Garbage Disposal Guide

While considered to be a relatively simple appliance, your garbage disposal contains a number of working parts, any of which can cause the unit to break down, jam, or leak. In the guide below, we cover a wide assortment of garbage disposal issues and tips, including:

  • How Does a Garbage Disposal Become Clogged?
  • Tips to Prevent a Clogged Garbage Disposal
  • Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts
  • Common Causes for Garbage Disposal Breakdowns
  • Garbage Disposal Repair Tips
  • Foods You Should Never Put in Garbage Disposal
  • Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips for Thanksgiving
  • Why Is My Garbage Disposal Leaking Water?
  • What to Do with a Leaky Garbage Disposal
  • Garbage Disposal Maintenance

Keep reading to learn more or call Peninsula if you need immediate garbage disposal repair service in Delaware or Maryland! 

How Does a Garbage Disposal Become Clogged?

Garbage disposals are often so efficient at grinding up food waste that homeowners may become careless with their disposal methods, and maintenance practices over time. Clogs typically occur as the result of a reaction between the waste matter and water, or a lack of water, with the problem materializing in the trap that is located where the discharge of waste occurs.

The waste line itself can become clogged due to any number of issues, including:

  • Lack of water. Without adequate amounts of water to flush ground waste material through the drainage system, it can accumulate in the drain line.
  • Potato peels. Due to the high starch content of potato peels, ground matter can form a paste resembling the consistency of mashed potatoes.
  • Banana peels. Structure and starch content is similar to potato peels, in addition to fibrous strands that hold the material together.
  • Coffee grounds or egg shells. While they are two of the most commonly ground items, the resulting waste is so fine that it can easily adhere to any existing waste lining pipes, forming a clog.

Tips to Prevent a Clogged Garbage Disposal

Prevention is the key, though you may still encounter issues from time to time. Methods include:

  • Run the disposal on a regular basis to prevent rust and obstructions from forming.
  • Use a strong flow of cold water when grinding food waste, in order to cause any residual fats to solidify.
  • Cut larger items in to reasonable sized pieces.
  • Leave the motor and water running until the process is complete.
  • Avoid placing expandable foods such as rice or pasta down the disposal. These materials will expand further with the addition of water and may clog the unit.

Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts

Serious injury or damage can occur if proper precautions aren’t taken, and safe procedures not followed.


  • Only place soft items in to your garbage disposal, avoiding hard objects such as bones which can damage blades.
  • Run cold water before, during and after using the disposal to keep the motor cool, and keep fats in solid form.
  • Check for leaks on a regular basis.


  • In the event of a jam, do not place your hand in the disposal to clear it. Even when not in motion, blades can cause serious injury.
  • Avoid overfilling the disposal, which can cause it to jam, or place undue pressure on the motor.
  • Don’t turn off the disposal before it has finished grinding up food.
  • Pouring bleach down the disposal can cause damage to seals; grinding up citrus peels is a great way to keep the unit smelling fresh.

Common Causes for Garbage Disposal Breakdowns

Your garbage disposal works on the same basic principles as a food processor or blender, using razor sharp blades to grind up food in to manageable waste. The unit contains a number of key components, many of which can contribute to water leakage if not properly maintained. Other common issues that require a call for service can include:

  • Unusual noises.
  • Failure to turn on.
  • The unit is humming.
  • A food jams.

Garbage Disposal Repair Tips

Try these less invasive measures to clear your clogged disposal, before calling Peninsula for repair services:

Water Flush

Dry waste is likely to cause a clog unless sufficient amounts of water are present to help wash it away. In the event of a clog, try running the cold tap at full speed while turning on the disposal, and allow the water to run for several seconds more after it has cleared.

Ice & Lemon

Add a few ice cubes and some lemon peel to the mix for stubborn clogs, allowing them to become ground up with the other materials. The mixture of coarse ice and acidic peel will help to clean the components and pipes; run clear water for several seconds after the clog has cleared.

Hit the Reset

Check under the sink, on the disposal housing for a red or black reset button, and push to reset the unit.

Be Safe

Turn off the breaker and water supply before shining a flashlight into the disposal through the drain. If you can see the object you suspect is causing the clog, use a long-handled object such as tongs or pliers to remove it. Then restore power and turn on the disposal to test.

Foods You Should Never Put in Garbage Disposal

Never send these foods down the disposal:

  • Bones or pits – They cause too much wear and tear on the blades and motor
  • Coffee grounds – They can accumulate and clog
  • Cooking grease, oil, or fats – They will harden and jam up the mechanism
  • Eggshells – The membranes can stick to the sides of the disposal
  • Onion skins – They can stick to the sides of the disposal and get wrapped around the shredder
  • Stringy fruits and veggies – Fibers from foods like celery, asparagus, artichokes, chard, lettuce, and potato peels can wrap around the blades of your disposal
  • Large quantities of any food

If your disposal gets a little too fragrant, you can pour baking soda down the drain followed by vinegar. Finish with a cold rinse. For additional freshening, send down some lemon peel scraps and ice cubes.

Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips for Thanksgiving

The holidays are a wonderful time for family and friends to gather and make memories with loved ones. One of the most memorable parts of Thanksgiving is the sharing of a delicious meal filled with recipes that have been passed down for generations. What you don’t want your family to remember is the Thanksgiving they celebrated at your house when the leftover bones from Grandma Margie’s famous deep-friend turkey clogged the garbage disposal. Yikes!

Don’t let a clogged garbage disposal hiccup your Thanksgiving meal clean-up. Make sure that you and your family stick to the following garbage disposal maintenance tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving.

  1. During food preparation, keep any food wrappers, plastic wrap, foil, cans and their lids, etc. out of the sink.It’s tempting to just toss those things in the sink when you’re running around the kitchen cooking ten dishes at once. But, it’s easy to forget you threw them in there, which can lead to them being accidentally washed down the drain. Don’t let that happen! Make sure your whole family is on board: only dishes go in the sink.
  2. Make sure any peels, especially from potatoes, go in the trash. Your garbage disposal isn’t a catch-all for all of those potato and apple peels! As these substances grind up in your garbage disposal, they become paste-like, making them more likely to cause a clog.
  3. Throw large food scraps in the trash before putting the dishes in the sink. After your Thanksgiving meal, you’re sure to have a family member or two who went back for seconds (or thirds!) and got a little too much. Have a trash can set up in an easily accessible area near the sink, and make sure your visitors know to scrape their plates if they decide to clean up their own dishes.
  4. Check the garbage disposal for cutlery before you turn it on. As the dishes pile into the sink, a fork or knife could end up slipping into your garbage disposal. If not caught, these objects can cause serious damage to your device. Take a peek into the drain to see if any cutlery fell in. Use tongs to carefully remove the object from the garbage disposal before turning the device on. Never reach your hand into the disposal.
  5. Run cold water while you use the disposal and for at least 15 to 20 seconds after. Some food substances, including various kinds of gravy, are going to end up in your kitchen sink. Cold water helps any substances like grease or oil to solidify while in your drain, making it easier for your garbage disposal to chop them up. If you keep running the water after you turn the disposal off, it helps make sure all of the ground up food bits wash down the drain.
  6. Use lemons to keep your garbage disposal smelling fresh.With all the use, your garbage disposal will get, it may start to smell. Cut a lemon in half and grind it up in the disposal. This will clear out any odors, and the acidic juice from the lemon will help break down any small food particles that are hiding in your drain.

Why Is My Garbage Disposal Leaking Water?

Garbage disposals are a modern convenience which help cut down on the amount of household waste you produce, but in the event of a water leak, they become more of an inconvenience. Knowing why your garbage disposal is leaking water is the first step to having it fixed, so you can get back to being green.

Causes for Garbage Disposal Leaks

Once you discover a leak, it’s imperative that you call for service right away, to avoid further damage to the unit, and the growth of mold or mildew. The 3 most common areas of leakage, and possible causes are:

  1. Drain lines. A set of drain lines is located on the side of the disposal and either may be the source of the leak. One hose is connected to the dishwasher, allowing it to drain in to the disposal, and the other, larger hose, is the drain leading out of the disposal down to the sewer. Leaks can occur when the seal is broken or deteriorates, and will need to be replaced.
  2. The sink flange. The flange connects the garbage disposal to the sink, and the seal between them can corrode and weaken over time, allowing leakage.
  3. Bottom of the disposal unit. Internal seals in the disposal unit can wear out over time, allowing water to leak out the bottom of the unit.

What to Do with a Leaky Garbage Disposal

A leak in your kitchen can be a major hassle and can lead to serious mold and water damage problems if you’re not careful. One of the more common places where kitchen leaks pop up is around the garbage disposal. Fortunately, garbage disposal leaks are usually pretty easy to take care of—a lot of the time, you won’t even need a plumber!

Make Sure the Connections Are Tight

If you look under your sink at the garbage disposal you should see a set of bolts that connect it to the basin—usually three, but sometimes more or fewer. If your disposal is leaking, start by making sure these bolts are tightly secured, and tighten them yourself if not. If you’ve done this and the leak continues, you may need to buy some putty and put it around the opening of the disposal where it connects to the sink, then tighten the bolts. The putty will fill in any gaps that might be causing water to leak.

Make Sure the Seal Is Intact

We’ve done these a million times, so it wouldn’t surprise us if you have, too—how many times have you reached for something under the sink and knocked the disposal? It happens all the time, and repeated knockings can cause the seal around your disposal to break and water to leak. Replacing the seal will hopefully take care of the problem.

Check the Hose for Leaks

Sometimes the problem is not with the garbage disposal itself, but with the hose that connects the disposal to the dishwasher. There’s only one drain leading from your kitchen to the sewer main, and both the sink and dishwasher are connected to it. A couple of problems can occur with the hose—one, the clamp holding it in place can come loose and may need to be tightened. More seriously, as the hose gets older it can start to deteriorate, leading to slow leaks. The only way to fix this problem is to replace the whole hose (though fortunately they are usually inexpensive).

Garbage Disposal Maintenance

Keep your disposal up and running by following a routine maintenance plan.


One or more times per year, grind up a mixture of ice cubes and citrus peels in your garbage disposal. Begin by dropping the mixture in to the disposal, turning on the cold water, and then turning on the disposal to grind. In addition to sharpening the blades, the combination of ice and citrus will remove any excess buildup, and odors.


Pour a cup of vinegar, followed by a generous helping of baking soda, in to the disposal, and let sit. After one hour, flush with hot water, but don’t turn on the unit.

Garbage Disposal Repair from the Plumbing Experts at Peninsula

Your garbage disposal is an eco-friendly solution to food waste disposal, that is a welcome addition to any kitchen—until it breaks down. Call Peninsula for fast, reliable garbage disposal repair, throughout Delaware and Maryland.

When your garbage disposal breaks down, and you’re in need of fast, reliable garbage disposal repair, call the experts at Peninsula at 302-262-8254, or contact us online.


Peninsula Today!

Click to see our reviews on