Garbage Disposal Maintenance: know your p-trap.

P-trap. Sounds dirty, doesn't it? Well, it kind of is. Your p-trap is a wonderful part of the internal makeup of your garbage disposal that helps keep waste and odors from re-entering into your kitchen. Your garbage disposal is one confusing part of the kitchen your plumber is an expert on, and will help you through any tough problems, installation, or even just questions you might have. For now, let's talk about garbage disposal basics, and the purpose and maintenance of the p-trap.

A good rule of thumb is that you should have one p-trap for every sink. If you have a double sink, two p-traps will be a welcome reprieve for you—one trap is for the sink, and the other is for the disposal. Why have two over one?

For one thing, smells will get trapped better and easier, which is a fantastic convenience, particularly if your disposal sees a lot of trash. When garbage starts to decompose it emits a gas called methane. It's toxic, and it smells horrible. Gasses are elusive, and even when garbage disposal garbage is long gone from your sink, that doesn't mean that the gasses can't make their way back into your sink. That's what the p-trap can help prevent; that loopy shape can deter those smells from coming back up, and those gasses, too!

Expect double-trouble when you have two sinks and only one p-trap. Doubling your p-trap gets rid of that straight-line pipe that can thrust water back into one sink as you're draining the other.

When it comes to general maintenance, there are a few things to keep in mind to keep your disposal working in tip-top shape and lasting for a long time. The first tip is to keep your disposal's intake of food to a minimum. A disposal shouldn't be a, "hey, let's put our leftover rib bones in the disposal" (never ever put bones down your disposal!), but rather a safety net for all the tiny scraps that just happened to fall to the bottom of your sink by chance and vigorous hand-washing.

When food goes down your disposal it gets chopped up further and goes down into smaller piping before it reaches wider piping. A lot of times the food will just sit until it gets another great force of water or pressure to carry it away completely (and here's where the rotting food and methane gas comes in, and where a p-trap can help.) If this pile does get whisked away, it could cause a jam when more food comes down the pipe. That's where clogs happen, and when snakes, Drain-o and plumbers come into play.

Always run water when your disposal is on, and always use cold water. Whatever the physics, it helps the food flow through your pipes better.


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