Garbage Disposal Myths + Tips for Maintenance

For a long time now, garbage disposal units have been seen as a must-have item in new-build homes. They are a convenience akin to dishwashers that should make household chores so much easier and add value to a kitchen. The problem is that many people mistreat their units based on popular myths, and the dream turns into a nightmare.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to go over some of the most common myths about garbage disposal units. There are many misconceptions about these devices that aren’t good for their longevity in the kitchen or their reputation. These systems should be beneficial tools that help us efficiently deal with food waste. However, as soon as we misuse them and listen to these myths, we run the risk of making things a whole lot worse.

Suddenly we find ourselves cursing at clogged-up systems and wishing we’d never installed one. Because of this, we’re also going to go over some helpful cleaning and maintenance tips. The hope is that this new appreciation for garbage disposal units will lead to a better relationship that lasts for years to come. Let’s start with those common myths.

7 Common Myths About Garbage Disposal Units.

1) Garbage disposal systems have large blades that can handle anything.

Two problems with this statement go a long way to explaining why so many people experience garbage disposal issues. First of all, there aren’t blades. This misconception comes from popular tropes in sitcoms and cartoons where people joke about losing their hands in the garbage disposal. The assumption is that this is because of the sharp spinning blade cutting everything up.

The reality is that there is a much smaller series of tooth-like cutting tools that are more like a grater than a blade. This makes sense for handling small pieces of waste and making sure they become as minuscule as possible.

Then there is that idea that these blades can handle anything that comes their way. This isn’t the case at all. Again, cartoons show characters disposing of comically large items of all kinds this way, but a real unit isn’t that tough. It is going to struggle with:

– anything too large, like big pieces of banana peel

– anything too hard, like bones

– anything too starchy this is going to leave a sludgy mess, like bread and pasta

– anything too fibrous that will get caught up, like vegetable stalks

This all means that it is best to put the majority of food scraps in the bin and let the disposal unit grind up the smaller remains.

2) It is easy to sharpen these blades with eggshells and ice cubes.

Well, skipping over the fact that we now know that they aren’t blades at all and are teeth, this still doesn’t work. The notion is that hard items will grind against the edge of the cutting tools and act as sharpeners. In turn, this will prolong the efficiency of the system. The problem is that there is a great risk of small pieces of shell getting caught in the teeth, which leads to the complete opposite effect. Ice cubes aren’t going to work any better.

3) You have to run hot water while using the garbage disposal unit.

This one has been passed around for years but there isn’t any benefit in doing so. The idea behind it is that the heat will help soften grease and break up food more easily than cold water. That isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, many experts in these systems actually recommend using cold water so that the fat can cool into lumps and get broken down into smaller particles. It is less harmful as solid waste than liquid. The important thing is that you use water when running the system as the pressure helps push waste out of the shredder and through the system, allowing for less build-up over time.

4) There’s nothing wrong with pouring grease down there.

Some people assume that because they now can handle food scraps in their sink, they can get away with putting grease and fat down there. Besides, if we have this hack with cold water to break up those clogs, what’s the problem? Well, you still don’t want those fats making their way down into your plumbing and causing blockages. You also don’t want to add to any major fatbergs developing underneath your neighborhood.

5) You can have a full sink of dishes while running the disposal system.

To be honest, this one is a little bit of a gray area, but we wanted to talk about the risks involved here. You can still have plates, mugs, and other items in your sink while running the machine. There shouldn’t be any problems as long as the cold water is still free to run into the system with the food waste. The danger comes with small items that could get trapped down there, such as silverware. You don’t want a fork getting caught up in that ferocious little shredder.

6) Coffee grounds and lemons will keep it clean enough.

There are far too many blogs about housekeeping out there that perpetuate this myth about lemons. There is logic behind this one, in that lemons are fresh and clean and great for hiding bad odors. The problem is that this might be all those lemon slices do. You could send a wedge down there, push out some large particles, and leave behind that citrus scent. But you might also end up with some lemon stuck onto stubborn grime and a different kind of blockage. On top of that, regular use of lemons adds acidity that can become corrosive with time.

The important thing to remember here is that we shouldn’t try and clean out food waste with more food items. It will be ineffective. The same goes for coffee grounds. It makes sense, in theory, to flush these down there and let the grounds push out the grime, but it can easily block pipes and lead to drainage issues. We’ll talk more about what you can use later.

7) These systems are really bad for the environment.

This is an interesting one, especially in the current climate where we’re trying to lower any excessive use of energy, water, and waste food. While these devices do require electricity, it isn’t an excessive amount when we consider how long the device is in operation.

Any energy usage here is offset by the benefits of reducing harmful waste entering our water pipes and waterways. We are actually reducing food waste and limiting the amount of solid waste going to landfills. Also, they don’t require that much water if you are careful about how long you keep the water running during their use.

How To Keep Your Garbage Disposal In Good Condition.

Now you know what not to do, so you can keep your garbage disposal unit in the best possible condition, but you still need to learn how to take care of it. Regular cleaning and maintenance are essential with these systems, just like any other piece of vital machinery in your kitchen.

– If you leave it too long and let food particles fester down there, you could end up with some nasty clogs, smells, and hygiene issues.

– If you don’t fix problems as soon as they happen, they could become so bad that you end up with something unrepairable.

So, it helps to know how to clean your garbage disposal unit, how to handle repairs, and when to call in the experts. Here are some top garbage disposal maintenance tips to get you started.

1) Turn the device off completely first.

Many people will shrug this off and say it isn’t worth it as long as no one presses the switch. However, it is better to be safe than sorry. It is easy to assume that a clogged unit is safe to handle, only for the teeth to start moving once you dislodge something. It isn’t worth the risk of injury. Turn it off at the main switch, clean it all out, and don’t switch it back on until all fingers and cleaning utensils are out of the way.

2) Use the right cleaning agents to protect your pipes and mechanisms.

In the myths above, we looked at what you can’t use to clean your garbage disposal in terms of food products. There is more to it than just avoiding these so-called “hacks”. You also want to be careful not to use anything too harsh, such as extreme drain cleaners or bleach. It is easy to fall into this trap because it seems like the best way to really push all the blockages out and kill any germs. However, you do run the risk of damaging the unit with long-term use.

Instead, you want to use something a lot gentler that is as effective for breaking up dirt and dealing with germs and odor. Think back to your days of science experiments and that brilliant reaction between vinegar and baking soda. This frothy reaction is perfect for blasting particles and grime out of your disposal unit, and the ingredients are much less harmful. Just sprinkle the soda into the unit, pour in a cup of vinegar, and let it get to work. Leave it to sit for a while to really penetrate the little crevices and holes, and then rinse it out. This is when you can use hot water in your garbage disposal.

3) Schedule a good clean every two weeks.

Now you know how easy it is to keep these units clean and fresh, you need to keep up with your cleaning schedule. Over time, the system will get dirty and smelly again, so it is best to clean it regularly to stop it from getting out of hand. Once every couple of weeks should be fine, and it is easy to add this 5-minute task to a larger cleaning session. Add it to the roster of chores and remind family members that if they don’t do it, they’ll have a much messier cleaning job to deal with later on.

4) Make sure not to put the wrong food items down there.

Next, it helps to take preventative measures to stop the garbage disposal from becoming too badly clogged up in the future. Don’t slip into the bad habit of putting the wrong food items or grease down there now. The more proactive you are in making sure food goes into the right waste system, the better.

Also, do your best to get your family to do the same, especially kids. Reward them for separating out waste, compostable scraps, and safe items when handling the dishes. Lead by example.

5) Call a professional when it stops working.

Finally, don’t be afraid to call on a professional when things get bad. Perhaps your system has gone through months of ill-treatment and isn’t performing very well. Or maybe it is so overdue a good clean that you don’t know where to start.

Our garbage disposal experts can handle these tough jobs with ease and have seen it all. In the worst-case scenarios, we may end up having to replace parts or get you a whole new system. If that happens, learn from your mistakes and make sure to treat the new unit right from day one.

Build A Better Relationship With Your Garbage Disposal System.

To put things simply, if you treat your garbage disposal unit with care and take care of it, it will take care of you. Don’t abuse it and assume it can handle anything you throw at it because you’ll just cause more problems. Start putting the right food items down there, give it a regular clean with the right products, and keep an eye on its performance.

These devices are powerful and effective, but they have their limits. Get to know yours better and enjoy what it can offer for many more years to come. Also, remember that we are on hand whenever things start to go wrong.