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What Can I Put Down My Garbage Disposal?

Posted on by John's Plumbing & Pumps, Inc
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Garbage Disposal 101

Garbage disposals are a common American appliance, with over 50% of American homes equipped with one. This fact isn’t surprising, considering that garbage disposals were invented in Wisconsin in 1927. Garbage disposals help keep food waste out of landfills. The devices work by using blades to chop food waste and force it into the drain with a heavy flow of water. While a functioning garbage disposal can be a great asset in the kitchen, a malfunctioning garbage disposal can cause homeowners significant stress due to the disruption of normal cooking and cleaning activities, not to mention the added cost of calling a professional plumber in to diagnose and repair it.

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

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Image Credit: Hometips.com

While garbage disposals are common in the United States, there are plenty of misconceptions about how they work. In fact, despite their invention in 1927, many municipalities, such as New York City, banned garbage disposals due to the perception that they damage water supplies and sewer systems. However, the ban was rescinded in 1997 after studies proved this is not the case.

A garbage disposal is a relatively simple device. When installed properly, the disposal is mounted underneath the sink drain. The electric motor plugs into a 120-volt box, usually mounted underneath the sink. The further away from the power supply from the sink, the safer it is. In the grinding chamber, blades chop food waste, and then an impeller arm forces the particles and liquid down the drain. If the home has a dishwasher, this water also runs through the garbage disposal so that any large scraps of food washed off of dishes are ground up before they reach the drainpipes.

What Can Go Down A Garbage Disposal?

When properly utilized, a garbage disposal can help reduce food waste in landfills and makes kitchen clean up much more convenient. However, there are limits to what standard garbage disposal can handle. Here is a list of things you can safely put down your garbage disposal.

  • Cold Water. Before running the garbage disposal, run cold water through the disposal unit for 20-30 seconds before and after grinding food waste. This process helps make sure all of the food goes down the drain instead of collecting in the grinder chamber and stinking up the kitchen.
  • Liquids and Soft Food. Liquids and soft food are generally okay to put down the garbage disposal.
  • Chopped Food. If solid foods need disposing, chop them up beforehand.
  • Dish Soap. Dish soap is safe to put down the disposal and can even help clean the grinder chamber.
  • Ice Cubes. Make ice cubs out of lemon juice or vinegar and put those down the disposal to avoid unwanted odors and to freshen up the disposal.

What Cannot Go Down A Garbage Disposal?

Putting the wrong thing down the garbage disposal can break the device and cost money in repairs. Avoid putting these items down the garbage disposal unit.

  • Dishes and Silverware. When the dishes pile up in the sink, it’s easy for a fork or spoon to find its way into the garbage disposal. Ensure no silverware or other non-food items make their way into the unit.
  • Grease. Do not put grease down the sink under any circumstances. Once the grease cools, it solidifies and blocks pipes, creating clogs and other draining issues.
  • Fibrous Foods. Foods such as celery, onion skins, potato peelings, lettuce, and artichokes should not go down into the garbage disposal. Due to their fibrous nature, these foods can jam the blades, causing a clog.
  • Uncooked Pasta and Rice. Uncooked pasta and rice expand when it comes into contact with water. Avoid putting these in the garbage disposal as the drain will likely back up.
  • Coffee Grounds. Coffee grounds often get caught in the garbage disposal’s drain trap, leading to drain backups.
  • Fruit Pits. While industrial garbage disposals exist, the typical American home is not equipped with one. Fruit pits such as apple cores and other seeds are too hard for the garbage disposal to process them properly.
  • Eggshells. Eggshells have a membrane along the inside of the shell. This membrane can wrap around the blades in the grinder chamber.
  • Bones. Even industrial garbage disposals have a hard time with bones. Avoid putting any bones in the garbage disposal; toss them in the trash instead.

Signs Your Garbage Disposal Needs Repair

Concerned something’s wrong with the garbage disposal? Here are some signs that your garbage disposal needs professional attention.

Poor Performance

If it seems like the garbage disposal just isn’t working the way it used to, it may be time to call a professional. Most loads sent through the unit should process fairly quickly. If it seems as though it’s taking more time or effort than usual, the blades may have worn down enough to need sharpening or replacement.

Abnormal Noises

If the garbage disposal makes a loud noise, carefully check for a wayward spoon or fork within the unit. However, if you can’t find an obvious source for the sound, make sure to contact a professional as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the unit and the home’s plumbing.

Unexplained Backups and Clogs

It’s possible that the garbage disposal currently installed isn’t sufficient enough for how it’s used. However, if it seems that there are multiple clogs or backups without any clear explanation, the unit itself may be faulty.

Won’t Turn On

If it seems the garbage disposal won’t turn on or randomly turns off while in use, the connected circuit may be the culprit. However, the unexplained power loss could be due to a faulty motor. Call a professional to inspect the issue.


How Can John’s Plumbing & Pumps Help?

If your garbage disposal is acting up and you’re worried about your plumbing, give an expert at John’s Plumbing & Pumps a call! With decades of experience, the talented team at John’s Plumbing & Pumps can help diagnose and repair garbage disposal issues in Tacoma. Don’t delay; schedule your service today!

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