Are Garbage Disposals Bad for Plumbing?

By Mike

April 20, 2021

In an effort to cut down wastes in landfills and reduce the effort we exert in kitchens, garbage disposal systems were introduced in the forties. The idea is to scrape food off the dishes straight into the sink, where food debris goes down a unit that grinds them, then they flow down with wastewater.

If used correctly, garbage disposal systems can be the workhorses of your kitchen. Otherwise, they can wreak havoc on your plumbing system. The concern here is that garbage disposals might clog the existing pipes. That’s why many people ask, “Are garbage disposals bad for plumbing?”

Garbage disposals aren’t a plumber’s best friend because they have the potential to cause a lot of problems to the pipes. However, it’s all up to how we use them. If we throw in the right stuff there -that is strictly food debris-, there would be no problems. If we treat them as trash cans, we’ll probably end up with clogged pipes and plumbing disasters.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the possible reasons that might make your garbage disposal a bad idea for plumbing and how to deal with them. We’ll also be discussing some good practices on using garbage disposals to avoid plumbing hazards.

Are Garbage Disposals Bad for Plumbing?

No, they’re not, as long as you use them correctly.

If you’re lucky to be reading this before installing your disposal system, then we highly recommend you get a professional plumber to do this for you. They will examine the existing pipes for any existing clog, and they’ll decongest them before installing the disposal unit.

The type of food you shove down your garbage disposal will determine what happens in the pipes down there. Did I say shove? Well, to start with, don’t shove or cram anything down your disposal. If it isn’t small enough to go down by itself with the aid of water, then it’s not meant to be put through the garbage disposal.

For example, eggshells are the worst thing that goes down your garbage disposal. Think about them. How do you expect them to flow down your pipes?

The same applies to fiber-rich foods like celery or banana peels. It’s only natural that they get stuck in the disposal unit, and they won’t even make it to the pipes.

Moen GX50C Prep Series 1/2 HP Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal with Sound Reduction, Power Cord Included , Black

What Can I Do to Prevent Clogging the Pipes?

As we’ve said before, a big part of protecting your pipes from damage and keeping them at tip-top condition while using a garbage disposal is your responsibility. It all boils down to what you allow to get to your garbage disposal.

You need to make sure that the food debris that you push through the garbage disposal is liquefiable. Anything that’s hard to be ground and/or liquified could pose a hazard to the pipes.

Shortly, it means that you should only push down food debris in there. No trash. No non-biodegradable items. If the food is in big bulks, cut it down into smaller manageable chunks.

Always make sure that you push food debris down the pipes with a good flow of running water to get things running. Speaking of running, always make sure to run your garbage disposal regularly, even if there isn’t much there to grind. This is to prevent the system from potential rust and corrosion.

Cleaning your garbage disposal using oranges or lemon once a week would be an excellent idea. What’s even better is using vinegar, and since we want the grinder to work while cleaning so that it gets cleaned too, liquid vinegar won’t be the best option. You can make some vinegar ice cubes that’ll be crushed in the grinder, cleaning the pipes and sharpening the blades at the same time.

What Can I Do to Improve the Smell of My Garbage Disposal?

The key to a good smelling garbage disposal system is keeping it as clean as possible. You can do this by running water or soapy water in it after it grinds all the food debris. As we mentioned above, using vinegar ice cubes, oranges, or lemons can be a nice idea for a potent cleansing session every week or two.

You can also pour down your pipes some boiling water every month or so to get rid of grease stuck down there. Yet, the goal is to limit the amount of grease that gets in there in the first place.

Plink Garbage Disposal Cleaner, Freshener & Odor Removing Balls, Easy to Use, Fresh Lemon Scent, 40 Count (PLM40N)

What Food Types I Shouldn’t Put Down the Garbage Disposal?

It’s a common misconception that a garbage disposal system can handle any type of food. It can’t.

You shouldn’t put solid food at the disposal. This includes anything that’s not biodegradable. We’re talking bones, corn cobs, gristle, and the like. The same applies to starchy food like rice, pasta, and potatoes. The idea is that these will turn into a paste-like formula that will eventually clog the pipes.

You might be wondering about the leftovers of your chicken alfredo pasta right now. We’d say you don’t have to go extreme. If it’s one plate, you can put it down the disposal but make sure to run plenty of water before, during, and after the grinding to make sure nothing gets stuck.

Grease is definitely off the table. It won’t get grinded, nor will it solidify. So, you’re introducing clogging particles to your grinder and your pipes subsequently.

Conclusion

Garbage disposals are great to have if you’re going to use them correctly. You should be very cautious when it comes to what you throw in there, and you should maintain them by regular cleaning sessions. Besides, if anything goes wrong with your garbage disposal system, don’t try to work it out yourself. Call a professional plumber. They know what to do.

Also, keep in mind that like anything in life, garbage disposals don’t last forever. They’ll break at some point, and you’ll have to change them, so don’t redeem the idea of using garbage disposals invaluable because they have a limited lifetime. It’s only normal given what they do.

About the author

Hi I'm Mike! I'm the owner, writer, and sometimes editor of Foundedproject.com. Being a new homeowner can be a little daunting, which is why I created this blog. I write about problems that a new home owner might run into. 

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