Appliance

Disposals

Garbage disposals were named by very good marketing departments. Disposals are not meant for disposing of garbage and  they most certainly cannot be used for ALL garbage. More accurately they should be called “kitchen drain grinders,” since their real purpose is to deal with insignificant amounts of escaped waste-food that might otherwise clog up the kitchen drain.
image showing a vintage ad for garbage disposals
Vintage ad for disposals

Good Marketing

Disposals are by far the most misused tools in the kitchen. The result of this has been both a burden and windfall to professional plumbers through the clogging of drains and the ruination of septic systems. As mentioned already, disposals were originally invented to grind up the inadvertent food materials that accidentally managed to get themselves through the kitchen sink strainer and down the drain.

Before disposals, this would almost certainly have caused a clogged drain. An event sure to ruin a nicely planned evening meal. Disposers made it possible with the flip a switch to grind up any pesky escaped carrots, potato peels or whatever and flush these finely ground particles away with no trouble at all.

The marketing departments of these manufacturers quickly seized this idea and made it sound as if anything could be conveniently stuffed in, ground up and flushed down the drain.
Consumers thought this was a true miracle and embraced the idea with zest. Soon folks (like my dad) were experimenting stuffing entire turkey carcasses, whole lemons and all kinds of things down the sink that were never intended to go there. Yikes!  
I learned the hard way that no matter how powerful the disposer, artichoke leaves tougher!
Image of a commercial garbage disposer with 10 horsepower
Garbage disposal

Rather than re-educate the poor consumer about the true purpose of the machine, manufacturers responded by upping the grinding capacity and power, then raising the price!

Today a heavy duty residential disposer has a full 1-hp and will cost around $300. but for the real men out there, you can get an ultra-heavy-duty In-SinkErator SS-1000-12 disposer with 10 horsepower for just under $7K. Good grief!

Warning: be careful to only run biodegradable material through your disposer especially if you are on a septic system.

To-Do

  • Always use plenty of cold water when running the disposal.
  • Do not pour grease down the drain or the disposal.
  • Never reach into the disposer-ever!
  • Find your appliance’s owner’s manual and place it in a secure location for instructions on your specific appliance. If you have lost the manual or want a second copy, you can usually find them on line.

Maintenance

  • 4x per year: Disposers need a good cleaning now and then as food can get stuck on the internal mechanism and smell bad. Drop some lemon slices into the disposer and run.
  • 4x per year: Dump some old ice cubes down the disposer while its running, along with a box of baking soda.
  • 1x per year: Also, check for rust and inspect the fittings under the sink to make sure everything is tight and leak free. Plan to replace every 5-8 years.
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