It’s usually the moment that we have to fish a stray spoon out of our in-sink garbage disposal that we even give it a second thought. Many of us are in the habit of overworking and ignoring our disposal systems—until we notice them backing up or clogging. As the City of Stockton website notes, our misunderstanding of our disposal systems may be leading to SSO, or Sanitary Sewer Overflow. Bell Brothers sees more than a few disposal installation and repair jobs in Stockton every month, so we aren’t surprised the city is trying to get this information out there. We also want to offer our clients some insights on keeping their disposal system clog-free.
Common Causes for Your Garbage Disposal Clog
When your disposal backs up, there are several usual suspects. The first possible cause we often look at is simply too much food matter going down the drain at once—either quantity or size-wise.
- DON’T put your whole dinner down the drain. Disposals are designed to break up any stray food debris that might wash off a plate after it gets scraped into the garbage— it’s not meant to help you hide your entire plate of leftovers. And, although tempting, don’t put large pieces of food into the disposal either. Remember, it can handle your crumbs, not that whole piece of burnt toast.
- DO run the disposal with cold water for 20 seconds after scraping food down the drain. This will ensure food matter is sufficiently broken up and is able to easily move down through your pipes and into the sewer system.
Aside from the size and amount of food thrown down the drain, be aware of just what type of food you are trying to dispose of.
- DON’T pour grease, fats, or oils down the drain. While they go down in liquid form, they can quickly solidify—a leading cause of the clogs, and on a larger scale SSO, that we’ve been talking about. In fact, fats and oils solidifying in drains cause 47% of sewer overflows each year.
- DO dispose of any of these food matters in the garbage. You can pour liquid grease, fats, and oils into a disposable container before throwing them in the garbage to keep any messy and smelly trash cans in check. If you are confused about what can and can’t go down the drain, and what really must be disposed of in your garbage pail, contact the city of Stockton for a “Can the Fog” Residential Kit.
Sometimes we see folks dump a tray of ice into the disposal and run it to “sharpen” the blades—but this is a myth about garbage disposal maintenance that makes no sense if you understand how those blades work in the first place.
- DON’T try to sharpen your garbage disposal blades. In fact, they’re not that sharp to begin with—they have about the same cutting power as a butter knife. But, just as you can drive a butter knife through sheetrock with enough force, blades driven by a motor with plenty of torque don’t need to be all that sharp to shred organic material into easily-drainable chunks. Ice won’t sharpen the blades, and goes against our previous rules of what should be allowed down the drain in the first place.
- DO clean your blades on a regular basis. In order to clean the blades of your disposal system, plug the drain with a stopper then fill the sink with hot soapy water. Once the sink is full, pull the stopper and turn on the disposal as the water sucks through the device and down the drain. That should flush anything that might be impeding the disposal’s efforts to get food waste out into the sewer.
Rehabbing a Smelly In-Sink Garbage Disposal
Once your disposal has been unclogged by your local professional, and you’ve vowed to never again do anything on our list of “don’ts,” you may still be left with a smelly disposal. So we’ll leave you with one final “do.” To clean a smelly disposal, do follow this step-by-step guide:
- Dump a cup of vinegar into the disposal followed by a generous amount of baking soda. Let this mixture sit for at least 10 minutes while you boil a pot of water.
- Take the boiling water and slowly dump it into the disposal with the motor running. You can repeat this as many times as you feel is necessary, but in most cases once will be enough.
- Lemons are a common natural cleaner for garbage disposals—although we’d advise no more than a few small peels run through with hot water for 30 seconds after you’ve cleaned with the vinegar, baking soda and boiling water.
- Repeat as necessary to keep your disposal fresh and free of bacteria or other smell-inducing substances.
Follow this advice and hopefully you won’t ever need us to come out and take care of a clogged in-sink disposal system. Of course, there’s no shame if you do—and we love to help our clients in any way possible. Give us a call, shoot us an email, and let us take care of any plumbing issues on your to-do list today!