Perhaps the hardest-working appliance in the kitchen, your garbage disposal does its job virtually unseen. It grinds soft food waste to a consistency, allowing it to flush down your home’s drain system. It helps make clean-up much more manageable, keeps decaying food out of the garbage can, and helps you live more sustainably.

However, things can go wrong if a disposal is not maintained correctly. The blades and pipes in your plumbing are prone to clogging, rusting, and other issues. This can leave decaying food inside your drain system and stink up the entire house. The following are ways to keep your disposal running without difficulty, some problems you may encounter, and how to know when to call a plumber to service it.

How a Disposal Works

Since you can’t see your garbage disposal perform its task, it helps to know how it works. Underneath the rubber splash guard is the upper chamber where food scraps collect. The chamber houses a flywheel, impellers, and shredding ring. These parts grind food waste and pass it into the lower chamber. The scraps are mixed with water, moved into the P-trap, and flushed down the drain. The other parts include plumbing attachments, a motor, and a reset button.

There are different types of disposals: batch feed, continuous, and air switch models. A cover over the drain opening activates a batch feed disposal, whereas an on-off switch activates the continuous models. An air switch model is activated by air. The power for all models comes from an outlet under the sink.

Tips To Maintain Your Garbage Disposal

Here are some tips to help maintain your garbage disposal.

Run It Every Day

Use your disposal at least once a day to keep it running smoothly. If you have no kitchen scraps, run cold water down it. Otherwise, sitting unused can cause the blades to rust. It’s also an excellent time to put ice cubes down the disposal. The blades will chop up the hard cubes and help clean out any waste stuck to the sides of the chamber or drainpipe.

Use Lots of Cold Water

Running plenty of cold water down the disposal during use will help flush food scraps into the blades and pipes. Avoid using hot water. It can melt fat and cause a residue to build up on the blades. Let the water run for at least 10 seconds after the food has disappeared. This process will ensure that any remaining food water will get flushed down the drain and pipes.

Avoid Damaging Products

One of the easiest ways to keep your disposal running is to avoid items that should not go into it. The list is fairly long and includes hard items like bones, nuts, and fruit pits. Avoid fibrous items like broccoli, celery, banana peels and foods that swell, such as rice and pasta.

You may have been told that egg shells and coffee grounds sharpen the blades and neutralize odors. These last two items may not damage the disposal but can cause drain clogs.

Avoid harsh cleaning chemicals because they can cling to the blades and damage drains.

Size and Quantity Matters

Your disposal isn’t so magical it can make anything disappear. In addition to watching what you put down, pay attention to the size and the amount. Chop large items into smaller pieces and feed them into the disposal a little at a time. Slowly adding food scraps will help avoid jamming the blades.

Bi-Annual Servicing

Having a professional plumber snake your garbage disposal drain every other year is a good idea to clear minor clogs before they grow into larger ones.

Clean Your Disposal Every Two Weeks

Your disposal will operate better and be less prone to clogs if you clean it thoroughly every other week or often for high use. Fill the disposal with ice and one cup of rock salt and run it for a minute or two so that these abrasive materials can scrub away leftover food debris.

Kill bacteria in the disposal with one cup of vinegar and a half-cup of baking soda. To help it smell fresher, use cut-up citrus peels (oranges, limes, lemons) instead of coffee grounds. Flush with warm water. The fruit peels will also help fight bacteria.

Common Signs of a Broken Garbage Disposal

First, always practice safety when you reach into the disposal. Ensure the unit is turned off by flipping the switch underneath it or at the breaker box. Clear away items like cutlery that might fall into the disposal.

Simply pushing the reset button at your disposal will often get it to run again. If that doesn’t work, common problems include jams in the disposal, clogs in the drain pipe, worn-out seals in the hoses, mounting or pipe connections, and issues with the electrical system.

If you don’t hear the motor humming when you turn the disposal on, the appliance isn’t getting an electrical current. Check to see that the outlet and power cord are connected. If that doesn’t work, the problem is electrical.

A professional plumber is trained and has the equipment to diagnose and fix your malfunctioning disposal. They will know when to recommend an electrician.

Know When To Call the Pros

If your disposal hums but doesn’t work, water is filling the sink or leaking underneath the unit, or it drains slowly or doesn’t come on at all, it’s time to call a professional plumber.

A disposal making strange noises, like rattling or grinding, indicates a mechanical issue. It may be foreign objects stuck in the unit, a damaged or loose blade, or a bad motor. If the motor hums but the disposal won’t grind, the professional will check to see if the inner flywheel or the impeller is jammed or if the unit is clogged.

Although clogs may be fixed using a plunger or snake, persistent ones indicate a more serious underlying problem and should be addressed by a professional.

Standing water underneath the sink and a foul odor nearby mean your disposal is leaking. Leaks are caused by loose connections, damaged pipes, and worn-out seals. They can occur in several areas, including the sink flange where the unit connects to the bottom of your sink, the discharge hose that leads to the drain system, or the hose leading to the unit from the dishwasher.

It’s crucial to have a professional fixes leaks quickly. Even if the leak isn’t enough to cause water damage, it will still become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. The health of household members may be compromised.

A highly experienced plumber from Twin Peaks Plumbing, Heating & Gas in Nanaimo, BC, can diagnose your garbage disposal issues and get it running again. If not, they’ll know when to advise you that it’s time for a new one and install it for you. We can address many plumbing problems, from drain cleaning to sewer services, and install, repair, and maintain heating and cooling systems.

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