance
While most people get the days off for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, plumbers are working overtime. Did you know that Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers? The number one cause? Clogged toilets, kitchen sinks, and garbage disposals. In general, whenever there is a day when family and friends all gather under one roof, like Super Bowl Sunday, we experience a surge in plumbing repair and drain cleaning calls.
A lot of people simply don’t know what to put in the garbage disposal. Perhaps it’s because of the misleading word, “garbage.” While you can throw nearly anything away in the garbage, your garbage disposal is a lot more sensitive and vulnerable to breakdowns. Trash cans can last forever; garbage disposals can’t.
When you have guests over for Thanksgiving or any other holiday, our #1 tip is to have everyone save their leftovers or scoop them in the garbage. In fact, it may be best to have just one or two people responsible for all the plates and dishes. This way, you can be sure that no one is abusing and potentially damaging your garbage disposal. Each of your guests is used to different garbage disposal and may feel as if they know what yours can or cannot handle.
While some things, such as spoons, toys, and twist may seem like obvious no-nos, there are plenty of seemingly harmless objects that could clog or damage your disposal. Here's a list of the things in your kitchen that need to go in the trash, not the waste disposal.
Garbage Disposal Don’ts
Fat, Grease, and Oil
Any type of grease or hot liquid fat shouldn't go down the drain period. As grease cools, it hardens in the drain. The best way to throw away used grease and oil is to let it cool and put it in an empty can or a jar with a lid. Another option is to line a coffee cup with aluminum foil, pour the grease in the foil cup and then throw the foil away when it's completely cool.
Starchy or Stringy Veggies
Celery, carrots, corn husks, rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus, chard, kale, lettuce, and even potato peels should not be put in the garbage disposal. These stringy, fibrous or starchy vegetables can easily wrap around the blade and clog your drain. If you do put these things down your disposal, do so a little bit at a time, and run cold water the disposal is on and a few seconds after you turn it off. Large items should always be cut into smaller pieces.
Pasta and Rice
In the garbage disposal, pasta and rice will absorb water every time they come in contact with it and expand over time. The expanding carbs will form a pasty texture that can clog your trap.
Eggshells should not be put in the garbage disposal because the thin membrane on the inside of the shell can wrap itself around the blade of the disposal. Although small chicken and fish bones can help clean the inside walls of your unit, the eggshells will turn into a sand-like substance that could clog the pipes.
This includes avocado, peach, mango, apricot, plum, and any other fruit pits. The pits don't break down in the disposal and will only cause damage.
This one is a little more obvious, but garbage disposals simply aren't strong enough to break down big bones. Stick with the trash on these ones. If they are tiny fish or chicken bones, it is fine, and can, in fact, help clean the inner walls of your unit.
Flower stems, plants, twist ties, rubber bands, cigarettes, plastic, fabric, sponges, paper, toys, stickers, and other objects should always go in the garbage or recycling, not the garbage disposal! These items simply will not break down like food items will and can easily clog or break your disposal unit.
Garbage Disposal Dos
Each garbage disposal is different, so it’s important that you read the manufacturer’s instructions to see what you can and cannot use in your garbage disposal.
For optimum performance, it is recommended that you have a professional install and repair your garbage disposal. Although not absolutely necessary, it is important to have the unit hooked up to your plumbing and dishwasher correctly.
If you are trying to retrieve something from the disposal unit, make sure the disposal is off first, and then use a pair of tongs, not your hands. Also, it is very important that everyone, especially children knows proper garbage disposal safety.
When using your waste disposal, run the cold water while it is on and for a few seconds after as well. This helps to harden any fats and oils, preventing them from sticking to the pipes.
Fresh and Clean
If you want to clean and freshen up your garbage disposal, try using some citrus peels, such as lemon, lime, orange, blood orange, or grapefruit.
How to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal
If your garbage disposal is clogged or won’t turn on, follow these steps:
1. Turn the power of at the breaker box.
2. Remove the rubber splash guard.
3. Use a flashlight to inspect for the source of the clog.
4. Use tongs to remove the object(s). *NEVER stick your hands down the disposal.
5. Turn the power back on at the breaker box.
6. Reset the garbage disposal with the little red switch on the underside of the disposal itself (underneath the sink).
7. Turn the cold water on and hit the garbage disposal switch.
If that doesn’t work, it’s best to call a plumber.
Avoid a catastrophe by keeping all of the above items out of your disposal. Watch this video for a recap:
For more drain, sewer, and garbage disposal tips: Prevent and Solve Sewer and Drain Problems
For professional drain cleaning, unclogging, and garbage disposal repairs, give Gold Medal Service a call at 877-803-0511 for professional drain clearing services for only $93! We guarantee a cleared drain for $93 or your money back! If your drain should become clogged again within the next 5 years, we will return for a free follow-up repair!
Have an emergency? We can handle it! We offer 24/7 service at no extra cost to you! That’s why we’re the number one plumber to call on nights, holidays, and weekends.
Click here for a list of other items you should never flush down the toilet. To keep it simple, just human waste and toilet paper.
Click here if you need garbage disposal repair or if you have a clog, visit our drain and sewer repair page. If the clog is really serious, consider High-Pressure Water Jetting.
For all your plumbing problems, call the Gold Medal experts at 1-877-803-0511.