Does It Hurt A Garbage Disposal To Run Without Water?

When it comes to the finicky appliances designed to make our lives easier, there’s a lengthy list of dos and don’ts. Garbage disposals are an integral part of millions of kitchens, working to minimize the amount of food waste that ends up in the landfills. The benefits of these devices are extensive, but there are a few things to keep in mind when using them. 

Can I Run My Garbage Disposal Without Running Water?

Most of us have run the garbage disposal with and without water, probably not even thinking twice about either. However, considering the specific list of rules surrounding garbage disposals, is there a way you’re supposed to do it?

Well, technically, it’s usually best to run water while you operate the garbage disposal. Think of it like taking an aspirin. Water makes it go down easier, but it’s not technically necessary.

InSinkErator Garbage Disposal, Badger 5, 1/2 HP Continuous Feed,Black

Or, on a different note, think of a toilet. The water in the bowl helps efficiently move the waste from the bowl, through the plumbing, and to its final destination, whether that is the septic tank or sewage system. In this case, water is necessary to flush waste away.  

The same concept applies to your garbage disposal. It doesn’t hurt to run cold water while running the garbage disposal. Water helps lubricate the system, ensuring everything grinds smoothly and keeps moving along. 

Using the system without water can lead to clogs, which is a nightmare in itself. In addition, water helps swish the food particles along the drain pipes once they pass through the disposal. 

Should I Use Hot Water Or Cold Water While Running My Garbage Disposal?

Hot Water Or Cold Water While Running My Garbage Disposal

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to use cold water while running the disposal. Warm water shouldn’t cause any issues, but boiling hot water can damage the plumbing. On top of that, scalding water can damage certain types of sinks, causing them to crack or split. 

Some folks may advise using hot water to keep grease moving along. However, you should never pour grease down your drain, as it can cause all sorts of issues. For example, let’s say you pour grease down the drain, then follow up with hot water. 

While the hot water may keep the oil liquified enough to move it past the disposal, there’s a chance it may solidify again in the pipes beyond the garbage disposal. Or, if you use cold water after grease, it may solidify in the disposal itself. So, it’s best to avoid pouring grease down the drain altogether. Instead, dispose of it in the garbage or a similar alternative.  

Is Cold Water Okay To Use To Grind Pasta?

Some websites on the Internet caution against running water while operating your garbage disposal. Many times, the theory hinges on how water causes certain items to swell. While this is entirely true, as water will make pasta expand, cold water tends to absorb slower. 

So, you could run cold water while disposing of leftover pasta scraps. With that said, pasta, rice, and other starchy foods are on the “no-no” list. Since these foods are prone to absorbing water in the disposal and the drain, it’s usually best to avoid dumping them down the drain. If they absorb too much water, they could clog the disposal or drain pipes, which complicates things. 

The same thing applies to flour, grains, and similar food items. When mixed with water (hot, cold, or otherwise), it creates a thick paste that can get caught up in the garbage disposal or the pipes beyond. 

What Happens If I Don’t Run Water While I Run The Garbage Disposal?

A few things may happen if you don’t run water while you run the garbage disposal. Sometimes, nothing at all happens, and everything goes down just fine. However, it doesn’t always go this smoothly. 

Depending on what you send down the drain, the disposal may clog from the lack of water. Or, things may pass through the disposal, only to get stuck in the drain pipes. With water running, these things are much less likely to get stuck somewhere along the way. 

There are a few things you shouldn’t put down the drain, regardless of whether you run water or not. Garbage disposals aren’t designed to handle anything and everything. Although many food items are safe for the garbage disposal, there is a very specific list of things to avoid. 

Moen GX50C Prep Series 1/2 HP Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal with Sound Reduction, Power Cord Included, Black

Some of these items are a no-brainer, while others are somewhat surprising. The list of items to avoid includes:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Fibrous fruits and vegetables, including celery, onion skins, pumpkin innards, potato peels, artichokes
  • Eggshells
  • Pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Kernels
  • Bones
  • Nuts and pits

In addition, avoid using harsh chemicals and cleaning supplies down the disposal, as you may damage the system. Of course, don’t put any non-food items down the drain, as these can wreak havoc on the system. 

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