Six Tips from Roto-Rooter on Maintaining a Kitchen Garbage Disposal

February 25, 2015

The kitchen garbage disposal can either be a curse or a blessing. Our Roto-Rooter plumbers are often asked questions about why it won't work and what can be done about it. Following are six commonly asked questions with answers that might help you keep your disposal working well.

What foods should I avoid putting in the disposal?

There are several things that should never be put in a garbage disposal. These include the following items:

  • Eggshells
  • Popcorn kernels, nuts, seeds, or other hard items
  • Onion skins, celery, or other fibrous foods
  • Potato peelings, pasta, rice, and all starchy products
  • Little bits of metal, glass, or plastic
  • Grease

Why can't I put grease down the disposer?

Although the disposer may break grease into small pieces it doesn't solve the problem with grease. Liquid grease solidifies when it cools down. The small pieces can clump together and form a tough clog farther down the drain. In addition, both liquid oil and fat can accumulate on the interior walls of the pipes. Over time, the greasy sludge can build up until it is large enough to snag debris and block the opening of the pipe.

How can I sharpen the disposer blades?

First off, you don't really "sharpen" garbage disposal blades. The reason they quit working effectively is because bits of food and grime can build up in the grooves of the appliance. Cleaning the blades will help them work better. Grinding up ice cubes or citrus fruit peelings (cut into small pieces) is an effective way to clean the blades.

What makes my disposer smell?

Tiny bits of food often remain in the grooves and cracks of the appliance. As the food decays it emits an odor. As mentioned above, you can clean the disposer by grinding up lemon, lime, or orange peelings. Ice cubes work well, too. Another method is to pour baking soda down the drain and pour vinegar on top of it. The safe chemical reaction helps to loosen grime and sludge that have built up. Then they can be flushed down the drain.

Can drain cleaners harm the disposal?

Toxic drain cleaners are hard on both your pipes and your appliance. If you want to use a drain cleaner, we recommend using an environmentally safe one such as Pipe Shield®, which you can get from one of our Roto-Rooter plumbers.

Will hot water clean my drain?

Pouring boiling hot water down a drain does help loosen grime and wash it away. It is a good practice to pour the hot water down most drains once a week. However, because the hot water is hard on the rubber parts of the disposer, you might want to pour it down the disposal drain less often.


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