Ten Garbage Disposal Care and Maintenance Tips   Share

by Greg Smith, Roto-Rooter of Mobile

Many people find garbage disposals to be handy household small appliances. These gadgets can be quite useful, but they can also lead to the need for avoidable plumbing repairs if they are not used properly. Here are a few disposal care and maintenance tips from a seasoned plumber that everyone who uses a household garbage disposal should keep in mind.

Ten Tips for Proper Disposal Care and Maintenance

1. Practice Moderation
It’s important to realize that household disposals are not industrial grade pieces of equipment that you can throw everything in. If you put too much waste down your disposal, you run a very real chance of stopping up your home’s drain pipes. Over-use of garbage disposals is a common reason for plumbing service calls, and it’s something that you can easily avoid having to deal with by practicing moderation.
For example, do not clean out your refrigerator and dump the leftovers down your garbage disposal. Instead, put them in containers and throw them away – or compost as appropriate.  Instead, use it to scrape and grind small amounts of food off plates and other serving ware before washing. That’s what disposals are meant to do.

2. Keep Fiber Out of Your Disposal
Food items that are high in fiber are more likely to cause problems than other items when placed down a disposal for grinding. For this reason, avoid putting items like banana peels, string beans, sweet potatoes, other types of potatoes and other fibrous substances into your garbage disposal. Compost or throw away such items.

3. Run Water Before, During and After Use
Make sure water is going before and after running your disposal. Running water before you turn on the unit and during the time it is grinding is important because disposals are made to run wet, not dry. Once the disposal is turned off, you should continue to run water for a few seconds. This to get the debris washed out of your pipes and into the municipal sewer system.  

4. Resetting May Solve Problems
Most disposals have a reset button on the bottom of them. If your disposal isn’t working, first check to make sure that the electrical breaker is on. If the breaker is on and the unit is not functioning, pressing the reset button, if your unit has one, may solve your problem. Checking to see if you have such a button just might save you the cost of a plumbing service call, depending on what is wrong with your unit.

5. Trick for Un-sticking a Disposal
While items get stuck in garbage disposals from time to time, it is important for you – and everyone in your household – to know that it is never safe to put your hand or any other body part into a garbage disposal. This safety rule applies regardless of whether the unit is turned off or on. If something gets stuck in your disposal, always use tongs or another long-handled tool to try to dislodge the items – and make sure the unit is off before attempting retrieval even with a tool.

6. Keep Silverware Away from the Unit
Having silverware fall down a disposal is one of the most common problems with these types of appliances. This can easily be avoided simply by getting in the habit of keeping utensils out of the side of the sink where the unit is located. It may take a while to get everyone in your household to adopt this habit, but it can save you the expense of replacing mangled silverware or replacing your disposal.  

8. Jammed Disposal Trick
If your disposal gets jammed as a result of something getting hung up in it, such as a bone, there is something you can try before calling a plumber. Turn the unit off before doing anything. Then place a broom handle into the unit and attempt to use it to rotate the blade. Remove the broom handle, turn on the faucet, and flip the switch on the disposal. You just might find that your efforts have solved the problem.

9. Odor-Control Tip
It’s advisable to periodically drop a whole lemon into your garbage disposal and grind it up. Doing this will clean out the unit and help reduce odor.

10. Never Use Disposals with a Septic System
Plumbing code does not allow for people to put garbage disposals on septic systems. Even if one was already installed when you bought your home, you should not use it because it just fills up your septic tank.  

About the Author
Greg Smith is President of Roto-Rooter of Mobile, Alabama. The company provides industrial, commercial and residential plumbing repair services, including video pipe inspection, throughout Mobile, Baldwin and Washington counties in Alabama.