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The Garbage Disposal: The Unsung Hero of This Year’s Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a day for appreciation, celebration, and spending quality time with loved ones. And, of course, at the center of it all, amazing food. Cooking up an epic feast for the family involves a lot of work, not only for the cooks who spend hours in the kitchen, but also for that unseen, underappreciated, and indispensable tool - the garbage disposal.

Here’s a look at why the garbage disposal plays such an instrumental role in the smooth workings of a busy kitchen, how to protect it from being damaged or jammed, and what to do if it malfunctions.

How Garbage Disposals Help Prevent Clogs

Garbage disposals work by grinding up food waste into tiny pieces before entering the sink’s drainpipe. Water carries discarded food waste from the sink or the dishwasher into a small, cylindrical “grinding chamber,” where it is trapped. When the disposal is turned on, the impeller plate in the bottom of the chamber - which features two or more protruding blades - rapidly spins and grinds the food against a “shredder ring” on the edge of the chamber.

When the pieces become small enough, they siphon down through small holes in the bottom of the chamber wall and down into the drain system. Without a disposal, larger chunks of food waste escape into the drain pipes, where they can easily become lodged in a curve or a narrow section of pipe, causing a clog.

Preventing Damage - Be Kind To the Disposal


Garbage disposal failure or malfunction is most commonly caused by putting the wrong materials down the drain. Modern garbage disposals can handle quite a lot, but they are not without their limits. Tough items like melon rinds, gourd or squash stems, corn cobs, bones, and fruit pits should always be thrown in the trash. A stray piece of silverware can jam the impeller plate entirely, which can burn out or destroy the motor.

Even densely fibrous or clingy materials like potato skins and coffee grounds can cause major problems. Similarly, grease can lead to clogging and should be put in the waste bin, never down the disposal or any other drain. The faucet should always be on when the disposal is running, and waste should only be added a little at a time to avoid overloading the motor.

How To Tell When a Garbage Disposal Needs Repairing

Some garbage disposal issues can be resolved fairly easily, but others may require the help of a pro. If nothing happens when the switch is turned on, it’s often because the plug has come loose or the breaker has tripped. If neither is the case, a more complex electrical fault is to blame - or the disposal has simply died.

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A disposal which makes strange noises such as humming, or which doesn’t seem to be spinning, has probably become jammed. Suppose a look inside the chamber with a flashlight (no one should ever put their hand inside a disposal) reveals nothing out of the ordinary. In that case, a plumber will have to disassemble the unit and identify the cause.

Frequent clogging, leaks, and bizarre noises could be symptoms of a failing disposal. Most garbage disposals that see a lot of use usually last around 8-10 years. Any homeowner who’s experiencing disposal problems, and isn’t sure when it was installed, would do well to contact a professional plumber. 

About Shamrock Plumbing and Drain Cleaning Inc.

Shamrock Plumbing and Drain Cleaning Inc. have been proudly serving Orlando, Florida’s residential and commercial plumbing needs since 2003. As a locally-owned, independent company, they are industry leaders in exceptional customer service and have the reviews and awards to prove it. Call them today for all garbage disposal repair or installation in the Orlando area.

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