Let’s be honest: A clogged garbage disposal is just ewwww. First, there’s the mystery smell. Then there’s the inconvenience of a slow-draining sink, complete with bits and pieces of yesterday’s breakfast floating around in there. Gross.
Garbage disposals back up for plenty of reasons—including these top three.
File this problem under “things they should have taught us before we became adults but didn’t because, instead, they wanted to see how fast we could run a mile.”
Way too many homeowners use their garbage disposals as a replacement for their trash cans, putting everything and anything down that poor drain. But there are definitely some things you should never, ever expect your disposal to deal with:
The problem isn’t necessarily that these things will hurt your disposal. The problem is how these food items react to water after they’re ground up. If poorly ground-up or sludgy food waste is left over time, it will eventually clog up your disposal completely.
Another way you might be misusing your disposal is not using enough water. Without sufficient water to flush the ground-up food through your pipes, the waste will build up and cause a blockage. Keep a decent flow of cold water running for a few seconds before and after putting your food scraps down the drain.
And this should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Don’t put non-food items down your disposal. Ever.
If you put the wrong things down your drain or don’t keep up with regular maintenance, your disposal “blades” might just be too dull to do the trick. Once a month, grind up a handful of ice cubes. This can help keep them in tip-top shape.
For those who are curious, we put “blades” in quotation marks, because garbage disposals don’t really have blades; they have impellers. The impellers aren’t particularly sharp… until they spin really fast. (Here’s another “it goes without saying”: Never put your hands inside a disposal when it’s turned on. In fact, it’s best to keep your appendages out of it altogether—running or not.)
Garbage disposals aren’t invincible to typical wear and tear. Eventually, the impellers will wear down too far or the motor will burn out. In general, you should expect your disposal to last anywhere from eight to 15 years. But you may be looking at a replacement in three to five years if your disposal isn’t properly used and maintained.
If your garbage disposal won’t turn on at all, make sure it’s plugged in first. If it is, press the reset button on the bottom of the unit under your sink. Sometimes, a circuit trips and a quick press of a button can solve the problem.
Finally, if your garbage disposal seems to be working just fine, but your sink is slow-draining or you’re constantly running for the plunger, your problem might have nothing to do with the disposal. We’re happy to help you figure out what’s up.
It’s time to call a plumber. We don’t recommend tearing apart your disposal because we don’t want you to do permanent and expensive damage. We’re Pittsburg’s most-trusted plumbers, and we can handle whatever your disposal wants to throw at us. (Hopefully not literally.) Give us a call!