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How a Garbage Disposal Works

A garbage disposal is an electrically powered device installed under a kitchen sink to assist in the disposal of food waste. A garbage disposal is designed to shred and grind food scraps into smaller pieces, allowing them to pass through the plumbing system easily.

The basic components of garbage disposals include a motor, a grinding chamber, an impeller or grinding ring, and a hopper or inlet for introducing food waste. When you turn on the garbage disposal, the motor activates and spins the impeller or grinding ring at a high speed.


Sometimes it isn’t about the garbage disposal, it is about how the little bits of ground-up food settle in the pipes after being drained from the disposal!


Egg shells and coffee grounds

Egg shells and coffee grounds may settle in a drain line, sticking to the pipe walls. Over time other items that go down the drain can cling to the eggshells and coffee grounds causing a blockage (clog).

Nuts and Shells (including seafood shells)

These can be very damaging to your disposal.

Potato Peels & Onion Layers

When peels are ground up in large quantities, a thick starchy paste is formed. The thinner peel pieces may slip past the blades and be drained into the pipes. This may cause a clog over time.

Avoid putting that soft membrane layer under the dry skin of an onion. The thin membrane and the dry skin may get caught up in the drain and pipes causing blockages.

Stringy or Fibrous Veggies and Fruit

Banana peels, celery, asparagus, corn husks, rhubarb…we’ve all been there. Picking out pieces from our teeth, right? Don’t put these through your disposal! Eventually, this can cause a clog or impede the blades from moving correctly.

Cooked Pasta & Rice and Bread

These absorb water and expand. Leading to a clogged drain.

Pits and Seeds

If a knife can’t cut these, it’s likely the garbage disposal can’t either without taking damage. Put these in the trash.

Grease, Oil, Fats

Fats, grease, and oils often solidify when cold. After liquid fat/oil/grease is flushed through the disposal it makes its way to the pipes. At some point, cold water is run down the pipes and the fats solidify causing potential blockages.

How to Use a Garbage Disposal – The Correct Way

To use the garbage disposal, run cold water into the sink and start feeding the food waste into the hopper. The rotating impeller or grinding ring shreds and grinds it into tiny particles. The centrifugal force created by the spinning action forces the particles against the outer wall of the grinding chamber.

Running water helps flush small particles of food waste out of the grinding chamber and into the plumbing system. The water helps to carry the particles through the pipes and prevent clogs.

How to Maintain a Garbage Disposal

Regular maintenance of garbage disposals is crucial to ensure efficient operation. You should run cold water while the disposal is in use. Running cold water while operating a garbage disposal helps to solidify fats and oils. The garbage disposal grinds the solidified fats and oils and flushes them out with fewer complications. Garbage disposal manufacturers recommend periodically cleaning the disposal by grinding ice cubes or citrus peels. This helps to eliminate odors and maintain its performance.

A garbage disposal works by using a motor to spin a grinding mechanism. This shreds food waste into small particles. Water flushes out the particles into the drainage system.