Complete Guide to Taking Care of the Garbage Disposal

It is expected that garbage disposals would continue to work without any problems for a good number of years. After all, with its simplicity, taking care of it would not be too difficult, right? Well, that unfortunately is not the case. Many homeowners are not too aware how to take proper care of their garbage disposal. In reality though, many of the problems associated with the unit can be easily resolved with a few easy to follow guidelines as well as a push of the reset button. Let us see some of the common problems we may encounter with the garbage disposal.

Humming Garbage Disposal

There are a couple of reasons why a garbage disposal may begin to hum and eventually fail to work. Being aware of these will help you to troubleshoot the problem more effectively. What are these?

·Jammed Plate

Almost all garbage disposal units are designed with a slight opening at the bottom of the housing. This helps to gain access to the shredding plate, which may get stuck sometimes. When this happens, you can insert a ¼ inch Allen wrench or a disposer wrench that will allow you to wiggle the shredding plate so that it moves back and forth.

When the plate begins to move freely, you have successfully solved the problem of a stuck plate and the garbage disposal should work properly. If the motor continues to hum after this, then the problem lies with the motor. You cannot replace the motor of the unit so it must be replaced accordingly.

If there is no opening at the bottom of the unit’s housing, then you can use a broom handle and stick it from the top of the opening to try and wiggle the plate. Once the plate is unstuck and you still hear a humming sound from the motor, or the plate still fails to turn freely, then you would have to replace the entire garbage disposal unit.

·Stuck Flywheel

Let’s say you flip on the power switch of the garbage disposal and nothing happens except for the humming sound. What is happening? This is an indication of a stuck flywheel of the unit. What you need to do is to push the reset button of the unit to make it work again.

If this does not correct the condition, you can try and inspect that fuse of the circuit breaker found in the electrical service panel. If it has tripped, you can turn it off and back on to check if it resolves the problem. Normally, when the flywheel is stuck, it can also be caused by something lodged between the impellers and the shredder ring of the unit. So you can try to dislodge the object by attempting to wiggle it free.

When it comes to a stuck flywheel, remember to never use your hand or put your hand into the grinding chamber of the garbage disposal; this can have grave consequences. Make sure that you always cut off the power supply to the garbage disposal from the electrical service panel to avoid costly accidents.

When attempting to dislodge the flywheel, always turn in a clockwise direction. You will feel the turn become a bit lighter and freely once you have successfully dislodged it. If you will use a broom handle, a wooden stick, or a similar object, make sure that you place it against the impeller so that you will have more leverage to free up the stuck flywheel.

After you have freed up the flywheel, make sure that you press the reset button first before you turn on the power for the disposal unit. Run tap water into the disposal while quickly switching it on and off. This will spin the flywheel and allow any remaining obstructions to be dislodged and flushed down the drain.

·Dead Motor

Normally, we would think that when the motor is dead, nothing would happen. Most of the time this is true, but, there will be instances wherein the dead motor may produce some humming sounds when turned on. So how do you know if the motor is dead? Check the electricals or make sure that the motor is not jammed. If there is nothing wrong with the electricals and you are certain that the motor is not jammed, then you have a dead motor. The motor of the garbage disposal is not serviceable so you will need to replace the entire unit.

Other Reasons

Are there other reasons why a garbage disposal won’t turn on, will hum, or is completely dead? Aside from the stuck flywheel that we have already discussed, yes there are still a couple of reasons why your garbage disposal unit may fail to work. Here are some of the possibilities.

·Poor Grinding

What is happening when your garbage disposal unit is grinding poorly? One of the most common reasons is that there is not enough water running into the system as you are operating the unit. Another possible reason is that you are putting materials into the garbage disposal that should not be there in the first place. When the unit is running, but the waste is not being grounded, then there is a possibility that the blades are already broken. If this is the case, replacing the entire unit would be cheaper than replacing the broken blades.

·Clogged Drain

Have you ever experienced water just sitting in the sink stagnant? This is a case where the drain line may be clogged either from the disposal or possibly even further down the plumbing system. This may mean dismantling the drain pipe found under the sink and quite possibly even using a plunger and an auger to be able to clear the clogging.

There are typically a number of problems that can be associated to a slow draining garbage disposal unit. However, according to many plumbers, the most common reason is the placing of wrong materials or types of food into the unit. You also have to consider how the waste material will react to the water or the lack thereof, which will impact how it goes down the drain line.

It is likewise possible that you have not given the unit enough time to run before putting in the waste. So you need to ensure that you are properly operating the unit to take care of it.

·Chemical Cleaners

Some homeowners would not think twice about using chemical drain cleaners. Unfortunately, these types of cleaners will damage the garbage disposal unit and does nothing to help in the efficiency of the operation of the unit. All you will have is a sink full of potentially toxic chemicals. How would you clean the drain line?

Remove the bolts that are holding the unit’s discharge pipe in place. You can now disconnect the drain trap and proceed to remove the trap as well as the discharge drain pipe connected to the unit. This allows you to remove any obstruction or clogging in the pipe. If there is none found, then the problem lies deeper down the drain system. You have the choice of removing the obstruction with a sink auger or calling in a professional for faster and better results.

·Leaking Disposal

What if your garbage disposal is leaking? When dealing with leaks, it is vital to pinpoint its exact source to ensure that it has really something to do with the disposal. Once you have identified the source, simply tighten the connection to solve the leak.

There may be instances when you will need to replace drain gaskets or even mounting screws to solve leaks. It is possible that leaks can be accompanied by noisy operation of the disposal. In this case, make sure that there is no object stuck inside the unit. If the leak and the noise persists, then it may be time to get a replacement unit.

Source of Leaks

To help you take care of your garbage disposal unit better, it is wise to be aware the common sources of leaks. These will help you to troubleshoot a leaking garbage disposal faster.

·Sink Flange

With this type of leak, make sure that you turn the power supply to the unit from the electrical service panel before doing any repairs. From the disposer mount, turn the unit in a counterclockwise direction so that you can loosen it and remove it from its connection to the mounting flange.

Tighten the mounting bolts of the unit. If the bolts are tight the problem may be traced to a failing plumber’s putty. Loosen the bolts and proceed by pushing the sink flange slightly pass the sink surface. Plumber’s putty should be forced between the sink and the sink flange. This should completely go around the flange.

Tighten the mounting bolts to lock the sink flange in place at the right level of the sink surface. Wipe away the putty that will ooze out. Reinstall the garbage disposal and power it back on so that you can continue to test for leaks.

·Dishwasher Connection

When the leak occurs at this point, it is best to tighten the clamp found on the dishwasher hose that is connected to the inlet of the garbage disposal. If the leak is directly on the hose, buy a replacement and install it in place.

·Discharge Drainpipe

If you identify a leak at the discharge pipe, check the bolts that are holding it in place. In many instances leaks can be resolved by simply tightening the connection. However, if this does not work, you have to remove the bolts as well as the pipe and replace the gasket with a new one. After doing this reinstall all the bolts and tighten them properly.

Avoiding Clogging

Is there a way for you to avoid clogging and experiencing slow draining situations with your garbage disposal? There are a couple of things that you can observe to help reduce the possibility of clogging and slow draining. Simply follow these guidelines.

Never place potato peelings into the unit. These will result in a starchy paste just like mashed potatoes, which eventually results in clogging the drain. The same can be said with egg shells and coffee grounds. These materials can result in miniscule waste that has the potential of sticking to the sludge that is found in the pipes and result in stubborn clogs.

To ensure that your disposal unit is working properly and smelling nice at the same time, put lemon peel with ice cubes periodically. You may also use baking soda mixed with a cup of vinegar to keep the garbage disposal free from odors. Place it in the hopper and allow it to stay so that it foams up. Rinse it thoroughly with running water afterwards. Do this monthly and with the unit completely turned off.

Basic Care

To completely take care of your garbage disposal unit, there are a couple of things that you can follow. These will ensure that your disposal keeps running at its best.

  • - Always use cold water when you are grinding food waste;
  • Never overfill the unit;
  • Never use drain cleaners, bleach, or other chemicals, these do nothing for the unit;
  • Bones, fibrous materials, and coffee grounds should never be placed in the disposal;
  • The same goes for rubber, metal, and glass materials;
  • Make sure to run water before and after using the unit;
  • Use tongs to pull out any material that should not be in the disposal, never use your hands;
  • Ice cubes with a cup of rock salt is the best way to clean a unit with sludge and debris; and
  • Run water down the unit while grinding quartered lemons to deodorize the garbage disposal.

All of these will help you to take care of your garbage disposal. If there are other problems that you experience, do not hesitate to call Scott English Plumbing immediately.