So someone else has also been the “kitchen person” in your life. No big deal: you’ve got this. Here’s everything you need to know about the garbage disposal… including how not to become “the three-fingered person.”

The Basics

Use your garbage disposal to get rid of organic waste: uneaten leftovers, the parts of food you don’t cook or eat, and food waste which would attract fruit flies.

The garbage disposal switch will typically be on the wall next to the kitchen sink, but can occasionally be beneath the sink.

For a few weeks, you might flip this switch by accident, while trying to turn on the lights, and the resulting will scare you to death. Try not to do this in front of someone you’re attempting to impress. Before long, you’ll learn which switch is which.

DON’T EVER put your hands or anything else into the disposal while it’s running: there are no exceptions! Stick your fingers in there while the blades are spinning, and you can say Sayonara to those digits. Don’t let children operate the garbage disposal.

While prepping a meal, put food waste into the disposal or the sink which holds it. After your meal, scrape leftover food you don’t intend to save into the same place. Be sure to run the disposal after any meal in which you put food in it. Letting perishables sit in the disposal for even 24 hours can create some super rank smells.

Always run water when you turn on the disposal. It’s not important if it’s warm or cool.

Avoiding Damage

Disposals are for perishable food, period. Don’t even think about putting other stuff down there (a little accidental dirt from a potted plant won’t kill it; that’s still organic matter). But be aware that even certain foods can create havoc in the disposal, jamming it or breaking it. We’d hate for you to be charged to replace it once the maintenance man pulls out the no-no you threw in.

Disposal no-no’s include potatoes (especially uncooked; the starch can gum up the works) eggshells (odd, right? but true), melon rinds, artichokes, avocado pits, apricot pits, mango pits, cherry pits (see where we’re headed here?), chunky frozen food, shells from shellfish, any part of a celery stalk, greasy food, bones and fatty meat. Just think about the risk and if there’s any chance you could screw up the disposal, then save your bank account and use the trashcan instead.

Silverware is another item that tends to find its way into the disposal and will create a ruckus when it does. Turn the disposal off immediately, wait for the noise to stop and the blades to still, then reach in and remove the piece. It will probably look a little gnarly but you’ll still be able to use it. The best way to avoid this happening is to stack dirty dishes in the other side of the sink.

Broken glass can also lock up a garbage disposal.

Repairs

Little known fact: garbage disposals all originally come with a little hex key (actually an Allen wrench). It’s always shaped like the letter L and is typically about 2” long. If you find it, put it somewhere where you can find it again. (Be sure to leave it behind when you move out).

If you’re handy with tools, most, if not all, disposals have a place on the bottom of the motor where you can manually un-jam it with an Allen wrench. But odds are high that your community’s maintenance team will repair a broken garbage disposal. If you want to save a little pride, pull out a flashlight and see if you can see the object causing the problem before you put in a maintenance request.

Keep a Clean Smell

Got a bad smell coming from your garbage disposal?  Run it to clear any old food, then add you choice of the following: lemons; bleach; straight vinegar; baking soda and water; or baking soda and vinegar. Any of these can be used to make your garbage disposal smell better. Your nose, your choice!

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