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How to Use a Garbage Disposal Without Slowly Killing It

5 min read • October 25th, 2023

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Heil Plumbing
"How to Use a Garbage Disposal" text over an image of an African-American plumber in a blue polo and a hat with the word's "Heil Pumbing"

Are you using your garbage disposal as a secondary trash can to dump your food? If so, you should rethink how to use a garbage disposal to prolong its lifespan and protect your plumbing.

In the video below, Master Plumber Ike Bagley shares common mistakes homeowners make when using their garbage disposals. You’ll learn what you can and can’t put down garbage disposal — and some of the off-limits food items might surprise you.

Ike also explains how to use a garbage disposal correctly and how to troubleshoot issues if your garbage disposal is not working. (Common problems include electrical malfunctioning and jams.) You’ll learn what you can easily fix yourself, what you should leave for the professionals, and when it’s time to replace your garbage disposal.

Topics

  • How to use a garbage disposal 
  • What not to put in a garbage disposal
  • How to use a garbage disposal correctly
  • Can a garbage disposal prevent a dishwasher from draining?
  • Why did my garbage disposal stop working?
  • How do you unjam a garbage disposal?
  • How do I know which garbage disposal to buy?
  • How long does a garbage disposal last?
  • How do you know if your garbage disposal is going bad?

Watch the video: how to use a garbage disposal correctly

Frequently asked questions

[0:03] Can you put any food down the garbage disposal?

Avoid putting all your food scraps into your garbage disposal like a second trash can. Instead, you should use it to dispose of small leftover food pieces that fall into the sink. Dumping large food items down the drain can damage the blades and the motor or clog your sink.

[0:49] What not to put in a garbage disposal?

Throwing large amounts of food into your garbage disposal can ruin it or clog your drain. Avoid throwing the following 12 items into the sink: 

1. Beans
2. Bones
3. Coffee grounds
4. Cooking fat and grease
5. Eggshells
6. Fibrous vegetables 
7. Fruit and vegetable peels
8. Fruit seeds and pits
9. Nuts
10. Oatmeal
11. Pasta
12. Rice

[0:49] Can you put eggshells in the garbage disposal?

No, the eggshell membrane can easily wrap around the disposal impellers and damage your disposal

[0:49] Can you put coffee grounds in the garbage disposal?

No, although coffee grounds will likely make it past your disposal, the tiny grounds collect when wet, accumulate in your drain and become clogged. Instead, you can easily compost your coffee grounds.

[0:49] Can you put banana peels in a garbage disposal?

No, your garbage disposal cannot consistently break down banana peels enough for them to pass through your pipes, especially if you forgot to remove the stickers on the outside. If you accidentally put a banana peel into your sink, it will probably be okay, but you should avoid it as much as possible

[1:35] What can you put in a garbage disposal?

Most liquids and small, biodegradable food particles are safe to put in a garbage disposal. Any soft vegetables and small pieces of meat are okay. But avoid putting fibrous veggies, vegetable and fruit skins, cooking oil and grease down your drain

[2:09] Can you put ice in the garbage disposal?

Yes, your garbage disposal can eat ice cubes in a heartbeat. They will safely pass down your drain before you know it.

[2:09] Can you pour boiling water down your garbage disposal?

Yes, pouring any temperature water down your garbage disposal isn’t an issue.

How to use a garbage disposal correctly? A chrome faucet head running a stream clear water

[2:23] How to use a garbage disposal correctly

It’s essential to run water down your drain while you’re using the garbage disposal. If you run your disposal dry, it can overheat and shorten the life of your disposal.

[2:48] Can a garbage disposal prevent a dishwasher from draining?

Yes, if your garbage disposal has food in it, your dishwasher might not be able to drain properly. This depends on if your dishwasher empties into the garbage disposal. If it does, you can run your disposal for a few seconds to dislodge the food particles.

[4:22] Why did my garbage disposal stop working?

If your garbage disposal is not working, you could have a power supply issue, or it might be jammed. If it’s a power issue, you can try resetting it by pressing the red button on the bottom of the garbage disposal (underneath your sink). If you hear a humming noise, it’s probably jammed. You can quickly fix it by inserting an allen key into the bottom of the disposal. Turn the allen key to get the blades moving.

[4:22] How do you unjam a garbage disposal?

If your garbage disposal is jammed, you’ll hear a humming noise, but the blades won’t spin. Simply insert a ¼ inch allen wrench into the bottom of the disposal (located beneath your sink). Turn the allen wrench to get the blades moving. If you have an electrical problem, find the red reset button on the bottom of your disposal, and press it to reset.  

How do I know which garbage disposal to buy? Two black garbage disposals sit in front of a sink. The one on the right of smaller. The one on the left is larger.

[6:50] How do I know which garbage disposal to buy?

When you’re looking to buy a garbage disposal, you’ll have to consider size and quality. Smaller disposals are less powerful, but they work for most homes. However, if you’re less careful about what you dispose of in the sink, you should opt for a larger model. When it comes to quality, consider how often you’d like to replace the unit. Higher-quality disposals last longer (7+ years).  

[7:38] How long does a garbage disposal last?

Lower-end garbage disposals last 2–4 years. (You should replace them every 3 years to avoid the trouble of a failing garbage disposal.) High-quality disposals usually last 7 years or more

[8:11] How do you know if your garbage disposal is going bad?

Your garbage disposal could be on its last legs if you notice any of the following:

1. It runs louder than normal
2. It jams frequently
3. It accumulates rust 
4. It runs inconsistently

Looking for a plumber in the Baltimore or D.C. area?

Our Howard County plumbing covers your most complex plumbing jobs.

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Are you closer to Washington D.C.? Connect with our Montgomery County plumbers.

Contact

Heil Plumbing Team

8177 Mission Rd Jessup, MD, 20794, United States

(410) 799-7727
https://heilplumbing.com

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