5 Garbage Disposal Myths + Tips for Maintenance

The garbage disposal is an indispensable modern kitchen appliance that works to keep the drains from frequent clogging by cutting and slicing the food waste into smaller pieces utilizing its blades. Just like other home appliances, garbage disposals are prone to wearing down. Their actual lifespan depends largely on how well they are used and how regularly they are cared for, cleaned, and maintained. But serious issues can come up, or the unit can malfunction or suffer from early breakdown if you do not keep it healthy and treat it fairly.

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?
The common misconception is that a garbage disposal works like a blender, with spinning blades chopping and breaking down the waste. In reality, a garbage disposal works in an entirely different way and there are NO blades involved.
Instead, impellers, or lugs, mounted on a spinning plate use centrifugal force to continuously force food waste particles against a stationary grind ring. The grind ring breaks down the food waste into very fine particles, virtually liquefying them. After they are ground, the running water flushes the particles through the grind ring and out of the disposer and into your waste water pipe.
From there, it flows to a waste water treatment plant, or to your septic system.

How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last?
Garbage disposal should last up to 12 years. But, like any appliance, how you treat it determines whether it lives longer—or shorter—than the average lifespan.

3 Factors That Impact Your Garbage Disposal Lifespan
There are three things that can affect the lifespan of your garbage disposal.
What Is Put Down the Garbage Disposal
Regularly pouring greasy or fibrous items down the garbage disposal causes your motor and blades to wear down. This decreases the lifespan of your garbage disposal and leaves it more susceptible to clogging and breaking.
How Often the Garbage Disposal Is Used
The more you use your garbage disposal, the more the blades are working and wearing down.
The Quality of the Garbage Disposal You Are Using
Newer heavy duty garbage disposal models last longer than older models. Making the investment up front to purchase a quality unit will pay off in the long run.

Top 5 Garbage Disposal Myths That Can Hurt Its Lifespan
Here are the most popular myths about garbage disposals.

1. You Need to Sharpen Your Garbage Disposal
Though the average person pictures spinning blades, garbage disposals do not have blades. Instead, disposals use a system of small shredding impellers or teeth that spin at high speeds to grind up food waste.
Since a garbage disposal does not have blades, it automatically debunks the idea that you can sharpen the disposal’s blades by grinding up ice or egg shells. We are not sure who started this myth, but dumping ice down the grinder will only be a waste of water.
Still, there are pros and cons to this process. On the one hand, ice can knock off scraps of food waste stuck on the blades. This can be good to ensure no scraps are trapped on the blade, creating a stench in your kitchen. On the other hand, putting extra items down your garbage disposal will only wear it out faster. Placing shells down the disposal actually damages your garbage disposal. Egg shell membranes become entangled in the impellers and the ground up particles can easily create clogs in your pipes.

2. You Must Run Hot Water When Using the Garbage Disposal
In a perfect world, you won’t be putting any oils, grease, or fats down the drain. However, if it’s going to happen, it should happen with cold water. The cool water will keep the fats in their solid form. Hot water causes oils and fats to remain in liquid form, which allows them to flow easily down your drain. Once they cool down deeper in the pipes, the gunk from the fats and oils can create clogs deep in the plumbing. And a clog that far down will always require a professional plumber’s help.

3. Lemons Will Clean Your Garbage Disposal
If you ever notice a smell from your garbage disposal, you might find some articles online that encourage you to put lemon down there. Running lemons and limes through your garbage disposal can make your sink smell better, but it does not make your garbage disposal any cleaner. Even worse, the pleasant citrus scent can mask the foul odors that often warn you about a more serious problem with your plumbing.
Additionally, it might cause more problems than solutions as the citric acid from lemons can cause corrosion inside your metal pipes over time. As soon as you notice a stench from your garbage disposal that does not go away with water and a quick run cycle, call a plumber.

4. All Food Waste Is Safe to Put In Your Garbage Disposal
Garbage disposals can handle a lot of waste, but they do have limitations. Hard, solid waste such as egg shells, chicken bones, or fruit pits will break your disposal or wear down it down rapidly.
Stringy, fibrous foods like corn husks, celery, and banana peels can become entangled in the impellers and plug up the drain. Starchy materials like potato peels are often quite difficult for disposals to handle.
If you are unclear whether something can go down the disposal, it is best to be safe and put it in the trash instead. Most calls to the plumber for garbage disposal repairs are from people not understanding that their disposal is not a second trash chute. Despite the name, a garbage disposal should never be loaded with garbage.

5. You Cannot Use a Garbage Disposal If You Have a Septic System
Garbage disposals grind food scraps into a slurry that can easily be handled by your septic system. Food scraps decompose faster than other waste sent into the tank, and because food scraps are 75% to 90% water, they add very little to the solids that settle at the bottom. Studies show that septic systems attached to a garbage disposal do not require more frequent pumping than those that are not.

5 Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips to Extend Its Lifespan

1. Know What Not to Put Down Your Garbage Disposal
There are certain things that are a given when it comes to what should not go down your drain: metal and plastic items. However, there are several other things that should stay away from your disposal. Never pour fats, oils or grease down the drain. Although it may seem appropriate in its liquid form, the materials solidify once cooled and can cause a serious clog. Also do not send fibrous vegetables, like celery, down the drain either. Their skins can become tangled in the drain. Lastly, bones and pits should go in the trash, not the disposal. These items could cause the blades to break and result in a costly repair.
Here are some additional foods to avoid putting in your garbage disposal:
Popcorn kernels
Banana peels
Apple seeds
Celery stalks
Corn husks
Onion skins
Oils and fats

2. Know Proper Cleaning Techniques
Placing harmful chemicals down your drains can cause pipe problems over time. Try a natural cleaning solution such as baking soda and vinegar. This pulls up grime and sludge that you can then wipe away and dispose of.

3. Stick to a Consistent Cleaning Schedule
Your garbage disposal should be cleaned every two weeks or so depending on usage. Mark your calendar and schedule regular cleanings of your garbage disposal to ensure you not only leave behind that stinky smell, but you extend the life of your disposal as well.

4. Prevent Clogs in a Proactive Way
The easiest way to prevent clogging in your disposal is to keep the water running for about a minute after your garbage disposal has finished grinding waste. This helps to ensure that all the food has been flushed out of the drain pipes.

5. Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal Safely
Contrary to what you may have done in the past, sticking your hand down the disposal is not a good idea when you need to remove an object that has become lodged in your garbage disposal.
This is because sometimes the item lodged inside the disposal may have temporarily stopped the shredding blades, which means they may continue when you dislodge the object, potentially causing injury. When fixing a garbage disposal, try using pliers to dislodge the object instead. If that does not work, you may need to contact a professional plumber in your area.

Call the BEST Plumber for Drain Cleaning
Knowing the truth about your garbage disposal can help you to take the necessary steps to keep your unit in peak operating condition for years to come. In the event that your garbage disposal does breakdown or become clogged, hiring experienced plumbing professionals you can rely on is a good idea.
If you need help with your garbage disposal, sinks, or any other plumbing issue, call Best Plumbing Services at 951-788-1321 for professional drain cleaning methods. Located in Riverside, California we are family owned and operated with over 10 years of experience. We take pride in our service and expect each job to be completed as if it were our own home or business. Our Licensed Plumbers and Technicians will be professional, clean and polite.