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Don't kill your kitchen sink

Most of us use our kitchen sink every day, but it's easy to get a clog if the garbage disposal isn't run the right way. Always make sure you run cold water at least 10 seconds before you start placing food down the drain a little bit at a time.

"You're grinding food and trying to float that food through the pipes, so the key is water," said professional plumber Russ Graves.

You also need to keep a careful eye on what you put into your disposal.

"Many of us know that you shouldn't put bones or grease down your garbage disposal, but what you might not realize, is you should also avoid things that absorb water, like rice and pasta, coffee grounds, even egg shells. They can all do damage to your garbage disposal," warned Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

And don't forget to use your disposal – every day. Letting it sit idle for several days can actually shorten its lifespan.

"Even if you're not using your garbage disposal regularly, you should still be maintaining it," Hicks said. "You should run it at least once a day to avoid grime build up that could lead to corrosion in your garbage disposal."

Grinding ice cubes or orange peels every month or so will also help extend the life of your disposal. A base model should last about 5 to 7 years. A higher-end unit costs about $300 and will run quieter and more efficiently. It could last you 10 to 20 years.

"They not only grind twice, they have a feature that reverses the spin, so if it jams, it automatically… you shut it off and when you turn it back on, it spins the other way and it will take care of a lot of the troubles by itself," explained Graves.

If you do end up with a clogged kitchen sink, you can rent equipment to try to remove the debris, but you need to be careful not to damage the pipes. If you don't have a lot of plumbing experience, Hicks recommends calling in a pro so you don't have a more costly problem in the end.

Substances to avoid putting down your kitchen drain:

  • Grease
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Bones
  • Celery


How to run/maintain your garbage disposal:

  • Run cold water 10 seconds before turning on disposal
  • Feed food scraps down drain in small quantities
  • Continue running water 30 seconds after all food is in disposal
  • Feed ice cubes or orange peels down disposal every 4-6 weeks

  • Disposal Differences (Expect to pay between $150 and $200 for professional installation):

  • Basic models:  Loud, low horsepower,5-to-10-year lifespan…$80 - $150*
  • Higher quality models:  Quieter, more horsepower, stainless steel components that don't rust, 10-to-20-year lifespan…$165-$300*