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17 Things You Need to Know About How to Use Your Garbage Disposal

I would like to personally thank the late John W. Hammes, an architect working in Racine, Wisc., who in 1927 invented the garbage disposal. What a brilliant idea. Is there anything more convenient in a kitchen than a garbage disposal? For me, it’s right up there with my dishwasher. I’ve learned the hard way that there’s a lot we need to know about how to use a garbage disposal.

Young woman stressed over cloggged garbage disposal

 

It took me a ridiculously long time to recognize the obvious connection between holidays, dinner parties, and emergency calls to the plumber due to hopelessly clogged drains. Why was it always on a holiday, always embarrassing with a houseful of company, always after hours, and always super expensive?

I’ll tell you why: Because that’s when I would do stupid things like peel ten pounds of potatoes, cram all of the peels into the garbage disposal and expect it to all magically disappear. Dittos with prepping artichokes. Or I’d throw a couple of whole lemons in there, thinking that would freshen the thing up before company arrives.

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How to Unclog a Drain Yourself Without Caustic Chemicals

A plugged up sink, shower, or tub drain sends most people running for either a bottle of caustic drain cleaner or a plumber’s phone number. But wait.

This could well be a job you can do yourself successfully without chemicals or a big bill.

Store shelf of caustic drain cleaning chemicals

Assess the situation

Turn on taps to allow water down other drains in the house. If everything else is flowing freely, you can be fairly certain you have a localized clog—and probably near that clogged drain’s opening. If this is involving other drains, you could have a bigger problem that may well require a professional. Assuming it’s only the one drain, let’s move on.

High Angle View Of A Young Unhappy Woman Using Plunger In Clogged Sink

Boiling water

Get a large pot and boil up as much water as it will hold*. Now carefully pour boiling water down the drain slowly, in two to three stages so that the hot water can work for a few minutes in between each pour. This is the easiest and quickest way to unclog a drain if it works, which usually it does with a satisfying swoosh.

*Or your hottest tap water if you are dealing with a porcelain sink and/or PVC pipes, in which case boiling water could cause damage.

Blue Dawn

Pour 1/2 cup of Dawn detergent into the drain. For tough clogs, use a full cup of detergent.

While that sits, bring a half pot of water (about 4 cups) to boil. Pour this into the drain slowly but steadily to avoid getting burned by splashing water. Run water down the drain to check how freely water flows through.

If the clog remains or seems to be clearing, but the drain is still slow-running, repeat until the drain runs free.

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