How Do Garbage Disposals Work? It’s Time to Finally Know!

Yes, we tend to take our garbage disposals for granted, but have you ever wondered what exactly goes on when you drop your food waste in yours?

How do garbage disposals work?


In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth answer to your question along with more information on the topic so that you can get the full picture.

Let’s dive right in!

What is a garbage disposal and How does it work?

A garbage disposal unit is mounted right underneath your sink where it can effectively collect and grind any solid food waste you throw at it. The way that this buddy does its job is quite simple to understand.

First, you drop your food remains then turn the garbage disposal on. What happens next is that an impeller plate or a spinning disc will turn in rapid motion. These are sharp blades that chop the food items up in smaller pieces. As a result, the waste will be pushed against the outer wall of the grinding chamber.

After facing such a force, the food waste will turn into smaller pieces. Then, these pieces will be washed down the drain by the water that passes through the chamber walls.

The wastewater system has to be able to deal with these small pieces of food. In a lot of countries, it is not allowed to have a garbage disposal as the wastewater systems are not able to handle this. This is the main reason why garbage disposals are mainly found in the USA and Canada.

Garbage disposals have a strong motor to grind all these food items down. At the same time, they have advanced safety features to make sure that the blades don’t hurt anyone. You still have to be careful when you use this and follow the safety instructions.

Garbage disposals use electricity and water. This can be a dangerous combination. If you notice that something is wrong, you can always contact a plumber or the manufacturer.

Garbage disposals are often connected to the drain of the dishwasher and kitchen sink. If your garbage disposal is not working properly, it can drop big items in the drain. This can result in clogs and other problems. For this reason, it is important to know what you can and can’t place in a garbage disposal.

What not to put in garbage disposal and What to throw in: Eggshells to coffee grounds

Some people think that garbage disposals are supposed to handle any type of solid food waste that you drop at them, but that’s not correct. Despite having the ability to break down the food, loading the garbage disposal with the wrong thing can cause clogs or jams.

Here’s everything you have the liberty to put in a garbage disposal unit:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Leftovers
  • Cooked meat
  • Small bones
  • Most liquid foods
  • Citrus rinds
  • Corn cobs

Now, this is everything you shouldn’t drop in a garbage disposal unit:

  • Fruit pits or stones
  • Large bones
  • Any type of fat or grease (oil, butter, etc.)
  • Corn husks
  • Some fruit peels, especially banana peels
  • Potato peels
  • Onion skins
  • Nuts or peanut butter
  • Shrimp, oyster, and lobster shells
  • Eggshells
  • Rice and pasta
  • Asparagus (and most fibrous veggies)
  • Artichokes
  • Oatmeal
  • Coffee grounds

Why Does the Garbage Disposal Smell Bad Sometimes?

Even though it’s not usually the case, you might end up with a smelly garbage disposal unit after you’ve been using it for a while. The reason might be that you tend to drop meat and bone parts inside it too often.

Meat particles could stick to the interior of the grinding wall, even after the water washes away the majority of them. Soon enough, the stuck meat will rot, releasing bad odors around your sink.

To prevent this from happening, it may be a better option to get rid of meat, chicken, or fish leftovers by putting them in the trash. Plus, keeping your garbage disposal unit clean will reduce your chances of facing unwanted smells.

What’s the Right Way to Clean Garbage Disposals?

Before learning how to clean your garbage disposal, you should know that doing this on a regular basis is always the better idea. Once every week will mostly keep foul odors at bay.

Depending on how busy you are and how deep you want to clean the garbage disposal, you can choose to follow one of the two cleaning methods below.

Method 1: Cleaning the Garbage Disposal With Dish Soap

This method is for your weekly cleaning session and, if you stick to doing it every week, you’ll likely not need to go any deeper!

Here’s how to do it:

  • Unplug the garbage disposal from the outlet or just turn off the power
  • Get some dish soap on an abrasive kitchen sponge and use it to scrub the area under the baffle
  • Pay special attention to all the corners and creases where food particles may gather
  • When you’re done, rinse the sponge thoroughly until it’s clean and ready for round 2
  • Remove the top of the grinding chamber and scrub it clean with dish soap, too
  • Rinse your garbage disposal with water

If you want to be more thorough, you may want to add baking soda and vinegar into the equation. Simply, pour half a cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal, then follow it up with a cup of vinegar, just be extra careful adding the latter.

After that, put a sink stopper over the opening and let the mini fireworks work their charm in cleaning the grinding chamber!

Next, you’ll just have to wait for a few minutes, remove the stopper, and flush the disposal with hot water while it’s running.

Method 2: Cleaning the Garbage Disposal With Ice and Rock Salt (Or Vinegar)

Want to go the extra mile? Well, you can grab some ice cubes, rock salt or vinegar, and get to work!

  • Drop a few ice cubes inside the garbage disposal until it’s full
  • Add a cup of rock salt or vinegar to the ice
  • Press the power button to run the disposal while allowing water to run through the opening
  • The ice along with the salt or vinegar and the movement of the appliance will then scrape the inner chamber more effectively to get rid of the gunk
  • Repeat these steps if you think it’s necessary

How to Give Garbage Disposals a Pleasant Smell?

After cleaning, it’s the cherry on top to leave your garbage disposal smelling nice. And, better yet, you don’t have to buy special products to do this.

Just get a bunch of orange and lemon peels, cut them into small slices, and grind them inside the garbage disposal. You could add a few ice cubes inside, too, or pour cool water in the drain opening until the garbage disposal is done with its work.

You should end up with a refreshing fragrance that could last for a good while.

We have discussed how to install a garbage disposal here. This needs to happen correctly or the garbage disposal won’t work well.

To Wrap It Up

“How do garbage disposals work?” asked the designated curious person in every household!

Well, garbage disposals simply break down and grind your food waste, then flush the tiny particles away with some water. Now that you’ve read our article, you must have a better idea of everything related to garbage disposals.