A garbage disposal is a device in the kitchen sink that shreds food waste into pieces small enough to wash down the drain. The term “garbage disposer” is slang, but it’s pretty widely used in America and Britain. It can be abbreviated as GD or GDo.
In some parts of Canada they’re called garburators . In Australia, where trash collection isn’t always available, garbage disposal units are often used by businesses to take care of their own waste. A common abbreviation there is GYO – for Garbage Yo-Yo ®. You might also hear them referred to as a waste disposal unit or a disposer, even though the last word doesn’t seem very popular here yet.
Whatever you call it, the device that goes under your sink is just an electric motor hooked up to a kitchen sink drain. It has nothing in common with the garbage trucks and landfills where your trash ends up. Many people use “garbage disposal” as a generic term for this device, though, so don’t be surprised when other people talk about them like they’re totally different things!
What can it do?
This thing chops food into tiny pieces that will pass down your drain easily. That’s why most people love them – it saves time cleaning up, and the pieces are too small to cause any clogs or backups (although some extra caution should always be used). Usually, you dump leftover bits of food into the opening and turn on the water and it starts grinding them up.
How does it work?
The simplest garbage disposers just have a spinning metal impeller that uses centrifugal force to cut up food. Most of these are attached directly to the underside of your sink drain, so they’re only operational when you pour water down your drain. Waste will collect in your sink rather than in the garbage disposal itself.
There are also garbage disposers with integrated grind stages, where multiple cutting mechanisms use both mechanical chopping and shredding using sharpened surfaces or electromechanical methods. These are much quieter since they don’t rely on centrifugal force, but not all models come in under-sink sizes. They can be activated by an electric switch built into your sink, or by an external switch attached to the unit itself.
Honorable mention: Septic tanks are used in remote areas where there’s no town collection for sewage, both for homes and businesses. They don’t mix household waste with raw sewage – separated liquids are sent off to be treated while solids are broken down over time by bacteria in the septic tank.
A garbage disposal is just a faster way of breaking up food wastes, not mixing it with feces. Not all septic systems have enough capacity for a garbage disposal! If you’re using one on a septic system, be sure that you know what effects this will have on your system before plugging it in.
What do I need to watch out for?
Most people are happy with their garbage disposers, but it’s important to be safe while using them.
Just because the motor is under the sink doesn’t mean that your hands are always protected from moving blades. Don’t ever stick your hand in there while it’s running!
Even if you turn off the switch, there may still be enough power left in it to injure you – don’t risk it. If you have little kids at home, make sure they know not to put their fingers anywhere near the disposal, either. It isn’t fun for anyone when a parent has to explain how their kid lost a finger.
Make sure your drain lines are clear before grinding anything!
The more water that goes into the disposal, the more effective it will be. If there’s too much food in there, it may not all get ground up, and the results won’t be pretty (to put it lightly). Use cold water for grinding whenever possible – hot water is just asking for trouble unless you want to clean up a burned-on mess or melt something with your garbage disposal. You can always use hot water if you need to, but don’t do it every time! When in doubt about what type of waste can go down the drain, leave the disposal unplugged until you finish doing dishes.
What are good uses?
The most basic form is so useful that people use them for almost everything. It’s basically like washing dishes by hand with an electric drill instead of your hands. If you’re trying to chop up a lot of leftover food, it’s great. I’ve even seen people grind ice cubes with a garbage disposal to make a slushie-like drink, but it may damage your machine so be careful! Try using your kitchen scraps and peelings in compost instead of throwing them away.
What are some alternatives?
For anything small, just put it in the trash or recycling bin. You can use paper towels or napkins as long as they’re not too greasy – otherwise, they’ll jam up the works. For stuff that’s more solid, try chopping it into smaller pieces before tossing it away. That way you won’t have one big piece getting stuck in the drain or overflowing from the garbage disposal.
What else should I know?
A garbage disposal is not a trash can, so don’t treat it like one! If you do, you’ll just waste water and wear out your machine faster.
You might also end up with a flood. If there’s no stopper in the sink, use a folded-up piece of newspaper or a drain retainer to block off the opening between the sink and drain line.
Otherwise, if food items accidentally go down the wrong way, they may come shooting back out again through your sink instead of going down properly through your garbage disposal.
This includes fibrous foods – even vegetables with tough fibers may take some time to get ground up properly by a proper garbage disposal unit If you have any further questions, please contact a professional for further assistance, or put them in the comments section below and we will try and help out.