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Proper Care and Feeding For Your Garage Disposal

The modern American kitchen is equipped with a number of bells and whistles to make our daily lives easier. Chief among them is the garbage disposal, an efficient way to, well, dispose of uneaten food. Unlike larger appliances such as the dishwasher or refrigerator, the humble garbage disposal is hidden from sight and tends to get overlooked when it comes to care and maintenance. Luckily, it won’t need much of the latter unless you neglect the former. San Marcos plumbing experts recommend the following tips for keeping your disposal in proper working order.

A few things you definitely should be doing in order to keep your disposal happy:

  • Run it regularly. Even if you don’t have food to get rid of, turn your disposal on for a minute every few days. This keeps all the parts moving smoothly and prevents corrosion or rust from building up. It also gets rid of any food scraps left in the disposal from the last time you used it. If left to their own devices, these can harden and form a clog.
  • Run it longer. Once you’ve finished grinding leftover food, wait at least 15 seconds before turning the disposal off. This also helps ensure that all the food has moved through the disposal and isn’t hanging around inside it.
  • Keep it cold. Using cold water when running the disposal solidifies any grease or oils. This may seem counterintuitive, but it actually allows those oils to be chopped up by the disposal blades before they reach (and potentially clog) the trap.
  • Keep it clean. Clean your disposal regularly by running it for a few minutes with cold water and a little dish soap. Alternatively, freeze vinegar into ice cubes and drop a few into the disposal while it’s running. The ice cubes will keep the blades sharp, and the vinegar will help kill bacteria. You can also occasionally toss in a citrus peel to eliminate odors.

And a few things to never do with your garbage disposal:

  • Don’t put anything in your disposal that isn’t food. That’s what your trash can is for.
  • Certain foods are also off limits. Starchy potato peels can build up a sticky paste that impedes the disposal’s blades. Foods like pasta and rice that expand in water also expand inside your disposal, leading to potential clogs. Fibrous materials like celery, corn husks, and onion skins can tangle in the blades. Small bones, such as chicken or fish bones, are fine, but large animal bones can dull the blades and/or jam the disposal. Finally, coffee grounds can accumulate and cause clogs in pipes and drains.
  • Don’t overdo it. Cut large amounts of food into smaller pieces and feed them into the disposal a little at a time to avoid jamming or breaking the disposal.
  • Don’t use harsh chemicals as cleaners. These can damage the blades and pipes. See above for cleaning recs.

If, despite following the instructions above, you still find yourself with a clogged sink or broken disposal, take great caution when trying to fix it yourself. Never reach your bare hand into the disposal to retrieve a fallen object (use needle-nose pliers, a coat hanger, chopsticks, basically anything else). And for major disposal issues, call in your San Marcos plumbing professional to assess and fix the problem, so that you can quickly return to peak kitchen efficiency.

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