Garbage disposals are very easy to use and maintain. But it helps to know a few tricks and tips so you can make the most out of your unit. Here are some do’s and don’ts for garbage disposers:

Clean your garbage disposal regularly. This may sound like a no-brainer but more homeowners think that waste disposal units clean by themselves. It is quite easy to clean it: just put some dish soap into the chamber, let it run for a minute while keeping the faucet on.

Keep it running. Use your waste disposal unit regularly to keep it from rusting or corroding. Running your unit regularly assures that its parts, especially the motor and bearing parts, are moving so they do not accumulate obstructions.

Put some ice into it. Grinding ice into the waste disposer creates a scouring action inside it which clears accumulated waste on its walls. Ice can also help keep the blades sharp. An alternate way to do this is with the use of vinegar ice cubes. Vinegar can kill odor-causing bacteria inside the chamber.

Cut big chunks. Cut huge food wastes, especially fruit and vegetable waste, before putting them into the garbage disposer. Huge chunks of food will take a longer time to grind and can even cause the rotating blades to get stuck.

Do not grind paper. Paper may be a soft material but it cannot be ground by any garbage disposal unit. Same goes for cigarette butts. Plastic? Even the most powerful disposers are not designed to grind them so they should never go in there.

Rice and pasta should not go to the disposer. Pasta and rice are soft but they cannot be ground entirely by a disposer. Worse, they can expand once they accumulate water. They could end up far down the drain and cause blockage in your pipes.

Coffee grounds should not go to the disposer either. They can be good at eliminating odor and cannot harm the rotating blades or any part of the disposer. But they can easily accumulate down the drain and cause it to clog up. It is best to put them into the compost or dispose of them the traditional way.

Do not use drain cleaners. Drain cleaners can damage a waste disposal unit (although there are units that can be cleaned with those). It is best to consult the manual first before attempting to use any drain cleaner.

Unplug before reaching in. Sometimes hard objects can go into the disposer. You can reach for them but never do it unless you have made sure that the unit has been unplugged. Hollywood myths about grinding hands are not true but disposers can still cause injury. Always wear a glove before reaching in to protect your hands from the blades.