Caring for Your Garbage Disposal

Detail of the plumbing system with garbage disposal under a modern kitchen sink, with a plumbers tool tray and equipment. Horizontal format.

A garbage disposal is an absolute godsend during kitchen cleanup. It’s so nice to not have to worry about thoroughly scraping every plate over the garbage. Plus you don’t have to deal with constant stinky trash can filling your house with its odor! All too often we treat our garbage disposals like they can work magic. The truth is, they aren’t as tough as you think; and if you want them to last, you may have to think twice about what you’re throwing in them.

How It Works

Garbage disposals are built into everything for your convenience. They are connected to the drain on your dishwasher, the drain to your main sewage line and if you’re lucky they are hard-wired to your electrical circuit (otherwise they need to be plugged into an outlet). These connections make it such a worry-free process! No need to worry about pre-cleaning dishes for the dishwasher- hallelujah!

Each garbage disposal has a grinding chamber with a high-speed motor. When small particles of food are fed through the top of the disposal along with a stream of water, the motor blades grind them into even smaller particles. These particles are then fed through to the main sewer drain by the impeller- ideally clog free.

What Can Go Wrong

Leaks and clogs, leaks and clogs. There is no such thing as a perfect appliance. You are bound to experience a leak or clog at some point- welcome to the world of plumbing. The key is prevention and catching problems early. When buying a new appliance it’s always good to know what could go wrong.


Leaks can occur at the bottom or top of a garbage disposal. Each leak is specific to a problem. Leaks coming out the top of a disposal generally are caused by poor installation or part failure. Inspection and re-installation will help you solve this issue.

Leaks from the bottom could mean a loose connection to the drain lines- either from the dishwasher or the main drain. To stop these kinds of leaks you may need to replace gaskets or simply tighten the connection.


Clogs are easy to prevent as long as you know the do’s and don’ts. As nice as it would be to not have to worry about these things, we really need to watch what we throw down our disposal. Here are some items that should never be put in garbage disposals:

  • Fibrous foods: potato peels, artichokes, celery, asparagus, etc. These types of foods can cause tangles in the disposal blades and leave a nightmare of a problem to clean up.
  • Hard Foods: bones, corn husks, fruit pits, seeds. The machine simply isn’t strong enough to grind these foods and you will be left with a clog.
  • Expandables: pasta and rice. Foods that expand in water are classic clog risk.
  • Coffee Grounds: typical for getting caught in the drain trap.
  • Egg Shells: the membrane in the eggshell can get caught on the blades. It’s best to just add the shells to your compost pile.
  • Grease: even when flushed down the disposal with hot water, grease will stick to the walls of the drain pipes and start to build up- slowly leading to a dangerous clog.

If you are a little late to jump on the prevention strategies and find yourself with a clog or a leak you can’t repair, give A Pro Plumbing a call! The experts at A Pro Plumbing are happy to help with all your plumbing needs, no matter how disastrous they may be. Contact us for a quote or request your appointment online!