Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips

Garbage disposals are often the unsung heroes of the household. These electrically powered wonders grind food scraps until they are small enough to go down the drain. They can make life a little easier by reducing the solid waste and garbage you haul out to the curb. They can also help keep your kitchen smelling fresh and clean.

With a little routine maintenance and care, your garbage disposal will serve you for years. Follow these garbage disposal maintenance tips to help keep your kitchen appliance running strong.

1. Perform Routine Maintenance

Regular garbage disposal maintenance includes periodically sharpening the blades, and descaling and cleaning the unit. These chores are surprisingly easy!

You can clean and sharpen the blades by dropping a few ice cubes down the drain, grinding them, and flushing the disposal with cold water. This can also help remove buildup. To further clean and descale the unit, pour a cup of vinegar in, let it sit for an hour or so, and then flush it with hot water. Avoid using harsh chemicals to clean the disposal as they may damage key components. You only need to perform this procedure about once a year.

If odors are coming out of your garbage disposal, try grinding up some lemon wedges. A common practice is to keep and freeze any spent lemons you use for cooking or other purposes. Whenever you feel your garbage disposal needs a freshening, grind some of the frozen lemon wedges in the disposal.

2. Use Plenty of Cold Water

Your garbage disposal maintenance should include running cold water through it during operation. Turn on the water before starting your disposal and keep the water running several seconds after you turn off the disposal. This helps the particles flow easily through the pipes. Avoid using hot water while operating the disposal as that can cause grease to separate and coat the drain.

3. Don’t Overfill the Disposal

Your garbage disposal is only so powerful so be careful not to overexert it. Putting too much in the garbage disposal at one time can potentially jam up the disposal and cause a lot of stress on the blades and motor. If you have a large amount of stuff you want to run through the disposal, take your time and put the items in little by little.

4. Run Your Garbage Disposal Regularly

This might seem like an unusual garbage disposal maintenance tip but remember to use it regularly. Don’t let waste build up in the garbage disposal leading to unpleasant odors. Additionally, residue from dishwasher soap can cause build-up. Regularly using the disposal should help to get rid of residue.

5. Flush Your Garbage Disposal

One common practice for garbage disposal maintenance is flushing the disposal. Cover the drain with a stopper and fill the sink with cold water. Once filled, pull the stopper out and let the water drain down. This may help loosen any stubborn particles that can cause jams in the disposal.

6. Safely Fix Jams and Clogs

It is never safe to put your hands in the disposal! If something gets stuck in the blades, turn the disposal off and use the supplied manufacturer's tool or a long wooden spoon handle for removal. You may have to push a reset button. Refer to your user manual for the proper removal of unwanted items from the disposal and for a resetting process.

If there’s a clog, remember that they usually occur below the disposal. If you feel confident in drain repairs, try disassembling the drainpipes underneath the sink to see if you can find the clog and remove it. The drainpipes are usually hand-tight and don’t typically require tools to loosen. Since there is a clog, there may be a good amount of water or other liquids backed up in the system. Keep a bucket and some rags handy to catch excess water and waste.

7. Use Your Disposal Selectively

Get familiar with what you can grind safely in your disposal. Your user manual provides the details for your specific model, but here are some general garbage disposal maintenance guidelines:

  • Potato peels and fibrous foods like celery, onions, eggshells, corn husks, banana peels, and asparagus can clog your drain and disposal, so it's best to put them in the trash or compost.
  • Bones can damage the blades. Fine bones—like fish bones—can be put in the disposal, but larger bones should be put in the trash bin.
  • Hard seeds should be cut up into small pieces rather than ground up. These ground-up pieces could get wedged into various parts of the garbage disposal and cause jams.
  • Do not put coffee grounds into the disposal. These can collect in the pipe and cause a clog.
  • Avoid pouring cooking oil or fats down your drain. Grease can solidify and clog your pipes.

Again, always run cold water before, during, and after activating the disposal. The flow of water helps flush food particles down the drain.

If Your Garbage Disposal Stops Working

As with all systems or appliances, if your disposal stops working and a jam or clog isn't the culprit, check for the reset button. You can also check your home for blown fuses, tripped circuit breakers, and power outages. If you still can’t pinpoint the problem, it may be time to call in a professional or consider getting a new garbage disposal.

HWA Can Help

A functioning garbage disposal is a great luxury and simple to maintain. We hope these garbage disposal maintenance tips help you get the most out of your disposal. For more information on how we can help and to learn more about what a home warranty is, contact us at 1-888-492-7359.

HWA Has You Covered

A home warranty from HWA protects your budget and your peace of mind against the unexpected expenses of inevitable home repairs. Whether you're buying, selling, or already in your home, we have a plan to fit your needs!

View Plans