The garbage disposal is one of those kitchen products you might not give too much thought – until it breaks or you suddenly don’t have one anymore. Since, the first garbage disposal hit the market in 1938, they’ve remained one of the most popular time- and labor-saving fixtures in any era’s contemporary kitchen.
If you can’t imagine living without one of these dandy little doodads, consider they were a convenience for the affluent in the 1970’s and 1980’s. And today, only half of all American households have one. In fact, this appliance is largely a North American phenomenon. The European Union does not authorize the disposal of food waste in this way, but local law does allow them in Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Just 6 percent of the households in the United Kingdom have a garbage disposal.
Regardless, they’re still so commonplace in homes that you may never give them a second thought. But, if you ever did, this article is for you. How do they work? What are the pros and cons of having a garbage disposal? What kind of horsepower do they generate, and is there a difference between models? Is it possible to maintain a garbage disposal?
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What is it and how does it work?
Simply put, the garbage disposal is a fixture beneath the kitchen sink that shreds food waste into pieces small enough to pass through plumbing. The common arrangement of parts in a garbage disposal includes:
- Blades (preferably stainless steel)
- High-torque, insulated electric motor
- Shredder ring
When you scrape excess food off your plate, it heads down the drain and rests on a turntable. At the flip of a switch, the motor is turned on which gets the turntable spinning. The centrifugal force of the turntable throws the food against a shredder ring, which surrounds the turntable. Some disposals also have a series of blades, which chop the particles up even finer. The particles are then flushed down through the outlet and into the drainage pipes.Back To Top
Advantages and disadvantages
The benefit to having a garbage disposal is pretty clear: They get rid of food – and the old food smell that inevitably follows. As a result, a garbage disposal is quite handy in eliminating bacteria buildup that may accommodate old, rotting food particles.
Keep in mind that an easy and natural way to deal with smells coming from the garbage disposal is to use orange peels or lemon rinds. Grind them up and you’ll have a clean and fresh-smelling kitchen without the use of harsh chemicals.
Disadvantages? An obvious one is the noise. Running one could rouse even the soundest sleeper. But since garbage disposals run only for a matter of seconds, the downside of this is minimal.
A sizeable drawback, however, is the amount of kitchen waste produced by garbage disposals. Food waste travels through plumbing and sewage systems and ultimately to a water treatment plant. The load of organic carbon that reaches the treatment plant increases, boosting the amount of oxygen consumed. Millions of households later, this can put quite a strain on water treatment plants, not to mention the environment, with the possibility of chemicals in the waste and pollutants produced in the process.
It’s because of this that many countries (as mentioned above) have actually outlawed the use of garbage disposals. In addition, in 2008, Raleigh, North Carolina, implemented a ban on the replacement and installation of garbage disposals, which extend to outlying towns sharing the city’s municipal sewage system.Back To Top
The motor in a typical garbage disposal is ¼ to 1 horsepower, and is usually rated at 200-750 watts. Insinkerator’s Commercial collection features disposals with as many as 10 horsepower. In addition, there are two types of garbage disposal: continuous feed and batch feed. Continuous feed is the most popular model, in which you run the water and start the garbage disposal prior to putting food in. Batch feed garbage disposals are designed to be loaded prior to starting it up.
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Keeping your garbage disposal healthy and happy is vital to your kitchen running smoothly. There’s nothing quite like depending on the thing for years, then it suddenly cuts out on you because of something you could have prevented.
Keep in mind that a garbage disposal is not designed to shred every type of food waste. If you’re unsure, it’s best to just drop the food in the garbage or compost it. Here are a few easy ways you can help extend the life of your garbage disposal.
Stay away from the hard stuff: If you’re unsure whether something might be too hard for the garbage disposal to shred up, it just might be. Some of the foods you’ll want to avoid putting down the garbage disposal include bones (especially those which are large or heavy), popcorn kernels that refused to be popped and hard shellfish (like crabs and shrimp).
Fibrous and starchy foods: Foods like banana peels, celery and corn husks can get tangled inside your garbage disposal, and potato peelings, rice and flour can thicken and harden in the drain. Other foods to avoid include pasta, rice, cornmeal and bread.
Now, really… It might seem obvious, but we’re going to mention them anyways. Items which might spend time near a sink that you should NEVER put down a garbage disposal include:
Other ways to prolong the life of your garbage disposal:
- Run cold water down the drain while it’s in use. Cold water will help prevent overheating of all the moving parts. Hot water can melt fat trapped inside food and the garbage disposal which can solidify further down in the pipes.
- Ice cubes can actually help remove any blade buildup. Combine pure lemon juice and vinegar, freeze them and throw them down for an effective cleaner.
- Clean the inside with a paper towel on a regular basis. Just be sure to do this with the disposal off.
Your garbage disposal is designed to provide you with years of service. With a little bit of research and some easy-to-follow maintenance suggestions, your garbage disposal will be a smooth-running and valuable part of your kitchen.
For information on how to install a garbage disposal, check out our Webisode and corresponding article here.Back To Top