5 Ways to Avoid Garbage Disposal Disasters

The holiday season, it means family and friends coming to visit. What you may not think about though is how all that entertaining puts your kitchen to the test, specifically your garbage disposal. Thanksgiving, believe it or not, is the busiest day of the year for Boulden Brothers Plumbers because of, you guessed it, disposal problems. To help you avoid holiday heartache with your disposal, we’re joined by Tim Boulden.

How to take care of your garbage disposal:

I understand you have some disposal do’s and don’ts to share.

We do. There are certain things that can be done that can reduce the chance of having a disposal problem.

Well, before we get to those, let’s first talk about, to understand disposal problems, let’s start at the source and talk about how a disposal works.

A disposal is a pretty simple device. There is an electrical motor and then there are grinders in the disposal that grind up the food small enough so that it can be flushed out with running water.

It’s a pretty straightforward devices. There’s a can underneath the sink, and you put stuff in, it grinds up, and goes away.

That’s exactly right.

All right. So, where do things go amiss? Where do things go off the tracks when somebody is using one?

What shouldn’t go down a garbage disposal?

There’s quite a few do-not-do’s with garbage disposals. The main one is don’t put anything other than food down there.

Like what would you put down that’s not food?

Well, you want to make sure that your knives, and forks, and spoons don’t slip in there by mistake, of course, but glass, or plastic, or paper products are bad for your disposal.

So, don’t put wrappers or things like that down the disposal.

Nope. Just the food, and the food should be put down in smaller pieces and small amounts at a time.

So, don’t try to shove the whole turkey down the disposal.

No. That’s right.

Break it up. So, are there certain foods that maybe we want to avoid in the disposal?

What foods should not go down a garbage disposal?

Potatoes and potato skins are really bad. They can almost make like a cement in your garbage disposal, but corn husks, celery, onion skins, or even egg shells, you want to stay away from all of those.

I can imagine that the corn in particular would create kind of a stringy kind of thing. I had never thought about the potato skins could create that kind of cement just mix down there.

That’s right. Celery’s the same way.

And celery too. Okay.

And onions. Yup. Any fibrous foods.

Fibrous food, stay away from those. All right. And then what else?

Grease. So, a big no-no. Don’t make your bacon in the morning and pour it down the garbage disposal, for a couple of reasons. It can cause it to clog up, but also can cause odor problems in your disposal.

Okay. What other problems can happen to a disposal on Thanksgiving or pretty much any morning?

The main thing is you want to run water through it after it stops grinding the food, so it’s properly flushing the food out of the garbage disposal.

Okay. So, once we put something through, we want to go ahead and run water, let it clear out the disposal. So, run it until it … I guess it’ll make a sound that’s different. Mine speeds up a little when it’s empty.

That’s exactly right. Once it’s done the grinding portion of the job, keep the water running. I leave it on and make sure that it evacuates everything from the disposal.

The thing about disposals is sometimes even the best laid plans, it can get kind of stinky, it’ll have kind of an odor to it. Is there anything we can do to prevent that?

There are a couple of things. Putting slice of the lemons down there can help, but also if you make ice cubes with a mixture of half vinegar and half water, that’s really good to clean out your garbage disposal and keep the blade sharp.

Doing these things will enable you to have Thanksgiving without a visit from a Boulden Brothers plumber, though we’re happy to come out.

Always happy to be there.

Okay, and we’ll be available if you are. So, any other tips we can share, Tim, on the disposal?

The only last one is it’s good to run hot, soapy water through it regularly just to make sure you keep it clean.

It makes perfect sense. You want to keep something clean to keep it working well, right?

That’s exactly right.

Tim, thanks a lot for your help, and I hope this will help listeners avoid Thanksgiving and holiday weekend heartache through the season.

Great. Thanks, Charlie.

You can learn more about disposal care and plumbing in general. There are a lot of helpful videos for you waiting here on the Boulden Brothers website, bouldenbrothers.com.