We sometimes like to think of our garbage disposal as a great chewing and flushing machine. In go the scraps, and down the sink they tumble and crumble — never to be worried about or dealt with again. Oh, if only this were true! At Meticulous Plumbing, we can speak with authority on the number of ways in which well-meaning homeowners have ignored proper garbage disposal care and maintenance.

Kitchen Sink Food Waste Disposer

Failing to adhere to manufacturers’ — and plumbers’ — recommendations will shorten the lifespan of these powerful and efficient machines.

Let’s look at a few ways in which we can properly care for and maintain our garbage disposal. These simple methods will help avoid clogs and disposal repairs or replacements.

What You Should and Shouldn’t Place In Your Garbage Disposal

There’s a simple rule of thumb regarding what’s safe to put in a garbage disposal: If you can feed it to a baby, you can probably put it into your garbage disposal. Liquids and (some) soft foods (see below for a few exceptions) should be no problem.

Furthermore, finely chopped food scraps can go in, too. Ice cubes can, as well. (More on this below.) Smaller pieces are better when you need to grind food for disposal.

Do NOT Dispose of the Following:

  • Oil
  • Grease
  • Fat
  • Bones
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Fruit Pits
  • Banana Peels
  • Corn Husks
  • Oats
  • Seafood Shells
  • Fibrous Vegetables
  • Potato Skins
  • Onion Skins
  • Metal
  • Glass

Keep in mind that this is an incomplete list. Always follow your manufacturers’ recommendations.

Some of the items on the DO NOT list may surprise you. Pasta and rice? Oil?

Fact of the matter is that while your disposal may be able to handle these items, your plumbing system probably can’t. And since rice and pasta expand in water, you risk clogging up your pipes. Throw these items away.

Fibrous vegetables include celery, lettuce, kale, asparagus, and artichokes, among others. These can get tangled in the blades of your disposal.

As for potato skins or potato peels, these can turn into a messy mush that will further clog your pipes, especially if you’ve already been using your garbage disposal to dump any or all of the items on the DO NOT list.

Finally, metal and glass? It should be obvious that these don’t belong in a garbage disposal. But “it should be obvious” sounds like famous last words, ya know … ? Never put nonfood items in your disposal.

There is some debate over other items. Some experts suggest never putting coffee grounds, nuts, or egg shells down your disposal. As always, pay attention to the manufacturers’ recommendations.

And when in doubt, throw it out!

Also: Never put your hand in the disposal.

Finally, use cold rather than hot water to try and clear clogs. Hot water can cause fats and grease to melt, hindering your attempts to unclog the machine.

Garbage Disposal Maintenance

Fortunately, these powerful machines don’t require much maintenance. Always run cold water while disposing of food waste, as well as for a few seconds afterward. This helps flush the system completely.

Throw some ice into the disposal from time to time, too. This will help rid the disposal of any clinging residue. It may even sharpen the blades. Add a touch of dish soap or home cleaning remedies (lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar, etc.) to keep the system fresh and clean-smelling.

Last but not least, Bob Vila recommends cleaning your disposal every two weeks (less if you don’t use it that often). You can do this by running water through the disposal along with one of the homemade mixtures we mentioned earlier.

Bob says to “first, fill it with ice cubes and a cup of rock salt, then run it for a minute for the natural abrasives to scrape away the gunk lining the inside of your disposal. Pour a cup of vinegar and a half-cup of baking soda into the disposal to kill bacteria, then (again, with the power off) scrub the flaps with an old toothbrush.”

Questions? Comments? Contact Meticulous Plumbing with any queries or to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you keep your disposal operating at peak efficiency for many years.

Did your disposal break while you were running the disposal? Wondering where the reset button is located? Having general trouble with your garbage disposal? Our expert plumbers in Portland will have it working like new again and running smoothly in no time!

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