Garbage disposals are made to chew through food and other debris to keep them from clogging your drain. However, sometimes your garbage disposal itself can become clogged, leading to potentially costly repairs. The best way to avoid having to unclog or even replace your garbage disposal prematurely is to ensure it never gets clogged in the first place. Here are 10 tips on how to prevent your garbage disposal from getting clogged.
1. Run it frequently
Even if you don’t use your garbage disposal to grind down large items, small bits of food particles will still find their way down into your disposal and sit there if you don’t run it. Over time, these small particles can cause your disposal to rust or corrode, not to mention create a decidedly unpleasant odor the next time you do decide to run it. To keep your disposal smelling fresh, you can regularly grind orange peels or drop in a Plink deodorizer every once in a while.
2. ALWAYS run the water with the garbage disposal
You should always run water while you are running the garbage disposal, but it’s also a good idea to run it for several seconds after you turn the disposal off as well. The running water helps flush the food particles through the pipes to ensure they are well on their way to a sewage treatment plant and not sitting in your pipes rotting once you have finished grinding them
3. Use cold water, not hot
Generally, it is not a good idea to pour fat or grease down a drain, but if you are washing out the remains of a greasy pot, pan or dish, it’s a good idea to use hot water. The hot water absorbs the fat more readily than cold water, which helps carry it through the drain rather than getting it clogged. In a garbage disposal, however, you want the disposal to grind up any fat into small particles that can travel through the drain. This means that when using a disposal, you want to use cold water rather than hot. Once you have finished grinding up greasy or fatty foods, it’s always a good idea to squirt a bit of dish soap into your disposal and run it for a minute with the water running. Not only will the dish soap help clean out your disposal, but it will also help remove any leftover greasy or fatty particles from the sides of your disposal.
4. Break up large chunks into smaller pieces
The strength of your garbage disposal is largely determined by the horsepower of the motor, but even the most powerful motor can only do so much. You can help keep your garbage disposal from getting clogged by breaking up or cutting any large items down into smaller chunks and feeding them through the garbage disposal a little at a time. Give plenty of time for water to run through after each feeding to ensure everything flows completely through the drain.
5. Never put plastic, glass, paper or metal in the disposal
Metal can break the teeth on the grinding mechanism, rendering your disposal useless and plastic can wind around gears to keep it from operating. Paper products, like paper towels are particularly problematic when wet. The small particles can work their way down into the gears and clog things up entirely. Glass can both damage your disposal and create a serious hazard, since small shards may fly out of the disposal. Eventually, you will drop something down the disposal you will need to fish out and leftover glass shards can make that dangerous.
6. Use a drain strainer
One of the most common issues for garbage disposals are not the things you intentionally put in it, but the things you don’t. Cutlery has a nasty way of sliding down into garbage disposal units and lodging there, unseen until the next time you try to use it. You can prevent this by using a drain strainer, which will allow water to pass down through the disposal but keep larger objects out until you are ready to use it.
7. Don’t pour oil or grease down the drain
Any time you wash a pot or pan that you’ve used oil or grease to cook in, there is going to be a bit of residual oil left over. This is fine, but you should never pour oil or grease directly down the drain. Oil and grease are both heavier than water and are not water soluble. This means that instead of allowing water to flush them through the drain, it will generally sit and build up in the drain itself, and eventually cause a clog.
8. Clean it regularly
Every few weeks, throw a handful of baking soda down the disposal and run some hot water after it for about a minute. While it is generally best to use cold water when grinding things in your disposal, you can run hot water to clean it. Baking soda is mildly abrasive and will get in all the nooks and crannies to clean out your disposal. Not only will baking soda help clean your disposal, it will also help keep it smelling fresher.
9. Prevent clogs with vinegar
Every few weeks, you can also pour a cup of vinegar down your disposal and let it sit for 30 minutes before turning it on and running water through it. Vinegar is mildly acidic and can break down any small food particles still lodged in your disposal.
10. If your drain is running slow, use both
Baking soda is great for cleaning and deodorizing your disposal, as is vinegar, but together they make a powerhouse combination. Sometimes, your drain may not be clogged, but it just starts draining more slowly. This generally means there is a slow buildup of accumulated particles somewhere, so you want to break them down and flush them out before they turn into an actual clog. Pour about a half cup of baking soda down your disposal and follow it with a cup of vinegar. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then flush with hot water for about two minutes. If your drain is still running slow, you can repeat the process.
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