Garbage Disposal Unit Tips

Sink with food scrapsThe garbage disposal that’s installed in your sink is meant to keep your sink more functional, since it clears out clogs from all the food debris that gets sent down there. However, sometimes the disposal itself causes problems. Here are some of the most common issues we see with garbage disposals and what you can do about them:

Bad Smell from the Garbage Disposal

Of course the garbage disposal will sometimes get smelly. After all, there’s always decomposing food getting sent down there. When things get stuck, you might experience unwelcome odors either from specific food items, or from a buildup of bacteria from food scraps. Luckily, this is usually an easy problem to fix.

  • In order to prevent: always run cold water when you run the garbage disposal. This helps grease and oil to solidify and join the rest of the food scraps instead of clinging to the blades and drain.
  • Run the garbage disposal regularly to keep things more clean and functional.
  • About every two weeks, toss in some ice cubes. The ice cubes move around and scrub the interior of the disposal. Ice can also help sharpen the blades to help the disposal be more efficient.
  • Slice up some lemons and/or limes and drop them into the garbage disposal. The oils and juices scrub the blades and have a natural freshening effect.
  • Create a mixture of vinegar and baking soda and pour it down the sink. It should make a fizzing sound, and perhaps create a foam that rises a little bit. This is good, as it allows you to get all the corners that you can’t by just having gravity on your side. Allow this mixture to sit there for a little while to loosen up all the gunk and food scraps that are in there. Follow it up with hot water. This is especially effective before you toss ice and/or lemons down the garbage disposal since the baking soda mixture soaks and loosens the grunge and then the ice or lemons will scrub.


Something Falls Down Sink

It’s essential that you take safety precautions before reaching down to rescue something like a spoon from the blades of the garbage disposal unit. It may seem like an easy save to reach down there, but accidents happen all the time, and it’s not worth your hand. Here are some precautions to protect you:

  • ALWAYS unplug and disconnect the unit before reaching in. Don’t just turn off the switch and call it good. You’ll need to disconnect the unit from underneath the sink, and you might also want to turn off the breaker associated with the garbage disposal switch.
  • Wear safety gloves if you need to reach.
  • If at all possible, use needlenose pliers, a bent wire hanger, or even skewers in order to rescue something from the garbage disposal.


The Garbage Disposal Won’t Start

Most of the time, if a garbage disposal unit isn’t working, it’s simply because something electrical got tripped up. Before calling in a professional, make a few checks yourself:

  • Take a look at the circuit breaker, see if there’s a tripped breaker, or a blown fuse.
  • Reset the garbage disposal motor by pushing the reset button. This is located under your sink, on the motor itself. Usually, it’s a red or black button, and all you have to do is push it.


General Tips to Keep the Disposal Running Well

  • Run your garbage disposal regularly. This helps prevent rust buildup and corrosion, and keeps all the parts lubricated and running smoothly together.
  • Avoid dumping grease down the sink.
  • DON’T put anything down there that isn’t food scraps. If it’s not biodegradable, it doesn’t belong, so no glass, plastic, not even paper.
  • Keep the disposal running and cold water running until a few seconds after you can hear that things are done being chopped and grinded.
  • Avoid putting anything expandable down there, like pasta and rice. They expand as they absorb water and are usually the cause of major clogs in your garbage disposal unit.
  • Be careful with potato peels. They’re much better off in the trash, since they contain starch which can gum up the gears.