There are probably more things you shouldn’t do than should, so let’s just dive right in.
Don’t pour grease, fats, or oils down the sink. This goes for all sink drains regardless of whether they have a disposal attached to them. These pesky, yet delicious, food waste items are all around terrible for plumbing, as they eventually congeal and lead to blockages. Even pouring a grease-fighting dish soap won’t solve the problem. Better to wipe down all greasy dishes with a paper towel or napkin and throw it in the trash can.
Don’t use bleach, drain cleaners, or other caustic chemicals. These often end up causing more harm than good because they are corrosive to the pipes. Too much and there won’t be any pipe left to handle even the most basic plumbing.
Don’t put food scraps down the disposal. Yes, the trick of tossing citrus rinds in the disposal to release a fresh, citrusy clean scent in the air is bad for your disposal. The garbage disposal in your sink is meant for small food particles, not whole chicken legs. If you’re peeling vegetables, peel them over the trash can. Just, use your trash can.
Don’t “sharpen the blades” with ice cubes or egg shells. Another out-of-date “fix” for your garbage disposal. Fun fact, the blades of the disposal aren’t actually sharp. Yes, we know, we fear the same thing: getting your fingers cut off by the disposal blades running. Actually, they’re dull and they merely work to impound food down to the smallest bits so they pass through the plumbing easily. So they don’t need to be sharpened. Ever. Separate fun fact: egg shells are compostable and can keep your lawn and flower beds healthy and vibrant.
Let’s figure out what you’ve done right!
Do run cold water every time you use the disposal. Hot water can actually harm your garbage disposal, so it’s best to stick with cold water. Never run your disposal without also running the water.
Do keep using your trash can. Honestly, there is no replacing a good old-fashioned trash can with a lid. Before dirty dishes get anywhere near the sink, they should be scraped of all food particles and wiped of grease and oils. This is the first line of defense in keeping your garbage disposal working properly. The lid, obviously, helps keep odors and flies at bay.
Garbage disposal are lovely if you’ve got one, but they should not be taken for granted. Repairing or replacing your garbage disposal will put you out several hundred dollars. Maybe not the most expensive repair in the world, but if it can be avoided, it should.