Food waste disposers are probably one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated kitchen appliances that exist today, according to Joe Farmerie, vice president of engineering at InSinkErator. As a result, misconceptions about disposers abound, ranging from what foods can be ground in a disposer to whether to run hot or cold water when it’s in use.

Food Waste Disposers

Approximately half of U.S. households own a food waste disposer and up to 62 percent use it at least six or seven times a day. However, residents often inherit their current disposer without receiving a manual that details how to use it or exactly how it works.

Food waste disposers, such as the InSinkErator Evolution Excel do not use blades to grind food. Instead, food waste drops onto a spinning plate. Centrifugal force then pushes the waste against the edges of the disposal where it is shredded and passed into the plumbing system. Items like chicken bones, fruit rinds, potato peels and other tough foods that have a reputation for being “disposer unfriendly” actually can go into the food waste disposer, where they are essentially liquefied to flow into the pipes rather than accumulating in the kitchen’s trash.

Farmerie notes that there are basic guidelines in getting the most out of a disposer and useful tips to avoid common plumbing pitfalls like clogs and jams.

  • Use cold water instead of hot water when using your disposer.
  • To maximize the grinding ability of the disposer, begin by turning on the water in the sink and then gradually feed food waste into the disposer.
  • Run cold water down the drain for 30 seconds before and after using the disposer to flush the food waste through the plumbing system and keep debris from settling in the pipes.
  • Do not put fibrous foods like artichokes, potato peels and celery into a disposer, unless it is an Evolution Excel, which can easily grind these items.
  • Never put glass, plastic, metal or other non-food materials into a food waste disposer as these materials can seriously damage the disposer.
  • To give your disposer a fresh scent, try grinding lemons and other citrus fruits.
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