Garbage Disposals 101: Types, Maintenance, and When to Call for Help

Garbage disposals are certainly handy when it comes to getting rid of food scraps, and while many people view them as a luxury, the truth is that garbage disposal provide incredible benefits in any kitchen. Learning how to choose and maintain a disposal will ensure that your investment lasts for years.

The Benefits of a Garbage Disposal

A good garbage disposal is much more than a luxury machine designed to make food disposal simpler. In fact, it can actually create a better global environment, a cleaner and more hygienic home environment, and even helps you avoid plumbing problems in the future.

Helping the Environment

  • Garbage disposals “chew” food, allowing it to enter the wastewater and, inevitably, the wastewater treatment plant. These plants food waste as a source of energy or even fertilizer, depending on where you live.
  • Your household will use fewer plastic garbage bags over time, reducing the amount of non-biodegradable trash in landfills.
  • Fewer carbon emissions from waste management trucks will enter into the atmosphere.
  • Landfills will produce less methane gas, which results during the breakdown of organic materials in food waste. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that harms the environment.

A Cleaner, Safer Household

  • Rotting food in the trash bin often harbors bacteria, and some of these bacteria are dangerous.
  • Mice, insects, and other pests may invade your home in an attempt to retrieve food waste from the trash.
  • Food waste stinks and these odors tend to linger long after removing the trash bag from the bin.

Avoid Plumbing Problems

  • Particles of food escape into the pipes in your home, and these are stuck in traps or even in the bends under your sink. Over time, these build up and create clogs. A garbage disposal effectively liquefies food, allowing it to travel through your drains safely.
  • Over time, the reduced need to contact a plumber to unclog your pipes saves you money. In fact, you could recoup the purchase cost of your entire garbage disposal by avoiding a single plumbing call.

Choosing the Right Garbage Disposal

Now that you understand the benefits of a garbage disposal and you are ready to install one, you should consider all of the different types and sizes in order to get one that fits your needs. Here are some tips and tricks for getting the right disposal for your needs:

  • The InSinkErator Evolution offers plenty of horsepower and stainless steel blades for an entire lifetime of operation.

    The InSinkErator Evolution offers plenty of horsepower and stainless steel blades for an entire lifetime of operation.

    Choose an InSinkErator product. InSinkErator is the number one manufacturer of garbage disposals today. The company creates high-quality products designed to last for decades with proper maintenance and care. Many of their models use very little electricity (even with a ¾ horsepower motor) and are water efficient. What’s more, they have a reputation for being easy to install.


  • Consider your septic tank. If you have a septic tank, you should carefully
    The InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist injects microorganisms into food waste, helping it break down particles in your septic tank.

    The InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist injects microorganisms into food waste, helping it break down particles in your septic tank.

    consider the type of garbage disposal you purchase. InSinkErator’s Evolution Septic Assist model is a phenomenal choice since it automatically injects food waste with microorganisms designed to break the waste down inside your septic tank.


  • Continuous feed models are best. These typically have an off/on switch near the sink so you can switch it on when you need it or turn it off when you do not. Batch feed models are more difficult to use and are not as convenient.


  • Go with stainless steel (or other corrosion-proof metal) blades. When you choose stainless steel, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that the blades will remain sharp and free from rust or corrosion for years to come.

How to Maintain a Garbage Disposal

Once you have installed your garbage disposal under your sink, it is important to maintain it properly. There are four tips for keeping your disposal like new.

  1. Never run the disposal without water. Water acts as a coolant to keep the motor from getting too hot, and it acts as a lubricant for the food waste to travel safely through the disposal and the pipes. Failing to use water may result in a faulty disposal or clogs in the pipes – or even inside the disposal itself.


  1. Run the garbage disposal often to prevent rust.


  1. At least once per week, feed the disposal a handful of eggshells or ice cubes. This keeps the blades sharp. There is some evidence to suggest that the eggshells scrape food particles from the blades, too, reducing the likelihood of odors.


  1. Ice cubes and rock salt remove debris from blades better than eggshells. Simply fill the disposal with ice, pour the salt over the top, and then run the disposal (with the cold tap running) for 10 to 30 seconds.

Basic Dos and Don’ts for Garbage Disposals


  • Do run a strong stream of cold water. Hot water tends to cause food to stick to the blades.
  • Do run the water and the disposal for a few seconds after you no longer hear the food.
  • Do turn the disposal off before shutting off the water as this helps to flush food particles in the disposal down the drain.


  • NEVER put your hand inside of a garbage disposal, even if the switch is off.
  • Don’t place bones, grease, oils, celery stalks, corn husks, fruit pits, or other hard, stringy items into the disposal. These cause clogs.
  • Don’t allow glass, metal, plastic or paper to enter the disposal.

Getting Rid of Odors

No matter what you do, a garbage disposal will emit odors at some time. Fortunately, it is easy to remove these odors with common household items such as ice cubes, baking soda, and citrus fruits. If you notice a smell coming from your disposal, place one to two cups of large ice cubes inside the disposal along with two tablespoons of baking soda. Then, turn on the water and start the disposal until the ice is gone. Finally, cut a citrus fruit (lime, lemon, orange, or even tangerine – whatever you have on hand) in half, and place it into the disposal. Again, run the garbage disposal with the cold water until the fruit is gone.

If the odor remains after completing this process, then there is likely a buildup under the disposal opening cover. To clean it, carefully pull it away from the sink drain and wash thoroughly in warm, soapy water.

When to Call for Help

If your garbage disposal is jammed, you may be able to resolve this problem on your own. First, shut off the power to the disposal using the breaker box – never just the switch. Next, remove the rubber drain cover to see if you can find a fork, spoon, or other item lodged between the blades. If so, simply remove it. If you cannot see anything but the disposal seems to be filled with food, open the cabinet and locate the garbage disposal unit. Most of the time, it will have a manual crank so you can cut through this debris. Your garbage disposal likely came with a wrench that completes the crank, but if you did not get a wrench or if you cannot find it, an Allen wrench works.

Finally, if you cannot get the disposal working after checking for debris and manually cranking the blades, you should contact a professional for help. Fortunately, with InSinkErator garbage disposals and their incredible horsepower, these calls may never be necessary.



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