You’ve had a garbage disposal for years and have never had a malfunction – no matter what you cram down the drain – until now.  Well folks, it’s 2020, need I say more?

Every year during the holiday season, we get a multitude of calls from panicked customers who have accidentally clogged their disposals.  Take it from the Coop, remember my rule of thumb when throwing garbage down your disposal – when in doubt, throw it out!!  If you think you probably shouldn’t push that food item down the disposal, then don’t do it!  Even if it appears to clear the garbage disposal, it can still cause a clog further down your plumbing system.

In any case, here’s my list of foods that should NEVER go down into your garbage disposal:

  • Animal fats, grease, oils: Pour into a metal can, wrap securely, and dispose of properly
  • Fibrous fruits and veggies: Especially banana peels, corn husks, artichoke leaves and the outer skin of cucumbers, apples, pears, etc.
  • Coffee grinds: Gradually build-up and become the  consistency of “sludge”
  • Egg shells: It’s not the shell that causes the issue, it’s the white membrane lining the shell that can get caught in the blades
  • Pasta/rice/grits/oatmeal: Starchy grains expand in water and become soft and gooey. Then, they harden like plastic and can cause an awful clog.
  • Bones of any kind: Not solid steak bones, not chicken bones.  None!
  • Produce stickers: The adhesive sticks to the blades and pipes and stays there
  • Nuts: Surprise, surprise!  They become the consistency of peanut butter when ground and then cling to the entire mechanism
  • Onion skins: The thin membrane gets stuck in the blades
  • Fruit pits of any kind: too hard!
  • Seafood shells: Neither rigid shells like oysters nor flexible shells like shrimp
  • Raw poultry skin and guts: Not only can they get caught in the blades, but they carry potentially dangerous germs and a really foul smell as the particles degrade
  • Potato peels: They deserve their own shout-out because they’re the cause of so many clogs
  • Paint or metal items: The mechanism wasn’t built to grind down non-food items

It’s ok to scrape uneaten scraps of food off your dishes and into the disposal, and yes, very small amounts of fruit peels, or leftover vegetables topped with butter can be flushed down the drain.  Turn on your cold water and then turn on the garbage disposal.  Let the water thoroughly flush the garbage down the pipe.  Listen to the hum of your garbage disposal’s motor and turn it off once the debris has cleared out.  Remember, moderation is key!

What should you do if your garbage disposal gets jammed? 

Whatever you do, don’t put your hand down the mouth of your drain to scoop out the culprit.  If you’re a DIYer, carefully follow these steps:

  1. Turn-off the garbage disposal switch near the faucet
  2. Unplug the garbage disposal at the power outlet which is usually located under the sink
  3. Using some sort of grabber like a pair of needle-nose pliers or a narrow pair of tongs, try to fish out the problem. NEVER USE YOUR FINGERS!  Sometimes, you’ll be successful without too much difficulty.
  4. FYI, most garbage disposals come with a hexagonal wrench for use when the disposal is jammed. There’s a slot that the wrench fits into at the bottom of the shaft. Rotate the wrench counter-clock-wise and gently jostle it back and forth until it unjams.  Then, using your grabber, fish out the object.
  5. Once you believe you’ve rectified the issue, put the plug back into the power outlet, press the overload reset by the garbage disposal housing unit to reset the motor, turn the water on and start the disposal to make sure it’s operating properly.

What should you do if you can’t repair your garbage disposal?

Call a professional plumber, like Cooper Mechanical, who has lots of experience repairing all sorts of plumbing issues.  In most cases, our service plumbers will quickly fix the problem, but if it’s unrepairable, each service truck is well-stocked with replacements so that we can get you back up and running as quickly as possible.  And that will help ensure good tidings and cheer for your holiday season!