Courtesy of White Glove Home Inspections

A garbage disposal can be a handy appliance that can make cleaning up the kitchen quicker and easier. But when poorly maintained (or not maintained at all) a garbage disposal is prone to drain clogs and breaking.
So what are some best practices when it comes to using a garbage disposal?
As with all appliances, it pays to keep it clean and there are number of ways to do so. Running water helps keep things flowing, so running cold water while grinding will always make the disposal run better. Don’t use hot, cold water helps solidify any grease or oil that was accidently spilled into the unit allowing the greased to be chopped up before it reaches the trap.
To clean the disposal periodically, pour one half cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal followed by 1 cup of white vinegar (do not premix the two). Allow the mixture to work its magic for a few minutes while you boil water in a teakettle or similar size pot. The baking soda and vinegar will make “fizzing” noises. Once the water reaches a boil, carefully pour it into the disposal. Once drained, run cold water for 15 seconds to flush away any residue.
For sharpening the blades of your garbage disposal, fill it halfway with ice cubes, run cold water into the unit at full pressure, and turn on the disposal to grind the ice. For a nice, fresh scent, put some peels from a lemon, orange, line or grapefruit in the drain with the ice cubes. Careful, ice cubes or any other item could possibly shoot out of the disposal, so hold something over the opening but be sure the water is still flowing into the inside of the unit.
Is there a category on the food pyramid for expanding food? Probably not but if you put some down your garbage disposal, you’ll know it in a very short time. Expandable food refers to ingredients that absorb water and may become starchy or sticky if put down the disposal. Rice, pasta and potato peelings will expand in the disposal just the way they expand in the pot or cooker and should not be put in the disposal.
Fibrous foods are relegated to a similar category on the garbage disposal “no-no” list. While high fiber is good for the diet, in garbage disposals fibrous material can tangle with the blades and jam the disposal motor. These foods include corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins, banana peels and artichokes.
Non-food items are not meant to be put into a garbage disposal but that doesn’t mean people won’t give it a try. Plumbers have retrieved pieces of glass, plastic, metal and even paper from clogged disposals.
The biggest “no-no” of all? Pudding fingers into the garbage disposal to attempt to unclog a jam. Fingers simply don’t belong near the blades.
And there is a proper way to turn off the disposal. When grinding is complete, turn off the garbage disposal first, while cold water continues to run down the disposal for at least 15 seconds. This will create a flushing action to wash away all the remaining particles.
If the disposal will not turn on first make sure the unit is still plugged in. If it is plugged in, press the reset button on the bottom of the unit. If that doesn’t work, check to see if the circuit breaker has tripped in electrical service panel. If the breaker has not tripped, it’s (probably) either a faulty switch or faulty garbage disposal. If the disposal turned on in the previous steps but the blades are not moving (you hear a humming noise), the blades are jammed. Most disposals come with a small wrench that can be inserted into the bottom of the motor shaft (unplug the electrical cord first) to loosen the jam by moving the assembly back and forth. In all cases, refer to manufactures operating manual for specific instructions.

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