Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals are essential appliances designed to help manage food waste efficiently and keep your kitchen clean. Understanding how they work, the types available, their sizes, and proper usage can maximize their lifespan and functionality.

A garbage disposal
A garbage disposal

Working of Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals operate by shredding food waste into tiny bits that can easily flow through the plumbing system into the sewers. When turned on, a spinning disc or impeller plate, powered by an electric motor, forces the food against a stationary grind ring, breaking it down. This process ensures that food waste is reduced to particles small enough to be flushed through the pipes without causing clogs.

Types of Garbage Disposals

Batch feed and continuous feed

Garbage disposals are of two types: batch feed and continuous feed.

  1. Batch Feed Disposals: These process food wastes in batches. You need to fill up the disposal with food waste and cover it with a stopper in order to start it. This safety feature prevents objects from accidentally falling in and also helps to reduce noise. Batch feed disposals are ideal for households with small children or those concerned about safety.
  2. Continuous Feed Disposals: The most common type, these disposals operate as long as the switch is turned on. Food waste can be continuously fed into the disposal, making them convenient for larger quantities of food waste. However, they require more caution to prevent foreign objects from entering while in operation.

Corded and cordless garbage disposals

Additionally, garbage disposals can be categorized based on their power source as corded and cordless;

  • Corded Disposals: These come with an attached power cord that plugs into an outlet.
  • Cordless Disposals: These models are hardwired directly into the electrical system, offering a cleaner installation without visible cords.

Garbage Disposal Sizes

Garbage disposals come in various sizes, each suited for different household needs. The size is often indicated by the horsepower (HP) of the motor:

  • 1 HP: Suitable for large families or homes that frequently use the disposal. It can handle tough food waste, such as bones and fibrous vegetables.
  • 3/4 HP: A versatile option for most households, offering a balance between power and affordability.
  • 1/2 HP: Ideal for smaller households or those with minimal food waste. It’s less powerful but sufficient for everyday use.
  • 1/4 HP: The smallest option, best for light use or in secondary sinks.

Use the above list to narrow down the garbage disposal size you need.

What Foods Can Garbage Disposals Grind?

Garbage disposals can handle most soft food scraps, including:

  • Fruit and vegetable peels
  • Small bones (in higher-powered models)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells (controversially, some experts recommend avoiding them)

However, there are certain foods and items that should not be put into a garbage disposal;

What not to put in a garbage disposal

  • Fibrous Vegetables: Such as celery, corn husks, and artichokes, which can wrap around the blades and cause jams.
  • Grease and Fat: These can solidify in pipes and cause blockages.
  • Hard Bones: Large bones can damage the disposal or become lodged.
  • Starchy Foods: Such as pasta, rice, and potato peels, which can expand and clog pipes.
  • Non-Food Items: Including glass, plastic, and metal.

Can You Put Eggshells in Garbage Disposals?

Eggshells are a debated topic. Some experts argue that they can help clean the disposal’s blades, while others suggest that the membranes can wrap around the shredder ring and cause issues. It’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid putting eggshells in your disposal, or break them into small pieces if you choose to dispose of them this way.

Hot or Cold Water When Running Garbage Disposal

Always use cold water when running a garbage disposal. Cold water helps keep any grease or fats solid, preventing them from sticking to the pipes and causing blockages. Hot water, on the other hand, can melt grease, allowing it to coat the disposal and pipes, leading to clogs.

Installing a Garbage Disposal

Installing a garbage disposal is easy for those with basic experience in plumbing and electrical work. Here’s a quick summary of the steps involved:

  1. Prepare the Area: Ensure you have enough space under the sink and that the sink flange is compatible with the disposal unit.
  2. Disconnect Plumbing: Shut off the water supply, then disconnect the sink drain and remove any existing disposal unit.
  3. Install Mounting Assembly: Attach the new mounting assembly to the sink.
  4. Connect the Disposal: Attach the disposal unit to the mounting assembly, ensuring it locks into place.
  5. Plumbing Connections: Reconnect the drain pipes and dishwasher inlet if applicable.
  6. Electrical Connections: Connect the disposal to the power supply, either by plugging it in or hardwiring it.
  7. Test the Disposal: Run water and test the disposal to ensure it operates correctly without leaks.

Garbage Disposal Switch Options

There are several options for controlling your garbage disposal:

  • Air Switch: A countertop-mounted button that uses air pressure to activate the disposal. This option is safer and more convenient as it eliminates the need for electrical switches near water sources.
  • Wall Switch: A traditional wall-mounted switch that is often located above the counter. This is the most common method of controlling a garbage disposal.
  • Wireless Switch: A remote control switch that can be installed anywhere within range. This provides flexibility in placement and convenience.

Garbage Disposal Not Working – Reasons

If your garbage disposal isn’t working, there could be several reasons:

  • Power Issues: The disposal might not be receiving power because of a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse.
  • Jammed Blades: Food or foreign objects might be stuck in the disposal, preventing the blades from turning.
  • Overheated Motor: The motor could overheat and shut off if the disposal is overloaded or runs for too long.
  • Mechanical Failures: Worn-out components or a faulty motor might be the issue.

How to Reset Garbage Disposal

If your garbage disposal stops working, it might need a reset. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Turn off the Disposal: Ensure the disposal switch is off and unplug it if possible.
  2. Locate the Reset Button: The reset button is usually located on the bottom or side of the disposal unit. It’s a small red or black button.
  3. Press the Reset Button: Press and hold the reset button for a few seconds, then release it.
  4. Check for Obstructions: Use a flashlight to inspect the disposal for any visible obstructions and remove them if safe to do so.
  5. Restore Power: Plug the disposal back in and turn the switch on to test if it’s working.