Why summer is so hard on garbage disposals and plumbing systems

Why summer is so hard on garbage disposals and plumbing systems

Summer! It’s that time of year where families and friends come together outside for cookouts, BBQs, pool parties and other fun outdoor activities.

Unfortunately, that means leftovers that don’t always get eaten. Those unfinished scraps of burgers, steaks, watermelon, pineapple and all sorts of other summertime foods sometimes wind up being discarded into the garbage disposal. This could happen by accident or simply because somebody mistakenly believes it’s OK to throw just about anything under the sun into the garbage disposal, run it for a bit and forget it.

The problem with that line of thinking, though, is that your garbage disposal – or worse the rest of your plumbing system – likely will remind you about what was improperly disposed of at some point.

In fact, it’s during these summer months that we see more and more problems related to garbage disposals, whether they’re clogged or something that passed through the unit is causing issues somewhere else in a home’s plumbing.

Your best to avoid any issues and keep the fun times rolling is to know what to do and what not to do when it comes to garbage disposals.

What can go into a garbage disposal?

Let’s start with the basics. Despite what some folks may tell you, not every food scrap or byproduct can be put in a garbage disposal.

Here’s a quick list of what can go in a garbage disposal without causing any issues:

  • Soft foods and liquids: If you could feed it to a baby easily, then you can probably throw it in the garbage disposal.
  • Ice: Sure, it’s going to be a little louder, but ice is completely fine.
  • Citrus fruits and their peels: Here’s an excellent tip – throw cut up citrus fruits and their peels. This can help clean the blades of your unit and it will even help make it smell fresh, too.

Even more importantly is what should not be run through a garbage disposal. That list is lengthier than you might think, but here are the basics that you can use to judge when it comes to other foods, too:

  • Coffee grounds: They’re too thick and can cause a clog very quickly.
  • Meat: No meat should ever go into a garbage disposal. Meat can stick to the machine and bones can even cause some damage.
  • Foods with starch: Pasta, bread, rice and other foods rich in starch not only absorb water and expand, they can also break down into a sticky substance that can clog and block up a disposal and sink.
  • Seafood shells and nuts: Harder food items can damage the blades and then create clogs.
  • Vegetable peels, fruit core and egg shells: These can also cause damage to the unit and lead to problems, including clogs, later on down the road.

How should I run my garbage disposal?

Now that you know what can and cannot go in your garbage disposal, you need to know how to run it the right way when you are disposing of food.

Here’s how to operate a garbage disposal without damaging it or causing clogs and plumbing backups.

  1. Run cold water from the sink’s faucet. Hot water could splash up when the disposal is turned on.
  2. Turn on the disposal before putting any food into it.
  3. Slowly add small pieces and small amounts of food into the disposal.
  4. Wait for the food waste to breakdown (30 seconds is a good suggested time).
  5. Turn the disposal off.
  6. Continue running water for several more seconds to flush out the pipe below the unit.

What can I do if my garbage disposal is clogged?

Even if you follow the above suggestions perfectly, you may still run the risk of encountering a clogged garbage disposal at some point. When you first notice that water is not running through the disposal is the best time to try to find a solution. Letting things sit can make clearing the disposal or pipes more difficult.

Step 1: Turn off the power.

The first step you need to take whenever fixing a clogged disposal is to turn off power to the unit. Never attempt to remove debris or gunk from the disposal until you are certain there is no power running to the unit and it cannot turn on.

Step 2: Remove backed up water.

Next, you may need to clear out any water that has backed up into the sink. You can use a flat plunger or even scoop the water out with a cup or bowl and a bucket or large pot if the plunger fails.

Step 3: Time to inspect the disposal.

Once the water is gone, you can shine a light or try to see for yourself down the drain and identify what might be causing the clog.

If it’s an object, use a pair of tongs to remove the object. Pliers can also be handy.

However, if the clog looks to be the result of food buildup and gunk, then you’ll need to use a safe cleaner. A combination of ½ a cup of vinegar and a ¼ cup of baking soda mixed well, poured down the drain and left for 10 to 20 minutes can get the job done here.

After the clog is removed, pour hot water down the drain.

Step 4: Turn the disposal’s blades yourself.

Confirming that the power is off, you may need to turn its blades yourself to work out any deep buildup that is blocking them from turning by themselves. You can use your hand or a long enough tool to reach down and give the blades a few spins.

When do I need to call a plumber?

Sometimes, the clog or buildup causing issues has in fact moved beyond the disposal and into the P trap below or deeper into the plumbing system of your home.

If that’s the case, then it may be time to call in a professional plumber and have them come give everything a closer look. This will ensure that you don’t do any accidental damage to your garbage disposal or plumbing system and really put all the summer fun on pause.

If you’re experiencing similar garbage disposal issues, give Comfortec a call at 888-362-2106! One of our experienced pros will be on their way as fast as possible.

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