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Home Maintenance Tip: Garbage Disposal Maintenance

Posted on February 06, 2015

The garbage disposal is a useful kitchen appliance that we take for granted until it stops working before a large dinner party. Here are some basic guidelines to follow to avoid garbage disposal problems and breakdowns:

Safety is the most important detail to keep in mind when performing any task with a garbage disposal. For example:

  • Never put your hand into a garbage disposal.
  • Always unplug or cut the disposal off at the circuit breaker before working on a garbage disposal.
  • If you need to retrieve an object from a garbage disposal, use needle-nosed pliers.

Many garbage disposal breakdowns can be avoided by understanding what items are safe to put in a garbage disposal. Pay attention to these best practices:

  • Despite having the word “garbage” in the appliance name, garbage disposals are intended for biodegradable food scraps, not garbage. Never put glass, metal, paper, plastic, wood or cigarette butts down the disposal. These items should be placed in the trash.
  • Never put grease, fats or oil inside a garbage disposal. These can not only clog your disposal but also your drain pipes as well as causing a bad odor. Also, avoid putting coffee grinds in the disposal as they can also clog drain pipes.
  • Avoid putting fibrous foods such as banana skins, celery, onion skins, string beans, corn husks and potato peels in the disposal as they can jam the garbage disposal blades. Consider composting these food scraps.
  • Also avoid hard items like bones, fruit pits and egg shells.

Keeping your garbage disposal clean can also help to avoid breakdowns. Here are some maintenance suggestions:

  • Run a strong stream of cold water before and while operating the disposal. Keep the water running for at least 30-60 seconds after the food is ground up to make sure all the particles are flushed. Never use hot water as it will melt fatty foods that will then stick to the disposal components and to the drain pipes.
  • To reduce odors, put a whole lemon or citrus peels in the disposal. Run warm water while grinding them up.
  • Bad odors can be reduced by grinding frozen ice cubes containing vinegar twice a month. The ice chips will help to break up any grease build-up.
  • For stubborn odors, pour baking soda into the garbage disposal and let it sit for several hours before flushing it with cold water.
  • If odors still remain, pour several tablespoons of borax in the garbage disposal. Wait at least an hour using hot water to flush the borax.
  • Never use bleach or commercial cleaners in your garbage disposal as they can damage the blades and pipes.

By making sensible decisions and using these guidelines for basic maintenance, you can keep your garbage disposal running smoothly and avoid that emergency call to the plumber.


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