Top 5 Ways to Ruin Your Garbage Disposal

The dishes are stacked high in the sink, the faucet’s running, and the water level is rising. Time to run the garbage disposal.

But before you flip that switch and the drain starts churning, there are a few things to remember to ensure the disposal will chew up last night’s leftovers without bogging down or blowing a gasket.

With any plumbing issue, especially when it comes to garbage disposals, always use caution. Not only could you injure yourself, but an inexperienced repair could also lead to unexpected home improvement costs.

The following is a list of five guaranteed ways to ruin a garbage disposal. Some items might kill the disposal in one shot; others will wear down your food-grinding machine over time. If a disposal has already endured some of these drainage nightmares, don’t fret.

Just use this list as a warning to avoid future mistakes.

1. Pasta or no pasta? That is the question

The reason pasta takes the top spot is that it seems like a great candidate for the disposal. But pasta can never break down small enough to pass through the disposal’s blades and into the drain, so all those bits and pieces find places to hide.

Every time water comes, pasta swells and increases in size, which clogs the disposal drain. This forces the disposal to work overtime and wear out faster.

Also, when it comes to the garbage disposal food triangle, rice is in the same family as pasta. In some cases, rice can cause even more damage than pasta because of a single grain’s ability to swell repeatedly.

So when pasta and rice show up, skip the disposal and go for the trash can.

2. A bone to pick

After you finish that steak or roasted chicken, give the bones to the dogs. Not only will animal bones bend and dull a garbage disposal’s blades, they’ll damage the plumbing on the way down.

For the smaller bones, like chicken wings or fish, it’s a good rule of thumb to keep them out of the disposal too. Other than a dog, nobody likes to chew on a bone, not even appliances.

3. Not even grease

The bacon’s cooked and the BLTs are ready to eat, but where to put all that grease? Not down the disposal.

Grease is an unwanted guest not only in the garbage disposal housing, but the plumbing as well. The compounds that make up grease love to stick to any surface they come in contact with. That includes disposal blades and pipe walls.

Keep grease out of the disposal and it’ll run slicker than, well, grease.

4. Eat your fruits and vegetables

Certain types of stringy vegetables such as celery and asparagus can spin a web in the disposal housing and bring the entire mechanism to a halt. Strands from these vegetables become so wrapped around blades that they can actually pull them off the disposal unit itself.

Be careful with potato and banana peels too. They’re not as stringy as celery and asparagus, but they can be too tough for the disposal to handle with ease. Go the safe route and throw these strands and peels away. Better yet, compost these disposal no-nos.

5. A fork In the road

When the sink is full and the water’s on the rise, it’s easy to make the mistake of flipping the switch with a kitchen utensil in the drainl. Luckily, the metal grinding sound will startle anyone into turning that switch right back off. If the utensil becomes stuck during its dance with the disposal, just walk away and call a professional. Five intact fingers are worth more than a rescued fork or spoon.

To avoid costly home improvement repairs and plumbing nightmares, follow the above guidelines when running your disposal. If anything raises a question, just throw it in the trash. Your garbage disposal will appreciate the break (or saving it from one).

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