The last thing you want to smell emanating from the kitchen in your Portland home is a foul odor resulting from a leaky or jammed garbage disposal. Not to mention, if your garbage disposal is damaged, you’re likely to spend hundreds of dollars on a repair. Instead of dealing with a plumbing disaster, take steps to avoid one instead.

Use Cold Water

Most people use hot water for cleaning. At very hot temperatures, water can remove grime and even eliminate germs. However, when it comes to your garbage disposal, hot water is your enemy. This is because hot water will liquefy any oils or greases that you intentionally or accidentally poured down the drain.

Melting the grease will actually create additional problems further down the line. The grease will harden once you stop running hot water down the drain. With time, enough hardened grease combined with other food particles will create a clog.

Using cold water prevents oils and greases from melting, and the force of the cold water coming down the drain is enough to assist the grinding action of your garbage disposal. Cold water will force grease to harden, allowing the garbage disposal to chop it up and prevent it from creating a clog in the drain.

Exercise Caution With Garbage Disposal Use

The appealing aspect of owning a garbage disposal is the convenience of disposing of food scraps with a simple switch. Unfortunately, some individuals misuse their garbage disposal, treating it as a regular trash can. This misuse can lead to significant plumbing issues down the line. Homeowners can prevent plumbing emergencies related to a garbage disposal by refraining from disposing of the following items down the drain.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds may appear finely ground and easy to dispose of down the garbage disposal. However, when wet, their tight, paste-like consistency can accumulate and form sediment in the drain. This can combine with other food particles, resulting in a stubborn clog.

Bread, Pasta, and Rice

Bread, pasta, and rice expand rapidly when in contact with water. Depositing these food items down the drain can swiftly lead to drain blockages. It’s essential to avoid consistently disposing of bread and pasta down the drain. If these items must go through the garbage disposal, ensure a 30- to 45-second run time with a constant flow of cold water to prevent expansion and aid in flushing away the debris.

Animal Bones

While garbage disposals can handle some leftover food scraps, they are not designed to grind very hard items like animal bones. Continuously putting bones in the garbage disposal can significantly reduce its lifespan and damage its grinding mechanisms.

Nuts and Shells

Nuts and shells are extremely hard, posing a challenge for the garbage disposal. Even softer nuts like peanuts can create a thick paste that may clog the drain, potentially leading to a drain emergency.

Onion Layers

While chopping onion layers is generally fine for the garbage disposal, the thin membrane beneath the outer skin can pose a problem. This membrane can wrap around the blades or get wedged in the drain, creating a trap for other items.


Contrary to popular belief, putting eggshells in the garbage disposal does not sharpen the blades. Garbage disposals have propellers, not sharp blades. The membrane underneath eggshells can wrap around the grinder, causing damage to the disposal.

Oils and Fats

Oils and fats, although in liquid form initially, can solidify over time and become a significant source of drain blockage. It’s best to allow substances like bacon grease, lard, or oil to cool and then dispose of them in the trashcan.

Nonfood Materials

Avoid treating the garbage disposal like a regular trash can by refraining from disposing of nonfood items, even seemingly soft ones like paper, tissues, or plastic. Non-biodegradable items can cause havoc in the drainage system and even impact the water supply. If it’s not biodegradable, it doesn’t belong in the garbage disposal.

Keep Your Garbage Disposal Clean

A key to keeping your garbage from stinking up your home is to keep it clean. Avoid using harsh chemicals like bleach that can damage your system. Stay away from coffee grounds, as these will create clogs in your drain. Instead, consider using some of the following items.


There is a simple cocktail that has been effective in removing odors and debris from the garbage disposal. It’s one tablespoon of baking soda, two cups of ice cubes, and one lemon slice. Put the mixture into your garbage disposal, and grind with cold running water until it is all gone. You might see a little bit of fizz at first as the baking soda and lemon interact, but that’s normal. The ice cubes will remove any food that might’ve gotten stuck in your garbage disposal. The baking soda adds scrubbing power, and the citrus peel makes everything smell better.

Just Use Lemon

Lemons are very acidic and do a great job of breaking through grease and grime. Lemon is antibacterial, and that can help destroy some of the odors. Run a lemon through your garbage disposal with cold water. Put one slice of lemon in at a time until you hear the grinding stop.

Use Vinegar

Some homeowners have found that combining apple cider vinegar and baking soda in the disposal and letting it sit for about 10 minutes is a good way to clean and deodorize. After that, run hot water from your faucet and turn the garbage disposal on until all food particles have washed away.

Regardless of the method that you use, it’s recommended that you clean your garbage disposal once every month. This is a great way to prevent garbage disposal plumbing nightmares.

Get Regular Maintenance

Despite its resilience, garbage disposals require regular care to maintain optimal functionality. Professional plumbers offer crucial inspections and maintenance services, identifying potential issues before they escalate into disasters. They ensure the disposal is clear of food waste and jams, that it operates smoothly without strange noises, and can even inspect the septic tank since excessive food waste can lead to plumbing problems.

Professional maintenance involves thorough cleaning, effectively removing grease buildup and food debris, surpassing DIY solutions. Additionally, it encompasses tune-ups, providing necessary lubrication and adjustments to ensure all components work seamlessly. In the event of a malfunction, a professional plumber can swiftly intervene, executing emergency repairs and preventing further damage.

The Best Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling Services in Vancouver, WA, and Boise, ID

At Apollo Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, we are proud to be a family-owned company that has been serving the needs of our customers since 1984. We are committed to providing the best plumbing and HVAC services. Our team has worked hard to earn and maintain an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. With more than a thousand positive reviews, we are confident in the quality of our work and the skill of our technicians.

Our services include leak detection, water heater installation, sewer backup repair, and general plumbing. We offer HVAC installation maintenance and repair, indoor air quality checks, and the installation and maintenance of thermostats. Contact Apollo Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning today, and let us show you why our customers trust us to help them get life flowing again.

Meet the Author
Brandon Bird
Brandon Bird

company icon