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Sun, Dec. 08

ASK THE CONTRACTOR: Keep the disposal humming for the holidays

The holidays are a time to enjoy with family and friends and neighbors. And as many of us have experienced during these seasonal holidays it is the perfect time for plumbing nightmares and plumbing failures.

I am so excited to say that over this Thanksgiving holiday not one call came through for an emergency “our garbage disposal is plugged up and we have company arriving in an hour.”

As far back as I can remember those calls came through to YCCA on a regular basis. Was it because nearly 51 million people across the United States were traveling this past Thanksgiving and not home cooking?

I have removed the local plumbers from my speed dial and am proud of so many of you for knowing what NOT to put down a garbage disposal. I know many of you think a disposal is there to grind and dispose of food items — well not exactly.

We have all been there and “done that” and clogged the disposal — learned the hard way about what to not put down a disposal and most of the time the “hard way” comes in the middle of breakfast or a late night dinner or soon to be a Christmas dinner or major celebration gathering. Just because Thanksgiving did not cause my phone to ring, I want you to take precautions and pay attention for the upcoming Christmas and New Year family gatherings.

Throughout the ages, people have used the garbage disposal to rid the kitchen of slimy, sticky and stinky things. Well not really throughout the ages, just since its invention in 1927.

Since that exciting day, the garbage disposal has become an appliance of legend and wonder. Despite what you may have heard, not everything can go into a garbage disposal. It’s called a garbage disposal, not an in-sink trash can.

So here are the items NOT to put down a garbage disposal. There are limits to what a garbage disposal system can handle; it’s not equipped to process everything you might want to put in it.

GREASE OR OIL — Just because it is out of sight does not mean the garbage disposal “disposed” of it. For the most part, garbage disposal systems can handle liquids. The problem with grease is that, when it cools down, it solidifies inside your drain and creates clogs. For that reason, you should avoid putting oil and fats in your disposal unit as well. Pour the grease or oil into another container and toss into the garbage. Remember, no fats, no grease, no oil.

VEGETABLE PEELS — They can leave you with a soupy backfilled mess in your sink. Garbage disposals do not do large qualities of veggie peels, so it is best to divide them up and grind in SMALL batches or better yet — dispose of in the garbage and do not even take the chance. Fibrous foods such as celery, asparagus, artichokes, chard, kale, lettuce, potato peelings, and onion skins should all be kept out of your garbage disposal unit. These items can easily entangle the blades causing it to jam.

EGG SHELLS — The membrane on the inside of the egg shell just loves to wrap around the blades and cause a clog. Don’t even attempt to grind egg shells — garbage can them.

COFFEE GROUNDS — The first few times they might go down fine, but over time, those pesky little grounds build up in the pipes and will causing all sorts of trouble. Again, garbage can them!

BONES — I have heard it from the plumbers. Folks actually attempt to grind bones — I know seriously?

When you do use your disposal, put items down in small batches. Do not bulk feed the disposal. You are just asking for trouble. Grind up the material well, with cold running water and then add more. I do use my garbage disposal, only with care and caution. Most everything goes into the trash after having learned my lesson with coffee grounds and egg shells. Use the disposal with common sense.

RICE AND PASTA — I was unaware of this, but a plumber mentioned a problem with grinding rice and pasta. Basically, every time you turn the water on, the pasta and rice will continue to expand–even after you supposedly ground it up.

Remember, after a number of leftover dinners you had the disposal deal with, it can start to get a little gross. And, it needs to be cleaned. I clean my disposal with citrus, throwing down a slice or two, but also make vinegar ice cubes. Not only do they freshen the smell of your disposal and thoroughly clean out the hard-to-get-to crevices, but the ice actually sharpens the blade. Just saying, you also need to pay attention and be careful not to confuse the vinegar ice cubes for regular ice.

So remember to love your “insinkerator” and most everyone is the proud owner of a garbage disposal. They are convenient, they get rid of excess kitchen scraps, but keep in mind we should not think there’s nothing a garbage disposal can’t do.

Now that you have a list of what not to put in a garbage disposer, let’s talk about the things your disposal is designed to handle.

COLD WATER — For it to function best you should always run cold water through your garbage disposal for 20-30 seconds before and after you grind food stuff. This ensures that all of the food will be flushed down the drain. You don’t want a few decaying scraps sitting at the bottom of your disposal unit, stinking up your sink.

As an added reminder, with all of the holiday company our bathroom facilities are taxed with additional usage. Use toilet paper only, no baby wipes or bath wipes no Kleenex.

Also, with the arrival of cooler weather take precaution with the water heater. Cold air causes expansion and contraction in water heaters and in older units, fractures can occur resulting in failure — which usually leads to flooding. Routine flushing is important for a water heater and to keep them operating effectively and efficiently. Water heaters are your best friend, but can cause a lot of headaches when they are not taken care of or installed incorrectly, especially with a house full of company.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s “Hammer Time” every Saturday or Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM, 99.9 FM, 95.5 FM or on the web at Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry meet your local community partners and so much more. You will be entertained.

Sandy Griffis is executive director of the Yavapai County Contractors Association. Email your questions to her at or call 928-778-0040.

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