How to clean and maintain your garbage disposal

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When journalists look for constant ideas for articles, a simple solution is to look within. And with my new (similar) rental kitchen, that means adapting to a new set of appliances. Now that I’ve already got to know my electric hob, it’s time to move on to another point: waste disposal.

Invented by John Hammes in 1927, the machine uses blunt impellers to shred food waste and send it to your local sewage treatment plant, eliminating the need to fish leftover food out of your sink after you wash dishes and diverting waste (sometimes) from landfills. Here’s what you need to know about cleaning and maintaining your garbage truck.

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Everything starts with the right use. The first thing to remember is to only use cold water when you run it, which will prevent residual oil and grease from building up in the machine. (Plus, don’t pour grease, grease, or oil down the drain in the first place.) Second, leaving it running while your sink is still full of dishes is probably not a good idea in case a stray fork or spoon falls down the drain down and possibly wreak havoc inside the disposal.

When you’re ready to say goodbye to food waste, run cold water, turn on the garbage disposal, slowly feed small scraps of food, then keep running the water until the whirring becomes a gentle hum, 15 to 30 seconds , before turning off the disposal and then the water. (Large food waste should be cut into smaller pieces before disposal.) Disposing with water flushes food through the system, which helps eliminate odors.

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What is allowed and what is not in the garbage disposal

The indications of what should and should not be sent to waste disposal can be contradictory depending on the source. However, there are certain cases where everyone agrees, such as: B. Avoid throwing plastic, glass, metal and other non-food items down the drain. Other items that are better suited to compost or the trash are large bones, clams, and oyster shells (I’d stay away from all shellfish exoskeletons, just to be safe), and fibrous veggies and scraps like corn husks, artichokes, onion skins, and celery . While the instructions for the model in my kitchen say eggshells are fine, other manufacturers advise against it in bulk, so I plan to throw them in the trash out of caution. Plumbing experts also advise against starchy foods like pasta or rice, which can expand when wet and clog your pipes. Pretty much everything else is fair game going down the drain, including small bones and fruit pits that can help clean out the milling chamber.

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How to clean your garbage disposal and deal with odors

One place of potential smells and other general rudeness to be wary of is the baffle, aka the rubber splash guard. Admittedly, I hadn’t even thought about it in the seven months I’ve lived in my apartment up until last week, and let’s just say I’ll never neglect it for so long again. Luckily, it’s easy enough to clean it out every few weeks depending on how much litter you’re dumping. The baffle is removable on some disposals, which simply means you have to remember to clean it with soap and water or put it in the dishwasher. If not removable, unplug your trash can or turn off power at the circuit breaker before cleaning the underside with a sponge or old toothbrush. (While There are no sharp blades in trash cans (although you shouldn’t stick your hand in them without first turning off the power.) And while you’re there, be sure to clean the smooth, sloped area at the top of the grinding chamber as well.

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If you do all of this and are still encountering foul odors, fill the sink half full with water, stir in about 1/4 cup of baking soda while simultaneously unplugging and turning on the garbage disposal until the water is gone. For extra help in the smell department, throw in citrus peels for a fresh scent. (Contrary to some advice, the citrus peels won’t help clean the unit — neither will ice cubes.) You should avoid putting drain cleaners and other harsh chemicals down the garbage disposal, which can damage both the unit and your plumbing.

Follow these Rules should keep your waste disposal in tip-top shape for years to come. Should it clog or you encounter other problems, consult your garbage disposal manual for troubleshooting before calling a plumber.

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Is waste disposal environmentally friendly?

A final consideration is how much waste you should dispose of compared to general waste in terms of the environmental impact of waste disposal. (Just as a reminder, composting is the number one choice for dealing with food waste in an environmentally friendly way, aside from reducing it in the first place.) Unfortunately, the answer is that it depends on factors such as: B. whether your community has an adequate water supply and what your sewage system does with waste.

“Whatever is separated from the water is either dumped, condensed into fertilizer, or digested by microorganisms,” writes Jacob Leibenluft for Slate. The last option produces methane that can be captured and burned as an energy source. “Sewage and environmental experts agree that . . . Disposal makes sense when your wastewater system is designed to turn food waste into energy,” writes Katherine Roth for the Associated Press. However, only about 8 percent of wastewater treatment plants in the United States use anaerobic digesters that do this. The Water Environment Federation has an interactive map on their website that you can use to check if your local facility is using anaerobic digestion. (For Washingtoners, the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant uses anaerobic digestion.)

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And for the 16 percent of households with septic tanks, there is another aspect to consider. “Using a garbage disposal unit in the sink can affect how often you need to pump your septic tank,” notes the Environmental Protection Agency. “If you have to use a garbage disposal unit, your tank will have to be pumped more frequently.”

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