How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

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The Function of a Garbage Disposal

  • Most of us know two things about garbage disposals. One is, you push the food down the drain, turn the water and switch on, and the food disappears. The other is, you never, ever put your hand down the drain. This information seems to be enough until the disposal stops working or the kitchen starts to smell like rotten food. A garbage disposal is an electric unit hooked up to your sink drain and plumbing that pulverizes leftover food and washes it away into the sewer. It contains a cylinder, and inside the cylinder are a series of blades and/or grinders depending on the make, model and age. Some have a blade at the top, similar to a food processor. The food passes through first and then into the cylinder, where it is ground up even more. Naturally, after time you will get a buildup of food and grease on the blades and inside the cylinder. This is what causes the bad odor and bacterial growth. Often, things other than what is intended to go down the drain, end up in there too. You need to perform maintenance on the disposal to keep it running well and safe.

Cleaning Your Garbage Disposal

  • To remove the built-up food and grease left in the disposal, pile a few cups of ice over your drain. Pour on a cup of rock salt or vinegar. Turn on the cold water and run the disposal until the ice is crushed up. This should take off the scummy debris and wash it down the drain. Now, cover your drain and fill your sink halfway with water. Pull the cover and turn on the disposal. This will pull the water down and clear out the lines of any leftover debris you just got loose. Then grind up some citrus peels to give your kitchen a nice fresh smell.

Clearing Objects From Your Disposal

  • The number one thing to remember before you start to clear anything from the disposal, is to pull the plug. If you can't get to the plug, turn off the breaker that runs the disposal from your breaker box. Make sure the disposal will not come on while you are working on it. Some disposals come with a tool made for getting dropped items out of the drain. If yours didn't, try using needle nose pliers to reach down to pull out stuck items. If they aren't long enough, try using tongs. Don't put your hand in the disposal, as even if it is off the blades are very sharp and can cut you. Prevention is your best option. Keep a small screen over the opening so unwanted items can't fall in and avoid putting food items like shrimp peels and bones down the disposal. If you can't clear it yourself and you are not familiar with disposals, call a repair person. This option is much better than you getting hurt while trying to fix it yourself, or getting it apart and not being able to put it back together.

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