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How to Use a Garbage Disposal

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How to Use a Garbage Disposal

The garbage disposal unit is one of the most useful kitchen appliances. It shortens the cleanup time considerably, and it’s also an incredibly practical and eco-friendly solution for food-related garbage. The way garbage disposal works is pretty simple.

how to use a garbage disposal unit

Great garbage disposal units have powerful motors that grind food quickly and efficiently. But it’s very important to use the garbage disposal properly to avoid clogged drains, unpleasant smells, and motor malfunctions. Here are some dos and don’ts on how to use a garbage disposal unit.

The Basics

There are some common mistakes to be avoided. Just because you see the garbage disposal unit getting rid of food, doesn’t mean that it’s not suffering in the process. To make sure that your unit runs smoothly, follow these steps:

  1. Let the water run for about 15 seconds before putting the food in the sink.
  2. Now turn the disposal on.
  3. Start putting the food-related garbage in a chunk or a handful at a time.
  4. When finished, let the cold water run for another 30 seconds.

This technique [1] will ensure that the chances of clogging are minimal, but be sure that all the food is gone before you turn off the water. Most importantly, it’s vital that nothing bulky goes into the garbage disposal. And there’s no need to force the food down. Here are some other things to do that will increase your garbage disposal’s longevity.

Garbage Disposal Dos

One of the most significant factors is proper cleaning. There’s no need for any harsh chemicals. Some dish soap and water on a regular basis will do just fine. Also, make sure that you use the unit regularly. Not turning it on for too long could lead to corrosion and rust.

When it comes to bulkier items, rather than pushing them down the garbage disposal and potentially creating a problem, it’s better to cut them down into smaller pieces. Especially larger pieces of fruit, for example, or big pieces of meat. And in general, using cold water over warm is preferable. Cold water makes the grease and oil solidify, which means that they’re less likely to cause issues in the drain.

Clean garbage disposal will work efficiently for many years. Food waste can coat the blades, and, over time, they stop working.

Mark Weir from How to Home

Garbage Disposal Don’ts

Keeping your garbage disposal unit in good shape has less to do with what you do, and much more with what you don’t. Regardless of how powerful the garbage disposal is, there are certain things that it just can’t or shouldn’t grind. The first rule is not to discard anything that’s not biodegradable. Items like plastic, glass, and even paper are absolutely to be avoided.

And naturally, since cold water is recommended, hot water is not. This might seem counterintuitive to some people, but hot water, as mentioned above, will liquify grease and increase the odds of clogged drains. Also, pouring excessive amounts of grease and oil down the garbage disposal is ill-advised. [2] Understandably, it can’t be avoided entirely, but being mindful about how much is important.

Avoiding expandable foods like pasta and bread, and very hard foods like animal bones are crucial for the proper function of your garbage disposal unit. Finally, avoid any kind of medicine, oil-based paint, and other types of chemicals.

Coffee grounds and eggshells might seem harmless, but they can cause some serious clogging problems. Especially if you put too much down at once.

Keeping the Garbage Disposal Odorless

Garbage disposal in an average household processes a lot of food every day. To avoid catching an unpleasant whiff from the kitchen sink, there are a few things you can do. For example, throwing a slice of lemon or orange down the disposal from time to time might help with the freshness. Plus, the citric acid will help clean the walls of the appliance. [3]

Another natural and DIY effort is to pour in a little bit of vinegar. Vinegar has potent anti-bacterial properties that could help eliminate the odor.

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting

Most of the time, if the garbage disposal unit is unresponsive, it’s probably stuck. And just by clicking it off and back on again might give it the push it needs. However, if that doesn’t work, you might have an electrical problem. In that case, it’s probably best to seek help from a professional. Garbage disposal units aren’t the safest of appliances, especially the continuous feed type. For that reason, it’s prudent to stay on the safe side.

Note: Wanna know the different types of garbage disposal? Read about them here.

Take Care of Your Garbage Disposal

The goal is to maintain your unit in good condition for as long as possible. Remember, aside from the unit’s cost, having it installed by a professional can cost you additional fees. Take care of your garbage disposal and your garbage disposal will take care of you. It’s as simple as that.

If you treat the garbage disposal unit gently, cut large pieces up, and slowly get rid of the food waste, it’s going to work much better in the long-term. Avoid hot water, and remember not to pour down too much grease and oil. And in case of some bad smells, home-made remedies are better than harsh chemicals.


  1. Angie’s List. (2011, October 24). How to Properly Run a Garbage Disposal. Retrieved from
  2. Dont Pour Grease Or Oil Down The Drain. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Edmonds, C. (n.d.). 9 Most Common Garbage Disposal Killers & a Few Items That CAN Go Down the Drain.
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