I would like to personally thank the late John W. Hammes, an architect working in Racine, Wisconsin, who in 1927 invented the garbage disposal. What a brilliant idea. Is there anything more convenient in a kitchen than a garbage disposal? For me, it's right up there with my dishwasher.
I've learned the hard way that a garbage disposal is not a trash can. There are proper ways to care for and feed a garbage disposal -- rules that when followed will keep your garbage disposal in tip-top shape, functioning as a reliable member of your household team.
Learn from my mistakes so you don't have to make them yourself. Clogged drains are a major inconvenience, and garbage disposal repair can be a costly proposition.
Do these things:
1. Run your garbage disposal regularly.
Frequent use prevents rust and corrosion, and makes all parts stay moving to prevent small obstructions from accumulating.
2. Run cold water.
Always run a strong flow of cold water before you turn the disposal on to grind food waste. Cold water will cause any grease or oil that may get into the unit to solidify so it can be chopped up before reaching the trap.
3. Grind bones and pits.
Grind certain hard materials, such as small chicken and fish bones (never beef or pork because they're too large), eggshells, very small fruit pits. Yes! These particles create a scouring action inside the grinding chamber that cleans the garbage disposal walls.
4. Cut large items into smaller pieces.
It's hard on the machine if you force large pieces of anything. Put pieces into the garbage disposal a few at a time with the cold water running instead of trying to shove a large amount in all at once.
Don't do these things:
5. Don't pour down grease, oil or fat.
Grease will slowly accumulate and not only stop the disposal from grinding up food particles but also create drain clogs, the likes of which you do not want to experience.
6. Don't use hot water.
Hot water will cause grease to liquefy and accumulate, causing -- you guessed it -- hopelessly clogged drains!
7. Don't grind anything fibrous.
Don't grind anything that's tough and fibrous like cornhusks, celery stalks, onion skins and artichokes. Fibers from these can tangle and jam the garbage disposal motor and block drains.
8. Don't turn off the motor or the cold water until grinding is finished.
When grinding is complete, turn off the garbage disposal first. Let a strong flow of cold water continue to run for at least 15 seconds, flushing out any remaining particles. Then turn off the water.
9. Don't put potato peels down the garbage disposal.
The starches in the potatoes will turn into a thick paste and may cause blades to stick. Oh, boy, what a mess you'll have. Do yourself a favor, and put potato peels into the garbage can or compost pile.
10. Don't put large amounts down all at once.
If you must, feed food into the garbage disposal a little at a time with the cold water running. This will help the food scraps flow down freely through the drainpipes and plumbing.
11. Don't put in expandable foods.
Don't put things like pasta and rice into your garbage disposal. If it expands as you cook it, that's what will happen in your pipes or the disposal. Result? Jams and clogs.
12. Don't put coffee grounds down the garbage disposal.
Even though coffee grounds won't harm the garbage disposal and can actually help eliminate odors, they can accumulate in drains and pipes, causing clogs. It's best to just avoid that.
13. Don't use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners.
They can damage blades and pipes.
14. Don't put anything in that is non-biodegradable.
Don't ever (that means never) put anything in the disposal that is not biodegradable food. Your disposal is not a trash can. Don't grind glass, plastic, metal, paper or cigarette butts.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.