6 tips for caring for a garbage disposal

Garbage disposals are powerful, but they're not invincible. Here are six tips for keeping your garbage disposal clean.

6 tips for caring for a garbage disposal

1. Clean with ice cubes

  • Once a month, turn on your disposal and toss a tray of ice cubes in. It'll make a racket, all right, but the ice does a good job of cleaning the blades.
  • Next, run some cold water down the disposal, followed by a few lemon peels. Suddenly what used to be the murkiest, scariest part of your kitchen will smell fresh and clean.
  • Never use liquid drain cleaner in a garbage disposal!

2. Dealing with grease

  • Hot water softens grease — that's a bad thing. You want fatty foods to harden so that they'll grind up.
  • Strain grease into a glass jar instead. Once the jar is full, put it in the refrigerator overnight so the grease congeals, then toss the glass jar out in the trash.

3. Bones, shells and coffee grounds

  • Clam and oyster shells are too hard — toss those out into the trash.
  • Small bones (like those in fish fillets) are usually okay, but not chicken or meat bones.
  • Never throw coffee grounds down the disposal, either!

4. Preventing leaks

  • Where's your disposal unit most likely to leak? At the drainpipe and at the sink. Making sure that these screws are always tightened will keep discarded food in your pipes, not inside your kitchen cabinets.

5. Deodorizing

  • To deodorize a garbage disposal, pour 60 ml of borax down the drain, let it sit for 30 minutes, then flush with water for a few seconds while the disposal is on. (You can use the same treatment to freshen up smelly floor drains.)

6. If your garbage disposal won't start

  • Unplug the disposal. If you have a hardwired model, turn power off at the service panel.
  • Insert the Allen wrench that came with the disposer into the bottom centre hole on the machine, and rotate until it moves freely. (The wrench moves the disposal's central drive shaft.) If your disposal didn't come with a wrench, insert a wooden broomstick or plunger handle in the mouth of the disposal to move the blades. Never use your hands.
  • Pull food, fibres, or whatever else is jamming the works out of the disposal's maw with needle-nose pliers or tongs.
  • Reconnect power to the unit. If it doesn't power up, push the reset button (if there is one) on the underside of the disposal. Make sure the unit is cool to the touch before pressing reset; the motor can heat up if it is stuck or jammed.
  • If the disposal still doesn't start, repeat the steps at least twice before calling a service technician.
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