Ask any homeowner who has previously lived in an apartment, condo, or house without one: you don’t realize just how important and convenient a garbage disposal is until it’s missing. If your home has a garbage disposal, you might not give it much thought, but there’s actually a few easy steps that homeowners can do to keep their disposal’s blades sharp, smelling clean, and running great. In this article, we’ll review our top upkeep tips and outline a few of the warning signs that may indicate that your disposal needs to be replaced soon.
Make a habit of caring for your garbage disposal
If you want to keep your disposal unit operating effectively and smelling great, here are a few of our top maintenance and upkeep tips:
Watch what goes down the sink!
Yes, it’s called a garbage disposal, but that doesn’t mean you should treat it the same as you do your trash can. Here are some do’s-and-don’ts when it comes to disposing of things in the sink:
- Do: Dispose of small pieces of organic food waste, such as that left on a plate or pan after scraping into the trash.
- Don’t: Use the disposal to get rid of non-organic trash, such as plastic milk rings or produce stickers.
- Don’t: Put oils or grease down the drain. Grease is particularly dangerous, since it solidifies as it cools, and can do so deep in your pipes.
- Don’t: Dispose of food waste that expands in contact with water, such as rice or pasta. Also avoid putting hard organic materials down the sink, such as eggshells, hard-shell seeds, popcorn kernels, and more.
If you put any of the items from the latter three bullets down your drain, you may be putting your home at an increased risk of a sewer line blockage.
Sanitize the blades
Over time, you will start to notice that your garbage disposal, well, is starting to smell like garbage. As you disposal of food waste, some of that waste gets caught on the blades. This promotes the growth of odor-causing bacteria, which can lead to your sink smelling not-so-great.
One of the best ways to clean up your disposal is with citrus. Cut up a lemon into several smaller pieces. Running cold water from the tap, feed them into the disposal, rind and all. As the disposal grinds through the lemon peel and interior, the acidity of the citrus will help to clean the blades, while releasing a pleasant, fresh lemon scent throughout your kitchen.
If you’re finding that the DIY lemon trick above isn’t doing enough to clear odors from your disposal, check your local supermarket or hardware store for commercially available cleaning products that are specially formulated to sanitize your disposal. Either way, cleaning your disposal once per-month should make a major difference in how your kitchen smells!
Keep things sharp
You can also sharpen the blades of your disposal. This is important: dull disposal blades have difficulty tearing food waste into smaller pieces, which means the disposal is limited in how much waste it can dispose of at once. It may send larger bits of food waste down the pipes, which is far from ideal because of the sewer line blockage risk outlined above.
To sharpen the blades, run cold water. Take a cup of ice and dump it into the disposal along with some rock salt. As the disposal cuts through the ice and salt, it will sharpen the dull blades. By the way, some other DIY guides advocate for using egg shells to do the same thing, but you should avoid putting shells down your drain, as bits of shell can become lodged deep within the sewer line. The benefit of using ice, of course, is that any remaining at the end of this process will just melt away.
Watch out for signs of impending trouble
If you care for your garbage disposal, it should last you about a decade of regular use in your home. Near the end of that decade, you should be on the lookout for signs of a dying disposal, including:
- Slowing Motor: If the disposal sounds like it’s moving at half-speed, its motor could be going out. This typically occurs near the end of the lifespan of the system, and it most often means that the disposal unit needs to be replaced.
- Leaks: If your disposal is leaking water under your kitchen sink, that’s a sign that something has cracked or broken. The unit will need to be either repaired or replaced by a professional plumber. Don’t ignore small leaks—these tend to get worse as the disposal continues to be used.
Call Wagner for disposal service
At Wagner, we’re Albuquerque’s garbage disposal repair and replacement experts. If your disposal has stopped working, give us a call. Our plumbers can diagnose the problem and provide you with the next steps needed to return your kitchen back to normal.