Disposal Do's and Don'ts Junction City KS
Disposal Do's and Don'ts
What ensued was starchy mayhem. The disposer managed to grind some of the peels before the drain clogged and potato sludge shot all over the kitchen. Instead of enjoying the meal, my family spent the next hour mopping up and unclogging the kitchen plumbing.
A basic understanding of food-waste disposers would have prevented such a domestic disaster. All disposers work according to the same basic principles - a flat plate with small, rotating mashers and an inner wall with serrated teeth grind food waste. However, there are two types of electric food-waste disposers. A continuous-feed disposer allows you to push food waste in and switch it on. Batch-feed models work just like the continuous-feed type, but instead of flipping a wall switch, a stopper placed in the drain activates a switch and turns on the disposer. The type of disposer used in a home is often governed by municipal building codes, according to Colette Ergenbright, supervisor of consumer science and information for Maytag. If no building code dictates, a homeowner's personal preference determines what type of disposer is installed. Special considerations are necessary for homes with septic systems.
First, the model selected must meet the requirements for the size of the septic tank. While many models are safe for use with septic systems, certain disposers offer a special feature, according to Josh Malik, assistant brand manager for In-Sink-Erator. Each time you run a disposer made specifically for septic systems, it injects enzymes that help break down the food waste. It is important to note here that many home inspectors recommend limited to no food-waste-disposer use in homes with septic systems. They can lead to significant solid buildup in the tanks, which then require far more frequent pumpout and maintenance. To determine what type of disposer best suits your needs, you can go to www.insinkerator.com/select.html and answer five simple questions. Based on your answers, the website will recommend a disposer model. W
hy use a food-waste disposer? "Your kitchen will be more hygienic and clean. You don't have to worry about (food) rotting in the garbage can until you can take it out," Malik says. Not only is a disposer the most hygienic and cost-effective way to dispose of food waste, it is also environmentally friendly. According to In-Sink-Erator, food waste represents 16 percent of all landfill refuse. "The worst thing you can do is throw your food waste out, because it ends up in the landfill," Malik says. By using a disposer, finely ground food waste goes into the sewer system and is then recycled into fertilizer. And if you choose to limit disposer use because of your septic system, don't forget the compost alternative, which accomplishes the same thing without the industrial middleman. As my brother learned the hard way, there are limits to what a disposer can handle. Fibrous food waste like cornhusks and artichokes are out.
Surprisingly, some food wastes reputed to be disposer don'ts are actually disposer dos - in the right quantities. "If you're going to peel five pounds of potatoes, you'll want to feed them into the disposer a little at a time," Ergenbright says. The same goes for chicken bones. In-Sink-Erator tests each of its models using 35 pounds of frozen steer rib bones, according to Malik. "It makes quite a racket," he says. Disposers can grind most food waste easily enough. "That's not the issue, but you need to make sure to use plenty of water," says Malik, to flush the waste from the pipes. Proper use of a disposer requires starting the flow of cold water before pushing the food waste into the unit. Turn the switch on and run the disposer until you no longer hear grinding sounds.
Shut off the disposer, but continue to run the cold water for at least 15 seconds. There are two schools of thought with regard to grease left over from cooking. It gets the thumbs up from Ergenbright as long as it has cooled into a solid. She emphasizes that homeowners should run the cold tap because hot water will liquefy the fat, which can later cool and solidify in a home's pipes. Then there are many who recommend homeowners stay away from all forms of grease, as it ends up floating in the scum layer of a septic tank and can clog the drain field. Ergenbright warns homeowners also to be wary of non-food items that may seem innocuous but can really gum up the works of a disposer. String, aluminum foil, paper (except toilet paper) and plastic wrap are common household items that, even in small amounts, can prevent a disposer from grinding properly and may cause it to jam. A humming noise may indicate that the disposer's motor is running but is jammed. First turn the disposer off and disconnect the electrical supply.
If the object causing the jam is obvious, pull it out by hand. To dislodge a wedged article, insert an Allen wrench into the opening at the base of the unit. If your disposer lacks the opening on the bottom, try using a broom handle in the top opening to free the item. Once the item has been retrieved, reconnect the power to the unit, and check to see if a small button on the bottom of the disposer needs to be reset. If you've tried these do-it-yourself tricks and your disposer continues to jam, it may be time to call a professional.
Ergenbright prescribes as-needed disposer cleaning, based on frequency and type of use. There are cleaning agents made specifically for food-waste disposers, but industry experts agree that several homemade methods are equally effective. Citrus fruits, like lemons and oranges, freshen a malodorous disposer. Stuck-on food bits are easily removed by grinding ice in the disposer. Adding a few sprinkles of baking soda to the ice will also rid the drain of food odors. On continuous-feed models, clean the underside of the splash baffle with a sponge or scrub brush to remove food particles. The life span of disposers will range depending on the type of food waste ground and frequency of use, according to Ergenbright. If the unit is no longer effectively grinding food waste after proper care and maintenance, it may be time for a new disposer. n Alicia Garceau is a freelance writer based in Chicago.