It sometimes seems like you need emergency plumbing services at the worst of times.  And for holiday season that means in the kitchen in the middle of preparing a big meal.  So here are some garbage disposal tips to get you through this year, and on through the next.  Hopefully you can avoid a garbage disposal installation during this busy time of year.

Tips to Remember this Holiday Season

Always keep in mind that regardless of the brand, your garbage disposal only has so much horsepower and was never made to handle everything.

  • Do not put bones, popcorn kernels, or fruit pits into the disposal as they’re likely to cause a jam or excessive wear on the blades.  Some people suggest including egg shells to sharpen the blades, whereas others say they cause too much wear.
  • Avoid stringy fibrous items.  That includes banana peels, corn husks, celery, potato peels, and cucumber peels.  These often tangle and lead to clogs.
  • Do be sure there’s always water flowing when your unit is on.  That means turning the water on before the disposal, and turning the disposal off before the water.
  • Do use your unit regularly so that it doesn’t sit idle day after day after day.  Parts need to move from time to time.
  • Do clean your disposal periodically, especially during high-use periods such as Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  Some manufacturers suggest a mixture of warm water and household ammonia.  Let it sit for 30-45 minutes then thoroughly flush the solution out with cold water.
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Symptoms and Solutions

Even with correct use and proper maintenance any appliance will have problems sooner or later.  NEVER let your hands, other parts of your body, or tools anywhere near your disposal when it even MIGHT get turned on.  Here are some common problems along with how they’re usually resolved.

  • Won’t Turn On — A household fuse or circuit breaker may have tripped due to heavy loading and need a re-set.  There’s a similar safety feature on the garbage disposal itself.  Pressing that reset button one or more times may clear the problem.  But if the unit feels warm, let it cool off first.  If there’s only a clicking noise, the blades are probably jammed and need to be cautiously cleared.
  • Humming Sound Only — If you hear a hum but no action, the blades are most likely jammed.  Turn it off immediately to prevent overheating and burning out the motor.  Look for an obstruction; you’ll probably need a flashlight.  Either remove it directly or use the manual crank that came with your unit to rock the blades back and forth from below.
  • Leaking — Check if the leak is coming from the mounting at the sink, plumbing connections, or the disposal itself.  If it’s the latter, replacing its seals may avoid a new garbage disposal installation.
  • Noise — Any unusual sounds usually come from a foreign object, but the problem may instead be a broken component.  That calls for a repair or replacement.
  • Slow or No Draining — There’s a clog in the unit itself, or somewhere along the kitchen drain, that needs to be cleared.
  • Foul Odors — These come from accumulating tiny bits of food residue.  Running a lemon or an orange peel through your garbage disposal often solves this problem.  Some people suggest running ice cubes to scour away particles and sharpen the blades.

Extra Tip:  Find that cranking device before you need it, as part of your preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Repair Versus Replace

If there’s a problem you may be wondering about the tradeoffs between disposal installation and repair.  If your garbage disposal is no longer covered by a warranty you may be inclined to a garbage disposal repair rather than a replacement.  But if it’s well past that date keep in mind that most residential makes and models last about 10 years (commercial models may last up to twice that).  If one or more repairs were needed previously, then it’s probably time for a new garbage disposal installation.  If the motor is burnt out then a replacement will almost always the most economical choice.

If there’s been prior jams or a motor burnout you should consider a more powerful model.  Most home models have 1/2 or 3/4 horsepower motors, but some are only 1/3 HP (developers often “economize”), and units up to 1 HP are commonly available.  Insinuator is the most widely known brand, but quality units are also made by GE (General Electric), Sink master, Whirlpool, and several others.  For safety and dependability garbage disposal repairs and installation should only be performed by a licensed plumber who guarantees their work.

ASAP Drain Guys & Plumbing

Fully licensed and insured, we’re ready to roll 24/7 for your holiday emergency needs, and throughout the year.  As a full-service plumbing company we can take care of all your residential and commercial plumbing services.

Bonus Tip

Be especially careful about letting fats, grease, and oils go down the kitchen drain or garbage disposal.  With more cooking and cooler weather it’s even more likely to have grease solidify into a drain-blocking clog.