Garbage disposals are a very common kitchen appliance these days, but they can have their issues. Many older units are noisy and woefully underpowered. If you inherited an older disposal with the purchase of your home it may have been abused as well, adding to your troubles. While garbage disposals are pretty simple machines to operate, there are some best practices and a few warnings. We’ll attempt to break the more important ones here.
Insinkerator recommends (for any disposal) that you run a steady stream of cold water starting before operation and continuing a few seconds after grinding is done to clear the pipes (listen for that change in tone of the grinder to indicate that it’s done). Using hot water can liquefy any fats contained in the food and leave deposits in your pipes as the water cools downstream. Most important is to avoid stuffing the disposal full before running. Like with any other tool “let the tool do the work”; forcing it will just cause problems and unnecessary wear and tear. Running a steady stream of water and feeding the disposal at a reasonable rate uses an insignificant amount of extra water and electricity but pays off down the road in trouble free operation.
We recommend that you avoid grinding highly fibrous items such as banana peels or celery, especially with older disposals as the fibers can cause jams. Coffee grounds and egg shells are another one we recommend staying away from as both can precipitate out of the water flow downstream and contribute to clogs. Use common sense when operating your disposal, they are designed to grind biodegradable foodstuffs, so heavy bones, non-food items and any kind of metal are a definite no- go if you want your disposal to live a long and happy life.
Our experience indicates that ¾ HP disposals offer the best bang for your buck, being only marginally more expensive than the ½ HP types which tend to be underpowered and more prone to jams. We also feel that the bigger, more powerful units also tend to be quieter, with the top tier disposals being surprisingly so.
Using citrus (lemon, lime, or orange) wedges to clean and deodorize your disposal is another common tip that is also recommended by Insinkerator. Just cut up your favorite fruit and drop the wedges in one by one while running the disposal with a steady stream of cool water. The coarse rinds will help clean the grinding surfaces while the juice deodorizes, leaving a clean disposal with a fresh scent. Good stuff. They also recommend peaches as an alternative to citrus along with the pit, the reasoning for including the pit being that it will clean debris from the grinding surfaces. We are more than happy to go along with Insinkerators tips for their own disposals, but we wouldn’t go so far as recommend dropping peach pits in a lesser machine! (although we do love the smell of peaches)
The Insinkerator website has more good information on the use and care of disposals; you can start here. Besides offering great tips, they dispel some myths too. They also have like good recipes and stuff. Just sayin’.
To sum up, a quality Garbage disposal can give you many years of trouble free service if you treat it well and take care of it. Few modern appliances require a lot of maintenance, but they all benefit from a little care. As always, we welcome your questions and comments.