Garbage Disposal DOs and Don’ts

What do you do when you find an old, smelly container of leftover soup in the back of the refrigerator? If you have a garbage disposal, it is easy to dump wet, smelly food into the sink and get rid of it quick. Without a garbage disposal, you’ll have to strain the food (yuck) or risk a clogged drain (annoying.) It is easy to get used to the convenience of a garbage disposal. If it has been a while since you had a garbage disposal, are installing a new one, need a maintenance tutorial, or simply want to know how to clean a garbage disposal, we’ll give you our top do’s and don’ts of garbage disposal plumbing. Properly caring for your garbage disposal can prevent problems like odors or the garbage disposal not draining.

What You Can and Cannot Put in the Garbage Disposal

The truth about what you can put down the garbage disposal is that it depends on what garbage disposal you have. Modern, high-end garbage disposals can grind more types of food then basic or older garbage disposals. Most cities’ plumbing systems are not built to handle large amounts of food waste. Just because a garbage disposal can grind something does not mean that your home’s plumbing can handle it or that your cities’ waste system can process whatever you send down the drain. With that being said, there are some things that should never be put down any garbage disposal. When the garbage disposal is clogged, it is not usually the garbage disposal itself but the pipes that are clogged from accumulated grease and food sludge.

Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts

How to clean a garbage disposal


  • Follow the manufacture’s instructions. Each garbage disposal is different.
  • Have your garbage disposal professionally installed to avoid problems. Garbage disposal plumbing is not particularly complicated, but it is important to do it right and make sure the garbage disposal is hooked up to the plumbing and dishwasher correctly.
  • Turn off the disposal and use tongs to when retrieving items that have fallen into the garbage disposal.
  • Teach children garbage disposal safety.
  • Make sure you understand how to clean the garbage disposal and clean your garbage disposal regularly to prevent odors.
  • Run cold water when running the garbage disposal, this will help fats coagulate so they can be ground instead of stickling to pipes further down.
  • Check the disposal for fallen items like spoons, bottle caps, jewelry, and other small things before running the disposal.
  • Grind lemon and other citrus peals to give your kitchen a fresh, clean scent.

garbage disposal plumbing - Bleach Don't


  • Put your hand in the garbage disposal to retrieve fallen items. Turn off the disposal and use tings to retrieve any fallen items
  • Pour grease or other fats down the disposal.
  • Grind anything other then food scraps.
  • Put anything metal, wood, sponges, or glass in the disposal.
  • Dispose of cigarette buts in the garbage disposal, thrown in the trash instead.
  • Use the garbage disposal as a trash can, it is for food scraps, not large amounts of food.
  • Grind with hot water, it causes grease clogs. Use cold water instead.
  • Pour bleach or drain cleaner down the disposal, both can damage plumbing.
  • Put coffee grounds in garbage disposals. Coffee grounds will not harm the garbage disposal, but can accumulate in your plumbing.
  • Put excessive amounts of pasta, rice, potatoes, potato peals, or other starchy foods down the garbage disposal. Just like the coffee grounds, they won’t harm the garbage disposal but can build up in your home’s pipes and cause clogs.
  • Fibrous items like eggshells, celery, and banana peels are borderline. A small piece of celery is not likely to jam your garbage disposal, but several stalks of celery or a banana peel can jam the disposal. The fibrous stands get wrapped around the blades and stop them from working. When in doubt, toss it in the garbage and not down your sink.


How To Clean Garbage Disposals

Good news! You do not need a special garbage disposal cleaner. You can keep your kitchen’s garbage disposal clean and fresh with natural items you already have in your home. Three of the best ways to clean your garbage disposal:

  1. Ice and Salt- throw 3-4 ice ices in the garbage disposal with rock salt. Run cold water and grind. The rough texture of the ice and salt helps loosen oil and grime from the garbage disposal.
  2. Baking Soda and Vinegar- Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the garbage disposal. You can use a rubber spatula to push it trough the opening. Pour 1 cup of vinegar down the disposal and enjoy your homemade cleaning volcano.
  3. Flush- Put a stopper in the sink drain. Fill the sink ¼ full of water and ad a small amount of dish soap. Remove the stopper and turn on the garbage disposal to thoroughly flush your garbage disposal and pipes.

Once your garbage disposal is clean, you can freshen it and make your kitchen smell great by grinding lemon, line, orange, or grapefruit peels.

Typical Problems

When garbage disposals are installed and used correctly, they are typically worry free appliances. An improperly installed garbage disposal can leak, clog, cause cause foul odors or result in the garbage disposal not draining. If you garbage disposal is leaking, call a plumber. If the garbage disposal is not turning on, check to see if it is unplugged. Otherwise, it might just need to be reset. Most garbage disposals have a red or black reset bottom on the bottom of the unit. If the button is popped, simply reset it.

While this seems like a lot of information, modern, high quality garbage disposals are generally easy to operate and trouble free. Garbage disposal make cleanup a breeze and keep you from having to handle nasty food scraps. With professional installation and a little time and attention, your garbage disposal can operate worry free. If you do need help and your garbage disposal is clogged, the friendly plumbers at Benjamin Franklin Bay Area are always ready to help.