How To Prevent Common Garbage Disposal Issues
It’s been a long week, and the last thing you need is to keep smelling whatever is jamming up your garbage disposal. Leaving you thinking, wouldn’t it be easier if I knew how to prevent common garbage disposal issues in the first place? Your garbage disposal does quite a bit for you, from supporting the environment to reducing kitchen odors to saving time.
While garbage disposals are excellent appliances and kitchen tools, they are not invincible. When yours breaks down, you are sure to know soon after. To prevent garbage disposal breakdowns, let’s discuss how to avoid common garbage disposal issues from the start!
The Cardinal Rule of Garbage Disposal Repair
Before we begin, we need to share the critical garbage disposal rule with you. Maybe you’re considering reaching your hand in and fishing around for whatever is going on down there. While the horrible image of severed fingers and hands from vicious garbage disposal blades is not entirely true, you shouldn’t take them lightly. It is possible to be painfully injured if you don’t practice basic safety measures concerning your garbage disposal.
Before you read any further, you should hear the cardinal rule of garbage disposals: Never put your fingers or hands down into the disposal, even if you think the disposal is not plugged in or its circuit is off. In the spirit of not scaring you completely, if a disposal gets turned on accidentally, the result is often bruised fingers, not bloody amputation. However, why take the unnecessary risk?
What is a Garbage Disposal?
Let’s be honest; no one taught us exactly what a garbage disposal is or how it works. But, we all know the basics; there is a switch, we throw things down the hole, and turn on the loud “slicer.” The result is no more food. Taking a slightly more technical look at it, a garbage disposal, also called a garburator, sits on the underside of your sink and collects solid food waste in a grinding chamber. Then, it shreds the food and waste into small enough pieces to easily pass through your plumbing.
While garbage disposal issues can pose a complicated problem, most of the time, the cause is due to neglecting to perform routine maintenance and overestimating its abilities.
Items to Never Put Down Your Garbage Disposal
- Large Amounts of Rice and Pasta
They both absorb water and expand
- Eggshells and Coffee Grinds
Eggshells and coffee grinds create very tiny bits of granular waste that will stick to any sludge in the pipe and quickly make a clog.
- Large Quantities of Food
- Fruit Peels
- Fats and Oils
- Starchy/Stringy Vegetables
- Fruit Pits
- Large Bones
- Non-Food Items
Garbage Disposal Maintenance
1. Clean Your Garbage Disposal Every Two Weeks
First, fill your garbage disposal with ice cubes and a cup of rock salt, then run it for a minute allowing the abrasive salt and ice to scrape away any gunk lining the inside of the disposal. Next, pour a cup of vinegar combined with a half-cup of baking soda into the disposal. This combination kills any bacteria. Finally, turn the power off and scrub the flaps with an old toothbrush.
2. Remove Odors
Using citrus fruit is a great way to keep nasty odors from rising out of your garbage disposal unit. First, take a lemon or orange peel. Next, put it in the garbage disposal, and turn it on for 5-10 seconds. Finally, turn off the disposal, turn the power off, and remove the peel. Another option is to cut up 2-3 lemons and pour warm (not hot) water into your garbage disposal as it grinds them up. The wedges are high in citric acid. Citric acid is a wonderful natural anti-bacterial, and the peels will scrub on the way down—an all-natural remedy!
3. Always Use Cold Water
Always use a steady flow of cold water during use. In addition, always keep the stream of water going for approximately 15 seconds after the blades stop grinding. This ensures that the food washes all the way through the system. It also keeps the unit from overheating. Finally, never run hot water down your garbage disposal unit when it is in use. Hot water can cause fat to stick to the blades and interior.
Yeah, It’s Too Late For Maintenance… It’s Broken
1. The Unit Won’t Turn On
If the disposal won’t turn on after flipping the switch and the motor is not humming, there is most likely an electrical problem. While this might sound obvious, ensure the unit plug is securely in the electrical socket. If it is, then press the unit’s reset button. Most people refer to the circuit breaker on the bottom of the unit as the “reset button.” If this doesn’t work, ensure the outlet reset button wasn’t accidentally pushed. Next, check to see if the main circuit breaker has tripped. If none of these solutions fix your problem, chances are you need to repair or replace the unit as it burnt out and beyond repair.
2. Slow Draining
If your garbage disposal is taking forever and a day or simply taking longer than usual to break down food, chances are the blades are very dull, or there is a clog further down in your pipe’s plumbing. If this is the case, the optimal option is to call a plumber to inspect your pipes and sharpen or replace the disposal’s blades. An easy DIY fix is to remove the drain trap and manually remove the clog. You can also try combining warm water, vinegar, and baking soda to dissolve the clog naturally. But, again, if this does not solve the problem, you should call your trusted local plumber.
You should never, ever use a chemical-based drain cleaner in your garbage disposal. These chemicals rarely work and leave you with a sink full of toxic, dangerous chemicals. In addition, they often damage the disposal and void the manufacturer’s warranty.
3. We’ve Got Jammed
If your garbage disposal makes an interesting humming noise when you turn it on, you might have something jamming the blades. The inner flywheel is likely stuck. Like clogs, jams usually occur when too much food waste or the wrong type of food waste goes down the disposal drain.
Unfortunately, when a disposal jams, it usually trips the onboard circuit breaker, which prevents the blades from spinning, resulting in the motor overworking and burning out. So first, cut off power to the garbage disposal quickly to prevent this from happening.
Second, turn the unit off completely by turning it off at the breaker box. Then, shine a flashlight down into the garbage disposal opening to see if you can see whatever is clogging the disposal. If you can see what is causing the jam, use pliers to reach down and remove it.
If you can’t see anything, you can take a wooden spoon or similar item to reach down into the disposal through the drain opening. Use the wooden spoon like a lever to free the stuck flywheel. If you’re successful, you’ll feel the flywheel begin to turn freely.
Another option is to grab the offset wrench (it came with the disposal unit). If you don’t know where the wrench ended up, most hardware stores that sell garbage disposals have them. In addition, a large Allen (hex) wrench may also work. Put the wrench into the flywheel turning hole. You can find the turning hole at the unit’s bottom. The flywheel turning hole is a hex-shaped opening at the bottom of the disposal unit. Turn the wrench back and forth to help dislodge whatever is blocking the flywheel. When it dislodges, the flywheel will again turn freely.
The best way to prevent a jam from happening in the future is to be careful about what you put down your disposal. Refer to our list above!
Leaking from your garbage disposal is no little problem. If left unaddressed, it can cause water damage leading to ruined cabinetry, mold growth, pest infestations, and nasty smells. There are several areas a garbage disposal can leak from, including the plumbing connections, drainage hose, and even the unit’s outer casing. In addition, a disposal can leak if a heavy object falls into it and cracks the casing.
Typically, a leak indicates something as simple as an O-ring needs replacing, a putty sealing around the disposal needs refreshing, or a part needs tightening. However, sometimes it indicates an improper connection with the dishwasher or drain pipe. It really boils down to where the leak is originating. If the leak is from the sink flange or somewhere else, you may need a more costly and complicated leak repair.
However, garbage disposals typically last 10-15 years. So if your disposal is reaching its tenth birthday and is leaking, chances are it is near to the end of its life, and a replacement is the way to go.
Did We Fix It?
Hopefully, the above tips helped you solve your garbage disposal problems or taught you how to prevent common garbage disposal issues in the first place. However, we know that sometimes you might need a little help from a professional. If that’s the case, call Cam Plumbing today and see how we can help! Maybe you wonder why to choose us? We could give you an extensive list of reasons, from our years of experience to our commitment to excellent customer service to our financing options. However, let’s just let our past customers speak for us! As always, our team is ready to help you flush your plumbing problems away!