Tips for Avoiding Garbage Disposal Problems

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The most common plumbing breakdown during the holidays is blamed on the garbage disposal unit. This is partly because when the drain line serving the kitchen sink is clogged, it backs up through the garbage disposal. In very few cases, a worn out garbage disposal is to blame, but more often, the materials or substances put into the system has caused the problem.

Garbage disposals, and the drain lines to which they’re connected, are not intended for use in disposing of fat, grease, large or hard (T-) bones, or extremely fibrous materials like cornhusk silks and artichokes. These items have a tendency to plug up the drain line and cause it to back up, creating a stinky mess in your kitchen sink.

Place fat and grease into cans or bottles for disposal through your solid waste trash. Place T-bones and other large bones into a plastic Ziploc bag for disposal through normal household trash. If you have a compost heap, consider recycling cornhusks, artichokes, and other fibrous wastes there; you can also throw them out with your regular trash.

Run plenty of COLD water while you are using the disposal to eliminate food wastes. If you are using it to eliminate a substantial amount of food waste (for example, one pound or greater), turn the system off and plug the drain for the sink when you’re done. Fill the sink with cold water to approximately ¼ of its depth. Pull the drain plug out and turn the disposal on. This should thoroughly wash the drain line free of any garbage that might cause a partial stoppage, which could eventually lead to a complete stoppage.

Although it’s tempting to use hot water during the operation of the garbage disposal, this will almost definitely cause a stoppage further downstream. Using cold water helps to keep grease and fat in a solid form, where they can move down the drain line.

A list of Dos:

  • Do turn on a medium to strong cold water flow before you start using the appliance. Continue running the cold water for approximately 15 seconds after grinding has ceased in order to flush the drain line and the disposal free of food particles.
  • Do occasionally put a small amount of ice into the disposal to help clean the inside of the grinding area. Use caution when doing this and make sure you have the drain stopper in place to avoid flying particles from the disposal’s grinding chamber.
  • Do occasionally use a disposal cleaner or de-greaser to help eliminate any grease that may cause unpleasant odors. Check to make sure that the product is authorized by the disposal manufacturer.
  • Do consider having your kitchen drain line snaked approximately every two years as preventive maintenance. The disposal is only as good as the drain line serving it.
  • Do ask a Harrisburg plumber for professional advice on the best methods to maintain your drains and to help keep them clean and flowing freely.
  • Every once in a while grind up peels from citrus fruits like lemons or oranges. This helps keep the grinding area smelling fresh and the natural acidity helps suppress the bacterial growth associated with odors.

A List of DON’Ts:

  • Don’t use hot water while grinding food. It’s perfectly acceptable to run hot water down the drain after you’ve used the disposal, but it’s important that only cold water be used during the food grinding process.
  • Don’t put grease, fat, or fibrous waste into the garbage disposal. They will cause the drain line to become plugged. Dispose of these items as previously described through the solid waste channels available to you.
  • Don’t fill the grinding chamber full of vegetable peels and then turn it on and expect it to handle the load. Keep the cuttings in a separate container and feed them slowly into the grinder while running plenty of cold water.
  • Don’t use harsh drain cleaning chemicals because they are potentially harmful to the user, the plumbing system, and the environment. If you’ve used strong drain line cleaners, be sure to tell your plumber so that he or she can take the appropriate precautions.

If your food waste disposal is over seven years old, it might be advantageous to consider having it replaced. Contact a plumber at David LeRoy Plumbing, Inc., 717-963-2034, to discuss the possibility of installing a new one. The money it saves in plugged drain bills may be well worth it.


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