Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts


Most likely, the kitchen sink in your home or apartment came with a garbage disposal preinstalled. These common household appliances are both economical time savers when cleaning your kitchen, and they reduce the amount of garbage you toss in the dumpster or haul to the curb for pickup each week. Best of all though, garbage disposals help keep your plumbing free of clogs and debris from food waste that is washed down the kitchen sink drain.

After selecting the right garbage disposal for your sink, you will just get the disposal installed. When it is working well, your garbage disposal is something of the unrecognized hero of your kitchen. It keeps everything flowing smoothly and processing. On the other hand, when your disposal isn’t working, the workflow in your kitchen quite literally grinds to a screeching halt. Repairs and plumbing work are expensive, so how do you keep this essential yet often forgotten part of your home in the best possible condition? Here are some dos and don’ts for maintaining your garbage disposal so it can keep on working hard for you:

Garbage Disposal Do’s

DO Use The Gentlest Methods for Unclogging Your Drain

Don’t use bleach, drain cleaners, or other chemicals to try and unclog your garbage disposal. All of these materials contain highly corrosive substances that can damage the impellers, motor, and gears in your garbage disposal. Instead, try boiling a pot of water and then pouring it slowly into your garbage disposer. If there is accumulated grease, fat, or starch, the boiling water will break these up and allow the water to flow freely again. When boiling water doesn’t work on the first try, try pouring 1 cup of baking soda and 1-2 cups of white vinegar in the disposal. Then, follow by more boiling water. This combination is least likely to damage your disposal and plumbing. It actually helps prevent more expensive repairs due to applying overly-drastic methods for clearing a clogged garbage disposal.


Related: How to unclog a garbage disposal


DO Use Cold Water When Running Your Disposal

Hot water may break up grease and starches, but when that grease gets further down the pipes it can end up accumulating and blocking your drain, requiring your plumbing under the sink to be disassembled and cleaned manually. Cold water actually helps grease flow easily out with your wastewater without causing your drain to back up. Check out how to use a garbage disposal properly.

DO Keep Throwing Certain Food Waste in the Trash

As reliable and powerful as your garbage disposal may be, it is not in any way an indestructible appliance. Garbage disposals are principally designed to grind up soft food waste from your sink to help it flow through the drain without causing your plumbing to clog or backup. Fruit pits, un-popped popcorn, corn cobs, and bones are all going to work your disposal too hard, leading to overheating, electrical overload that trips your breaker, or motor failure. These problems can require an expensive repair or replacement. If you’re not sure your disposal can handle a certain type of food, just toss it in the trash as usual. You should also not make a habit of tossing expandable starchy foods like rice, pasta, or potato peelings down the disposal. Doing so can cause clogging in the pipes even if ground up to a fine paste. Stringy vegetables like celery or banana peels are likewise out of the question. Coffee grounds can also damage your disposal as well. Keep composting these items or throwing them away in the garbage.


Related: Things You Should and Shouldn’t Put Down a Garbage Disposal


Garbage Disposal Don’ts

DON’T Throw Ice or Eggshells in Your Garbage Disposal

Contrary to popular belief, this does not “sharpen” the blades in your garbage disposal. Almost all modern garbage disposal use metal impellers that are intentionally blunt, so there is nothing to sharpen anyway. Eggs shells can actually gum up your impellers so they malfunction or fail to spin freely. As a result, your garbage disposal will fail to drain. If your disposal doesn’t seem to be grinding up food like it used to, you may just need to clean it.


Related: How to clean a garbage disposal


DON’T Pour Cooking Waste in Your Disposal

Trimmed fat from meat, leftover bacon grease, and other fats and oils from fryers or frying pans do not belong in your garbage disposal. Your disposal isn’t going to grind them up because they are basically a liquid anyway. If they cool or congeal in your drain they will accumulate and back up the drain. Just toss these food items in the trash instead.

Overall, your garbage disposal is only as reliable as what you do to regularly maintain it. Cleaning it with boiling water, baking soda, and vinegar every month or so will help keep starches and fats/oils/grease from building up in the disposal chamber and drain pipe. Being selective about what you throw down the garbage disposal also goes a long way to keeping this critical kitchen appliance in tip-top shape. Follow these maintenance tips consistently, and you won’t have to discover what life is like without a working garbage disposal for many years to come.

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