How Does a Garbage Disposal Work? | How to Use a Garbage Disposal

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

For such simple machinery, garbage disposals are one of the most revolutionary kitchen appliances ever invented. It makes life a lot easier when washing dirty dishes and cleaning up after meal preparation. So how does a garbage disposal work and how is it supposed to be used? Let's first answer a fundamental question:

What Is a Garbage Disposal?

A garbage disposal is an appliance found under the kitchen sink, connected to the drain. It cuts food waste into bits and pieces (smaller than 2 mm) so that they can safely and effectively pass through the plumbing system. One environmental benefit is that reducing the size of the pieces of food waste allows for quicker biodegradation. Also, many city water systems have established wastewater treatment plants that reuse wasted food by turning it into fertilizer or using it as an energy source.

key parts of a garbage disposal

The inventor of the garbage disposal was a man by the name of John W. Hammes, in 1927. He was able to patent his InSinkErator (a brand that still dominates the market) by 1935 and went to market in 1940. General Electric has attempted to dispute his claim and insists their business invented it in 1935. Hammes still holds the first patent.

Read more about the history of this invention: Garbage Disposal | Wikipedia

How Does the Disposal Work?

Powered by electricity, the disposal uses a small motor (typically 1 hp or less) to rotate a blade that quickly chops anything you put into the disposal's grinding chamber. This part of the process can be deduced just by operating a garbage disposal, but there is more to it than that. There is also an impeller and plate system that pushes the chopped particles down the drain.

The drain from the dishwasher also runs to the garbage disposal. That means those bits of food waste get the grinding they need before passing through the plumbing, too.

Note: one misconception is that all disposals have blades. Contrary to popular belief, the spinning mechanism on most garbage disposals today does not use a blade. It uses two lugs mounted on a steel plate (they spin in unison). For the sake of facilitating understanding in conversation, we still refer to it as a blade because that's what everybody calls it.

How to Use a Garbage Disposal

inside look at a grinding chamber

All models vary slightly, but typically a user initiates the chopping by flipping a switch next to the sink, above the counter. There is a reset button on the grinding chamber (beneath the sink), and also a stopper switch. Tips for getting the most out of your garbage disposal:

  1. Before turning on the disposal, run cool/room temperature water.
  2. If possible, before allowing food into the grinding chamber, turn the disposal on.
  3. Gradually feed food waste into the disposal.
  4. Allow the water to run for a few seconds after turning off the disposal.

Choose a Trusted Brand

If you are looking for a great garbage disposal, try the 1-HP Moen GXL1000C GX.

If you take care of your appliances, they'll take care of you, and that's especially true of quality garbage disposals. In addition to InSinkErator, we also carry Waste King disposals and parts. You can't lose with either option. We also offer an excellent selection of replacement garbage disposal parts. Contact is you have any questions about anything related to this article's topic.

Related resources:
Cleaning & Deodorizing a Garbage Disposal
What Can You Put Down a Garbage Disposal
How to Find the Right Garbage Disposal
Garbage Disposal Not Working
Fixing a Garbage Disposal Leak
How to Wire a Garbage Disposal
Installing an InSinkErator Disposal
How to Unjam a Garbage Disposal

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