Kitchen Ideas: The proper care and feeding of your garbage disposer

Unclogging a disposer

I came home from work the other day, and there was a plumber's truck out in front of my neighbor's house. Turns out her garbage disposer had once again been the victim of poor decision-making. This time, one of her kids had dumped pasta down the disposer and they'd spent a long, frustrating day trying to clear the clog before finally calling in a pro.

This made me think it might be time for a little primer on what does and does not belong in your garbage disposer. A couple of these may surprise you (they did me). I asked our pro plumbers for their wisest advice about avoiding problems with your garbage disposer. Here are their 5 Commandments for keeping your garbage disposer running problem free:

 1. Thou shall not pour grease down thy disposer. It eventually solidifies and clogs up the pipes.

 2. Thou shall not put rice, pasta or other starchy foods down thy disposer. It will gather in the trap, swell and clog up the pipes.

 3. Thou shall always use cold water when running thy disposer. Cold water solidifies any grease that does get into the disposer so it can be broken up into small pieces and flushed away. (Hot water liquefies grease so it runs down your pipes until it solidifies near the trap.)

 4. Thou shall not put stringy or tough-peeled veggies down thy disposer such as carrot peels, celery, onion skins, potato peels, chard and asparagus ends. Ditto with eggshells (they have a fibrous membrane). These can slide past the blades and clog the trap or wrap around the blades and jam the motor.

 5. Thou shall not put animal bones, peach pits or other hard objects down thy disposer. Unless thee want to buy a new disposer. 

 — Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor

Need to unclog a drain, repair a garbage disposer or fix some other appliance? Check out these great articles for step-by-step instructions:

Simple fixes for common appliance problems
Simple Fixes for Common Appliance Problems

How to clear clogged sink drains
How to Unclog Kitchen Sink