Garbage disposals are an essential part of a sink in a busy home. Many homeowners rely on them for chopping up food that they dump into it after cleaning off a plate. But, how long do garbage disposals last? Well, they can last between 10 and 15 years with proper maintenance! That is a long time!
Let’s take a look at why this is important, what affects how long garbage disposals last, proper maintenance of garbage disposals, signs there is a problem, and when it may be time to replace the unit.
Why is This Important?
Many households like to put garbage waste in the sink, instead of the trash can. When it is churned up into little bits in the sink, it does not create the smell that one would have in the trash can. However, it is important to remember that only biodegradable things can go in there. Bones, silverware, plastic, metal, and other things that cannot be chopped up cannot go in the garbage disposal.
If you have a septic system, it is not advisable to use the garbage disposal often. This is due to the septic can fill up quickly with the food waste, require it to be emptied more often, and put a strain on the system. Unfortunately, this will cost you a lot of money sooner than later.
What Affects How Long Garbage Disposals Last?
- Quality of the Garbage Disposal
There are many brands of garbage disposals so you want to make sure yours is good quality. It is hard to know though when you move into a new house if it is of quality or not. This is why it may be difficult to know truly how long it will last. However, one way to make sure it lasts a long time is to run cold water before turning on the system.
2. What Are You Putting in the Disposal?
If you are putting the types of foods that are suitable for the garbage disposal in there, it should last a long time. See the section below for proper maintenance of garbage disposals and some do’s and don’ts.
3. How Often the Garbage Disposal is Used
If the garbage disposal is used too often, it will wear out faster. However, with proper maintenance and care, you can expand its lifespan.
Proper Maintenance of Garbage Disposals
As with any appliance, proper maintenance is required.
1. Run cold water when grinding food
Turn the cold water on and then turn on the disposal. You don’t want to run the disposal without flowing water. When you are done, run the cold water a little longer and then turn the disposal and water off. The cold water will help the food go down the drain and through the pipes. You can put hot water in the sink, but don’t use it to run the disposal as it can clog the drain.
2. Keep oil and grease out of the garbage disposal
Oil and grease can solidify so it is best to put it in a container and into the garbage can. If it solidifies in your garbage disposal, it can clog the pipes.
3. Stringy foods go in the trash can
Foods such as celery stalks, potato peels, onion skins, artichokes, asparagus, and corn husks are very stringy and can get caught around the blades and motor. This will damage the garbage disposal so these foods are better in the garbage can.
4. Citrus peels, coffee grinds, fruit pits, and bones can go in the disposal
Citrus peels and coffee grinds are a great way to make the garbage disposal have a clean smell. Grind them up just like you would do with other foods. However, make sure you don’t have too much in the disposal at once.
The pits of fruits such as avocados and peaches, and also bones can go in the garbage disposal. Just like with other food in the disposal, run cold water before and during grinding. The particles go into the grind chamber in the disposal and create a “scouring action” that cleans the disposal.
Some view eggshells help keep the blades sharpened, while others say that the membranes can stick to the sides of the disposal and cause clogging.
6. Pasta and Rice
Many families dump the remnants of pasta and rice into the garbage disposal and think that it will be okay going down. However, did you know that it expands when wet and will fill up the disposal trap? It is best to put it in the trash can. The good thing about putting the pasta in the trashcan is there is not much of a smell.
7. Nuts belong in the trash can
Have you ever tried putting something in the disposal that makes loud noises and doesn’t chop up? That would be nuts. They are thick, almost like fruit pits, and will not chop up well. Just like fruit pits, they will damage the blades.
8. Non-food items do not go in the garbage disposal
Non-food materials like paper, plastic, cigarette butts, plastic, and metal won’t chop up in a garbage disposal and will ruin the blades.
9. Clean the blades monthly
The blades need cleaning and a great way to do this safely is:
- Make sure the disposal is off
- Pour ½ cup of white vinegar and ½ cup baking soda into the garbage disposal
- Foaming should occur and then rinse with hot water
10. Clean the disposal
Just like the blades need cleaning, as does the disposal.
There are a few ways to do this. One way is to run cold water after using the garbage disposal. A great time to do this is when you finish cleaning dishes and allow the soapy sink water to run into the disposal as this will help clean it.
Another way is to add in a deodorizer such as baking soda. Some people like to do a combination of 1 cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda. Let it fizz for 15 minutes and then run cold water. This should help it smell good and kill salmonella, E.coli, and other bacteria. Always use natural cleaners so you aren’t putting chemicals into the pipes.
Signs There is a Problem With the Garbage Disposal
1. Garbage disposal is making loud noises
Shine a flashlight into the disposal and see if you can find what is caught inside. If you find something, remove it carefully (when the unit is off) and be careful of the blades. Then, try running the disposal again. If it is not working or continues to make noise, call a professional for assistance.
2. Bad smell from the garbage disposal
If you have tried using the idea above of white vinegar and baking soda and you are still finding a bad smell, try carefully to put your hand into the disposal and feel around for any food. It may be that the food particles are so tiny that you can’t remove them and need a professional to help.
3. Flip the switch “on” and nothing happens
If you are running the water and flip the disposal to the “on” position and nothing is happening, check the circuit breaker in your electrical panel first to make sure it is on. Then, press the reset button on your disposal. It is usually on the unit itself or next to the “on” switch. Lastly, check that the unit is plugged in.
If you find you are flipping the reset button often, or none of the suggestions allow it to work, it may be time to call in a professional to diagnose the issue.
4. Garbage disposal has water coming out
A disposal can develop a crack or a leak over time. This may occur because of: worn gaskets, loose screws, or loose drain line connection. Try tightening the screws and drain line connections to see if that works. You can also replace worn gaskets. Call a professional to diagnose the issue and see if it is worth repairing or buying a new system.
When It is Time to Replace the Garbage Disposal
- The unit is 10 years old or older and it is making noises that won’t go away
- Frequent clogging
It may be that the unit is too small for the number of people in your home. Here is a chart about the size of the garbage disposal unit you need for the number of people in the home:
4 or more people = 1 hp.
2 to 4 people = ¾ hp
1 to 2 people = ½ hp to 1/3 (depends on usage)
Sometimes starting over with a new garbage disposal gives you peace of mind. But how do you know what kind to buy? Consumer Reports researched the best ones out there and you can view the list if you are a member of their program.
Garbage disposals are often used after cooking meals and allow the family to clean up the kitchen faster. However, they do need to be maintained and used properly. Are you having issues with your garbage disposal? Not sure if it is working properly? Reach out to us so we can help and you can also leave us a message below.