Should garbage disposal blades be loose?

Many people may think of garbage disposal blades similar to blades that you might find in a blender. Actually, garbage disposals are much different and operate in a completely different way.

Garbage disposal “blades” should not be loose. Garbage disposals use a grind ring and impellers to force food particles to the side of the device using centrifugal force. A loose impeller can reduce the overall efficiency of the disposal.

How exactly do garbage disposals work? Can you fix your garbage disposal on your own?

Garbage disposal mechanics

If you are like me, you have always assumed that garbage disposals are like little blenders installed in your sink that blend the food down into small pieces before it falls down into the pipes. If you are like me, you are totally mistaken.

Garbage disposals are completely different than blenders. Garbage disposals have many moving parts and machanics, but none of which are actual blades.

When you put food down your garbage disposal, it will land on the flywheel, which is a flat metal disk attached to impellers with bolts. These impellers spin the flywheel, which then uses centrifugal force to push the food to the sides of the device. On the sides of the disposal is a stationary grind ring, which is what actually does the “cutting down” of the food. The grind ring has sharp edges and holes cut out that grind the food into small pieces that can then pass through the flywheel and go down into the pipes.

You should always run water while using your garbage disposal. The water flow helps to push the food to the sides so that the grind ring can grind it down into pieces small enough to fit safely down the pipes. Water also helps to flush the small particles through the device into the pipes.

These parts can get loose over time. The most common part to get loose are the impellers. If the flywheel is shaking and not spinning well, then you may need to tighten the bolts attaching the impellers to the flywheel.

How to care for a garbage disposal

If you want your garbage disposal to remain in good condition, there are a few things you can do.

Not all food should go down the garbage disposal. You should avoid grinding pasta, eggshells, fiberous vegetables (like celery), and bones. These things will jam up your disposal. Also avoid putting things like fats and oils down your disposal. Fats and oils will form a solid mass when their temperature is lowered and can clog your pipes.

It is a good idea to clean your disposal every now and again. There are a few different things you can do to clear out all of the leftover food and gunk that may be in your disposal, making your sink smell.

  • You can put ice and rock salt in your garbage disposal and run it (with water running as well). The ice and the salt combine to make a salty mixture that will scrub the inside of your disposal clean.
  • Next, you can pour baking soda down your disposal followed by vinegar. The vinegar and baking soda mixture will cause a new chemical to be formed called carbonic acid. This acid will eat away any unwanted bacteria. Let the vinegar and baking soda sit in your disposal for about 15 minutes to let the acid do its job. Run hot water down the disposal afterward to clean out the carbonic acid.
  • You can plug your sink, fill it with warm soapy water, and then unplug the drain and run your garbage disposal while the water drains into the disposal.
  • As a final step to any cleaning, you can put some citrus fruit peels (such as orange or lemon) down the disposal to add a nice aroma to your freshly cleaned garbage disposal.

How often should you clean your disposal? It is really up to you. You can clean it every day if you really want to. You should typically do it no fewer than every two weeks, but if your sink starts to stink, you should probably clean it sooner rather than later.

Waste disposal leak under sink, broken garbage chopper

How to fix your disposal

If you garbage disposal stopped working, it might be because the motor overheated. If this is the problem, then it has an easy fix. On the bottom of your garbage disposal, there is a reset button for overheating. If you press that button, your disposal will reset, and it should work like normal.

If you try resetting your garbage disposal and it still will not run, then you might have something jamming the impellers and stopping them from rotating. When checking your disposal, make sure that the unit is completely unplugged or that the power is totally turned off so that you do not accidentally turn the disposal on while your hand or anything else is down in the device. After you turn off all power, you can simply reach your hand into the disposal or use a wooden dowel (or something similar) and search for anything that might be clogging the parts.

After removing anything that might have gotten stuck in your disposal, try running it to see if that was the problem. If your garbage disposal still will not work, then you can use a wrench to open it up and see what is wrong on the inside. Again, MAKE SURE THE POWER IS OFF before you open the device up.

Typically, if your disposal does not work after a reset, a clean, or any efforts done to dislodge anything that might have gotten stuck, you might consider buying a new disposal. If you have to replace major parts like the impellers or grind ring, it is often just as cost effective to purchase a whole new unit.

You can also hire a professional to repair your garbage disposal, but again, you should consider just buying a new disposal instead.

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