Follow These Steps to Keep Your Garbage Disposal Working

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Garbage disposals can be very convenient, plus help keep food waste out of landfills. But garbage disposals are often a mystery to homeowners. But while it might seem daunting, garbage disposal maintenance can actually be pretty simple.

Don’t leave food waste in the disposal more than a day

A garbage disposal has a tank that catches food waste and allows water to pass, collecting the food to be shredded and liquified. This chamber generally shouldn’t be left with food waste in it, though, because the food can dry out— making it harder to shred (and also causing a smell). Best practice is to run your disposal at least once a day, keeping the cold water running while you do it. (It’s important to use cold water, as hot water can make some foods more difficult to grind, causing clogs.)

Don’t put stringy or hard foods down the disposal

Avoid putting stringy foods down the disposal. As you might imagine, the strings can get wrapped around the mechanism, sometimes necessitating a repair. Stringy foods are hard on the inner workings of your disposal, so save the celery for the compost pile. Bones from meat are also known to jam the disposal and can cause the flywheel that drives the grinding mechanism to get stuck.

Clear garbage disposal jams

If stringy food or some other obstruction appears to be stopping your blades, start by turning off the appropriate power from your breaker box. Your disposal unit should have come with a wrench, and you can that to turn the flywheel clockwise. The flywheel will be located under your sink and have an opening for the wrench. In the likely case that you don’t have the wrench, you can usually find one at the hardware store—just bring the model number of your disposal or a picture of the underside of the unit, and get some help to figure out which wrench to buy. Once you get the flywheel freed, you can turn the power to your disposal back on and try running it. Remember that drain cleaners can damage your disposal’s tank, and a drain snake can get stuck in the mechanism.

Clean your disposal and use ice to sharpen the blades

Putting ice cubes down your garbage disposal once per month is a good way to keep the blades sharp, as well as keeping the tank from holding onto food particles stuck inside.

You should also clean your disposal once a month to keep it from clogging and keep the motor running well. Just add some coarse salt to your ice cubes and run the disposal for about a minute, then pour some white vinegar down the drain to follow. This will help break down greasy food waste and keep the trap from clogging. You can also use some baking soda with cold water and run the disposal for a minute. If you’re ambitious, you can remove the rubber guard on the sink drain and give that a good scrub as well, then fill the sink with warm, soapy water that you can run that through the unit.

Of course, don’t ever stick your hand in the disposal

If there’s food waste in your disposal that seems stuck and other methods don’t dislodge it, you can turn the power to the disposal off at the breaker and use a tool or a wooden spoon handle to dislodge it. Never, ever put your hand into the garbage disposal.

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