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The Facts on Garbage Disposals

The garbage disposal has become an essential component in most U.S. homes throughout America. Though it might seem like a relatively modern invention, the first disposal was invented by Wisconsin architect John Hammes in 1927. It took over a decade for him to refine the product and in 1938 he started the InSinkErator company. Sales were slow during WW2 (1939 -1945), but soon after the product began to take off and became a kitchen staple. Today, millions of garbage disposals are sold worldwide, including models from InSinkErator.

A good percentage of our plumbing service calls involve problems with the garbage disposal. Most of these issues could be avoided if a bit more care were given to its use. Its relatively simple design uses centrifugal force to grind waste on a spinning plate of sharp metal impellers. The waste is broken down and washed away through the wastewater pipe. If more people were aware of the simple mechanics involved, they might use more caution in the use and care of the appliance. We’ve collected some useful tips for keeping your disposal in top shape for the next 10 years.

  • Dish Soap Cleaning – After cleaning dishes, pour a small amount of dish soap into the disposal and let it run for a few minutes. This will help to keep it clean.
  • Use Cold Water – When using the disposal to grind waste, make sure that you only use cold water to wash it away. The cold water will help solidify any grease that has collected on the impellers, making it easier to wash it away.
  • Running Water – Keep the water running at least 15 seconds after usage to make sure that all the debris is flushed away.
  • Small Portions – Always put small portions of waste into the disposal at a time – and always with the sink running.
  • Odor Prevention – You can prevent bad odors from developing by grinding up pieces of lemons and ice cubes. Also freezing vinegar in ice cube trays and running them in the disposal will help kill the bacteria that causes bad smells.


  • Non-Food Products – The disposal is meant for small amounts of food, but some use it as a catch-all for their trash. Plastic, glass, metal or paper products will damage the blades and motor, not to mention clog up your pipes.
  • Blockage Waste – Though the disposal can easily handle coffee grounds and egg shells, both of these elements can stop up the plumbing. However, they make an ideal combination for garden fertilizer. Try keeping a small trash bag handy for both – and fill it up for later use in the garden.
  • Fibrous Food – Onion (specifically onion skin), celery, broccoli, corn husks, beans and other fibrous foods can jam the disposal. Throw these foods into the compost pile.
  • Cleaning Chemicals – Harsh cleaning chemicals should never be used to clean the disposal as they can weaken or damage the blades. A good way to clean the disposal is by pouring half a cup of baking soda into the plate and letting it sit for a few hours. Simply run some cold water down the disposal to remove it. This is will not only clean the system, but also help eliminate odors.
  • Additional Notes – Also, never pour grease, oil or animal bones into the disposal. Keep starchy foods like bread or rice to a minimum as they can expand in water and stop up the plumbing.

Remember that Universal Home Experts can help with all of your garbage disposal needs. We offer complete repair and replacement of all major brands. Check our garbage disposal page for quick fixes on common problems – and then give us a call at (713) 364-0226 if you can’t fix it on your own.