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garbage disposal myths

Garbage disposals are installed in half of American homes today. They are often marked as a must-have option on apartment and home seekers lists when they search for places to live.

Although garbage disposals have been used widely for over 20 years, there are still a lot of myths surrounding the usage and maintenance of them. While some of these misconceptions are harmless, others have the potential to cause serious damage to your disposal unit or your pipes.

Learn about the truth behind garbage disposal myths, how they actually work, and how to maintain them to prolong their useful lifespan.

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

Garbage disposals use an electric motor that is hardwired or plugged into a 120-volt receptacle located at the back of the sink cabinet that powers the grinding chamber.

The grinding chamber is a ring of shredding blades in a flywheel that breaks down food. As the motor spins the flywheel, food and water that enter the grinding chamber are spun by a centrifugal force into the shredding ring.

An impeller arm and plate then further push the food particles and liquid down the sink drain. Dishwater runs through the garbage disposal while it is on to help grind up larger particles before they enter the drain types. 

How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last?

Most garbage disposals last about 10 years, but regular maintenance and upkeep can extend the life of a garbage disposal to over a decade.

3 Factors That Impact Your Garbage Disposal Lifespan

There are three things that can affect the lifespan of your garbage disposal. These three things include:

What Is Put Down the Garbage Disposal

Regularly putting greasy or fibrous items down the garbage disposal causes your motor and blades to wear down. This decreases the useful lifespan of your garbage disposal and leaves it more susceptible to clogging.

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 garbage disposal models last longer than older models. When you make the choice to purchase a newer heavy duty garbage disposal instead of a cheaper option, your investment 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. Garbage Disposals Have Blades That You Can Sharpen.

Garbage disposals don't have blades. Instead, disposals use a system of small shredding impellers or teeth that spin at high speeds to grind up food waste. 

Because a garbage disposal doesn't have blades, it automatically debunks the idea that you can sharpen the disposal’s blades by grinding up ice or egg shells. Dumping ice down the drain won’t accomplish much more than pouring water down the drain.

Plus, 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.

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.

Although you shouldn't be putting any fats or oils down the drain, if you run the disposal with cold water, it keeps them in solid form that can be ground up into tiny particles. This way, they’re less likely to cause clogs as they flow through the plumbing with the rest of the food waste.

3. Lemons Clean Your Garbage Disposal.

Running lemons and limes through your garbage disposal can make your sink smell better, but it doesn't 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.

The citric acid in the fruits can't clean or disinfect your disposal, but it can cause the metal inside the disposal to corrode over time. 

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.

You are better off placing these items in the trash or disposing of them in another way. 

5. Garbage Disposals Are Bad for the Environment.

Many past legal restrictions on garbage disposals were put in place due to concerns about the amount of food waste they would add to public sewer systems. Today, modern wastewater processing systems are more than capable of handling anything a disposal can force down the drain.

In fact, treating food waste in the water is far more energy efficient than disposing of trash in a landfill. When food particles are separated from the wastewater, the gas from decaying bio-matter can be easily captured and converted into useful energy.

5 Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips to Extend Its Lifespan

Review these five garbage disposal maintenance tips that you can handle on your own to extend the lifespan of your disposal.

1. Know What Not Put Down Your Garbage Disposal.

Here are some foods to avoid putting in your garbage disposal:

  • Popcorn kernels
  • Banana peels
  • Apple seeds
  • Celery stalks
  • Corn husks
  • Onion skins
  • Bones
  • 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. 

Another cleaning method involves grinding ice and pouring a cup of rock salt in your drain.

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. 

Another way to prevent clogs is to run cold water and dish soap down the drain after the disposal finishes grinding waste.

5. Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal Safely.

Believe it or not, garage disposal safety is important – contrary to what you may have done in the past, sticking your hand down the disposal isn't 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 doesn't work, you may need to contact a professional plumber in your area.

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. 

Contact the professional plumbers at Express to handle all of your plumbing fixtures in the Sacramento area.

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Topics: Home Plumbing, Kitchen Sink