Behind the Scenes: Understanding the Inner Workings of a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are essential for many households. This equipment facilitates easy cleanup after meals, help minimize potentially hazardous germs, and keeps the kitchen smelling fresh. An effective garbage disposal should work for several years with minimal care and upkeep. However, just like all other appliances, knowing how it works will enable you to handle it properly and fix minor problems.

How Does My Garbage Disposal Grind Up Food Waste?

How Garbage Disposal Works

Although many homes have garbage disposals, most people are unaware of how they function. Most homeowners have an image of a set of blades liquefying the food waste they pour down the drain at the bottom of their sink, much like a blender. Regrettably, you can’t just throw anything down the garbage disposal.

When utilized to dispose of materials they can’t handle, garbage disposals may clog or burn out. Understanding how a garbage disposal works is the most significant way to avoid failing before its expected lifespan.

You may see the body of the trash disposal if you peek beneath your sink. But you need to look inside a garbage disposal to see how it truly works! To better understand how a garbage disposal functions, let’s look at what each component does.

Splash Guard

Start by paying attention to what you observe when running the disposal to comprehend how each component of the disposal works. Splash guards, which are rubber flaps surrounding sink drains, are most commonly present. These disposal flaps prevent water and food debris from reentering your sink basin. Additionally, this is where you dump your food leftovers into the garbage disposal.

Hopper Chamber

The disposal system is located in the hopper chamber, a hollow cylindrical structure. There are two chambers in a hopper chamber: an upper and a lower chamber. Food scraps are collected in the upper chamber before being shredded in the disposal.

The insulated bottom chamber is where the garbage disposal motor is located. The waste line is connected to this component. The food passes through a single bottom chamber part after grinding and escapes via the drain pipe.

Shredder Ring and the Flywheel

A shredder ring is between the disposal system’s top and lower hopper chambers. The flywheel is a turntable made of metal that revolves beneath the shredder ring. An insulated motor installed at the disposal unit’s base keeps the flywheel spinning.

Until the food scraps are small enough to fit through the tiny holes around the shredder ring, the flywheel holds onto them and stops them from reaching the bottom chamber. The internal walls of the shredder, which are coated with tiny, sharp grooves, help break down and crush food particles when the disposal machine is turned on.

Impellers and motors

A disposal unit motor produces force, which helps spin the flywheel and impellers to capture food waste. The revolving blades in the disposal are called impellers.

The spinning motion continuously feeds food scraps into the shredder ring’s grooves. The process is repeated till the food lumps are broken down to tiny bits that slide through the tiny holes of the shredding ring and down the pipe without becoming stuck.

Waste Line Connector

You can find the waste line connector in the hopper’s lower chamber, and food travels through it as the last component of your plumbing system. Food that has been crushed up enters the waste line connector opening and goes into a drainpipe after passing through the shredding ring in the disposal.

How to Make Use of a Garbage Disposal

All models differ slightly, but generally speaking, a user starts the chopping by flicking a switch above the counter, near the sink. Following are some pointers for making the most of your waste disposal:

  • Run cold or room temperature water before starting the garbage disposal.
  • If possible, switch on the disposal before placing food in the grinding chamber. 
  • Feed food scraps into the disposal gradually.
  • Once the garbage disposal is turned off, let the water flow for a little while.
  • For batch feed type , you need to place the food waste first and place the stopper on the opening.

Things to Avoid Placing in a Garbage Disposal

When it comes to things you shouldn’t put in the garbage disposal, common sense can only go you so far.

You might not be aware of some of these things.

The following seven items are not appropriate for a garbage disposal:

1. Coffee Grounds

Bulletproof Ground Coffee

This is one of the major no-nos when using any drainage system or waste disposal.

Coffee grounds create a thick, viscous sludge when they go down the sink. If you pour too much down the drain, it might cause a blockage or hinder the draining process. It is better to compost them or to use them in the garden.

2. Grease

Fats and grease are among the most harmful substances to avoid dumping at a garbage disposal.

Fats harden when they cool down.

Fats can accumulate at the bottom of the garbage disposal unit and cause drainage and blockage problems if they aren’t adequately flushed, which moves them farther down the line.

While it’s best to avoid pouring fats and oil via the garbage disposal, fat may be unavoidable in some everyday foods like salad dressing.

To ensure that the fat stays solid as it travels through the garbage disposal and down the drain pipes, run the leftover food down the drain while using cold water.

3. Eggshells

crate of eggs

It’s a typical oversight to throw eggshells in the garbage disposal.

A widespread misconception is that eggshells may help sharpen blades.

Even while the shells don’t significantly affect the disposal blades in a good or bad way, the membrane inside the shells is another issue.

This is the thin layer that you can find inside an eggshell. It can get loose and caught in the impeller of the garbage disposal, wrap around the blades, or clog your pipes with sticky build-up.

4. Expandable Dry Foods

Quaker Oats Instant Oats

Foods like spaghetti, oats, and grains that expand in water will keep expanding in a sink’s plumbing system, eventually causing a blockage.

Like other food scraps, if there are just a few on your plate after eating, you should be able to dispose of them by running them through the garbage disposal.

Remember to flush the food through the filter and into the main sewer system by running it under cold water.

This will stop the food from congealing and accumulating at the bottom, which might lead to a blockage in the future.

5. Onion skins


Onion skins have a skin barrier on the interior, just like an eggshell.

Due to its thinness and moisture, this membrane layer will likely pass through the blades and become trapped in the drain, where it may clog it.

6. Potato peels 

Potato peels 

Like onion skins, potato peels may have a thin enough texture to pass through the blades.

Potato peels in a disposal might fall through the blades without being adequately chopped, resulting in a clog by forming a barrier in a sink trap.

7. Hard Meals

Disposal blades can’t cut through hard food scraps like bones, nuts, and pits.

The blades may jam as a result or sustain severe damage.


Is it safe to use hot water in a garbage disposal?

It is OK to clean with hot water. The ideal procedure is to combine white vinegar and baking soda in equal quantities, then flush with hot water. What is not appropriate is running hot water while grinding food waste in the garbage disposal. Running hot water while eating will result in the build-up and eventually block the machine, according to Apartment Therapy.

Is it necessary to empty the garbage disposal?

It would help if you cleaned your garbage disposal once each week. However, if you maintain it and keep an eye on what goes in it, you may clean it once every two to three weeks. If you plan to leave home for a few days, cleaning your disposal thoroughly is usually a good idea. Otherwise, the debris and sludge in the machine will decay.

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