Facts on Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals, also called garbage disposers or food waste disposers, provide a significant convenience to modern households. Rather than putting food wastes into a trash bin where they might produce unpleasant odors, homeowners can simply slide them down the drain where a machine grinds them up. The main drainage system then carries them away, out of sight and out of mind.


In 1927, an architect in Racine, Wisconsin, named John Hammes created the first garbage disposal in his home workshop. After 11 years of testing and refinement, he started the InSinkErator company in 1938. Only 58 units were sold that first year; but after World War II, American homeowners began modernizing their kitchens and sales started to grow. Manufacturers now sell millions of disposals throughout the world.


Proper use of a garbage disposal can keep it running smoothly for as long as 10 years. After washing dishes, pouring a small amount of dish soap into the drain and letting the machine run for a few minutes will keep the disposal clean. Garbage disposals require frequent use to avoid rust and corrosion. Grind food wastes with cold water only. Cold water solidifies any greases or oils that might have entered the unit, making it easier for the disposal to chop them up and eliminate them.


Only biodegradable wastes should ever go into a disposal. Nonfood products, such as glass, metal or plastic, cause serious harm to the machine's motor and blades. Using hot water when running a disposal causes greases to liquefy, resulting in clogs. Disposals work best when waste is put in a little at a time. Fibrous food wastes, such as corn husks, celery stalks and onionskins can jam the unit. Grease, oil and fat impede a disposal's grinding ability and also cause clogs. Coffee grounds can also jam up drains.


Various natural methods can keep a disposal odor-free and fresh. Putting a lemon into the disposal and letting the unit grind it up cleans the machine's walls and produces a long-lasting pleasant scent. Freezing vinegar in ice cube trays and running the cube through the machine kills bacteria that cause unpleasant smells. Pouring baking soda down the disposal and letting it sit for several hours before running the machine with cold water can eliminate a stubborn smell.