Even though I live an apartment complex and all the repairs are handled by the maintenance crew, I still like to know that I can handle small issues that may come up.

For instance, the garbage disposal. Even though it has been around for over 70 years, and it's a pretty cool invention for apartments when you can't actively compost organics. And even though it was invented before my parents were born, only about 50% of homes have them and it would seem even fewer people really know how to take care of it besides dumping baking soda, vinegar and hot water down the hole to clean it or make it smell nicer.

Understandably, garbage disposals aren't the coolest accessory to have around the house. They were once banned in different location because they were believed to caused sewer troubles and if movies are to be believed you will can get all kinds of body-parts trapped in them.

Since they are pretty sturdy devices when they do go down it is usually with the biggest meal of the year trapped inside and clogging up the sink drain.

Trouble #1 - Flip the switch and nothing happens
Solutions - When the disposal is clogged there is a switch on the unit that is tripped. Open up your cabinet doors under the sink and press that switch in to reset it and if it trips again, make sure any large items or bones are out of the disposal before you push the reset again.

If there is no switch, try unplugging the unit and replugging it in. And if the garbage disposal still won't react, check the breaker for the disposal. When it is running again, make sure you are running water down the drain while it is running.

Trouble #2 - The disposal isn't draining as fast as it used to
Solutions - Detach the piping that has a bend in it for any kind of obstruction. Over time grease and other organics will accumulate over time if not enough water was flushed down the drain while it was in use.

Trouble #3 - The garbage disposal noise level is waking the dead
Solutions - If your unit used to be quieter and has become louder, grab a flashlight, turn the disposal off and check down the drain for anything that might be causing the trouble - plastic and silverware are most common. Just grab some tongs, snatch it out and frame it for the beautiful piece of chewed up artwork it has become.

If it vibrates while it is running, check for loose screws or the flywheel inside could have been damaged. And if that happens... a new disposal is probably cheaper than fixing the existing one.

Unfortunately, there is not a way to make them quieter. If you an unfortunate soul, like myself, and have one that sounds like a jet engine taking off, then consider the times of the day that you use it.
Flickr/CC - iluvrhinestones

Cleaning a disposal is really simple and you probably already know at least one way. Remember to always run water when the disposal is running.

Cleaning Tip #1 - Regularly grinding up ice cubes and fruit rinds in the unit helps to remove particles before they have the chance to form mold.

Cleaning Tip #2 -  A tablespoon of bleach mixed into a gallon of water, slowly poured into the drain and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Then run the water while the disposal is going.

Cleaning Tip #3 -  The most common suggestion is to pour a 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, let it sit for a few minutes and then pour a cup of vinegar down the drain. Put the plug in. Expect to hear a faint fizzing noise as the soda and vinegar react on contact. Leave for a few more minutes and pour a large bowl or pan of hot water down the drain while running the disposal.


  1. Kathryn // Saturday, August 14, 2010 11:41:00 AM  

    My ex is a plumber and recommends never putting egg shells down the disposal as they tend to clump up, especially at a S curve in a pipe.