When your garbage disposal is running correctly, it keeps your kitchen smelling fresh and reduces how much food waste you needlessly send to the landfill. It's a win-win! But if you avoid performing garbage disposal maintenance regularly, your disposal might be displeased. To avoid premature breakdowns or clogging, follow these garbage disposal care and maintenance guidelines.
Always follow these usage tips:
- Don’t put starchy, spongy, greasy, or hard things down the drain. Grease builds up on pipes and could lead to an unwanted, expensive plumbing bill. Instead of putting oily foods and grease down the drain, wait for it to cool down before throwing it in the trash on top of paper towels. Check out our list of other items to avoid putting in your garbage disposal.
- Always grind food gradually with cold water. Before putting food scraps into the garbage disposal unit, break them into small pieces. Run cold water while the disposal is on, grind a few pieces of food at a time, and keep the water running for a few seconds after you turn the disposal off.
- Grind ice cubes monthly. Grinding up some ice cubes in the garbage disposal every month will help keep the blades sharp without damaging them. As usual, run cold water while you grind the cubes. This is an easy but effective part of proper garbage disposal care and maintenance.
- Run the unit at least once every few days. Running the unit every few days will keep it clear. Simply turn on your tap to full power and run your garbage disposal (with no food in it) for about 30 seconds.
Make cleaning a part of your garbage disposal maintenance routine:
- Clean the disposal weekly. First, put a half cup of baking soda down the garbage disposal. Leave it for at least 15 minutes to absorb the nasty smells. Then pour vinegar into the disposal, and let it fizz for a few minutes. Rinse the disposal unit with cold tap water, and turn it on to clear out the cleaning mixture.
- Freshen with citrus—but not the peels. You may have heard that you should put lemons or limes into the garbage disposal. It’s true that citrus can make the disposal unit smell great, but you must cut the fruit into quarters and remove the peel first. Use a spoon to press some citrus juice into the drain. Then put the pieces of fruit into the garbage disposal and run it.
- Clean the drain flaps often. The plastic seal and flaps around the drain can collect small pieces of food and get moldy. Clean that area every few days with dish soap and a sponge.
- You can find even more garbage disposal cleaning tips from our friends at Mr. Rooter® Plumbing.
If the garbage disposal stops working, try these potential fixes:
- Reset the garbage disposal. If your unit won’t turn on, it may need to be reset. To do this, make sure the disposal switch is in the off position. Press the Reset button, which you can find on the bottom or side of the garbage disposal under your sink. If the button stays pressed in, turn on a stream of cold water and turn the disposal switch on. We have more details about resetting a garbage disposal here.
- Clear a clog. If the Reset button doesn’t fix your garbage disposal problem, there may be a clog. Turn off the unit and unplug it. Then follow our instructions for unclogging a garbage disposal.