The night before Thanksgiving, plumbers all across America make a point of getting a good night’s sleep. That’s because history has taught them that Thanksgiving day and the day after are typically the busiest days of their entire year, and they tend to spend most of their time on a single appliance: the garbage disposal.

When plate after plate of leftovers goes down the drain, garbage disposals can get clogged, jammed, entangled or paralyzed. But by adhering to a few simple rules and making a little time for maintenance, you can avoid the ritualistic Thanksgiving day emergency plumber call.

Dos and Don’ts

Some of the most important guidelines to smart garbage disposal use deal with food items that should never go down the drain. The biggest offenders include:

Grease, oils and fat – these create a thick film on every surface they touch, gumming up the blades, clogging drain pipes and creating foul, lingering odors.

Fibrous foods – vegetables like asparagus and celery tend not to chop up nicely; instead, the long fibers can turn into a kind of rope that wraps around the spinning blade and grinds it to a halt.

Starchy foods – starches, potato peels in particular, turn into paste with running water and a spinning disposal blade. This can jam up your disposal and take a significant effort to clean.

Absorbent foods – pasta and rice absorb water in your disposal and pipes, expanding and increasing the risk of a clog.

Most other biodegradable food products are safe for grinding, as long as they’re cut into small pieces before they go down the drain. Even small bones are acceptable for most disposals.

Food Only

Most people understand it’s a bad idea to intentionally put anything other than food down the garbage disposal. But when there’s a lot of activity in the kitchen, accidents happen.

Any time the disposal is in use or is about to be used, it’s crucial that the sink is clear of silverware, dish scrubbers and other non-food items. If a fork should slip into the drain while the blades are spinning, all sorts of things can go wrong. The worst-case scenarios range from broken disposals to flying forks!

Another common mistake is accidentally letting rings and other jewelry fall into the disposal. Sometimes people remove their rings to wash dishes, but the worst place to put them is right on the edge of the sink. They can easily slip down the drain, potentially damaging both the disposal and the jewelry.

Fresh and Clean

To keep a clean disposal throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, the best piece of advice is to favor the trash can. Disposals are great for occasional food scraps, but they may not hold up well under the pressure of large family gatherings. Since you’ll have lots of scraps to dispose of, just scrape them into the trash or compost and take it outside as soon as the last plate is cleared.

If you do use the disposal, it’s a good idea to clean as you go by grinding a handful of ice cubes every so often. It’s especially important to do this after the last piece of food is ground up, because it will keep your drain smelling fresh the day after.

If you do end up having disposal problems despite your best intentions, call your local plumbers for assistance without delay. The best plumbing professionals will be there to assist you 24 hours a day, every day of the year!

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