5 Tips for Living Without a Garbage Disposal

published Mar 31, 2015
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When I became an adult with my own kitchen, one of the biggest surprises of renting was how few apartments come equipped with garbage disposals. Although I dump most of my food scraps in the compost bin or garbage, I still like the convenience of rinsing away the last few grains of rice or container of stinky leftover soup down the drain with the help of a garbage disposal.

Unfortunately I’ll have to add it to the Future Dream Kitchen list; the reality is that the majority of apartments I have rented haven’t had garbage disposals. But I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of keeping my kitchen sink clean, unclogged, and odor-free with the help of these five tips.

1. Buy a strainer.

The first thing I buy for a rental kitchen without a garbage disposal is a stainless steel mesh sink strainer. They cost less than $5 and are essential for not letting kitchen scraps slip down the drain and can help prevent clogs. I usually empty mine twice a day — after the breakfast dishes and dinner dishes — and give it a scrub with a little baking soda once a week to keep it from getting too gunked-up.

2. Keep it clean.

Even with a strainer, grease and the occasional bit of food can make their way into the pipes, causing odors over time. You can prevent this by occasionally sprinkling some baking soda down the drain, followed by white vinegar and then some hot water to flush it all away.

3. Use your toilet.

Whether it’s a container of long-forgotten salsa or the remains of your takeout ramen, mostly liquid leftovers are tough to deal with when you don’t have a garbage disposal. You can’t dump them down the sink because there are too many solids, but you have to drain the liquid before putting them in the trash. My (kind of weird) secret? I flush them down the toilet. I’m not saying it’s glamorous, but it works — and it’s quicker and less messy than having to filter out solids with a sieve.

4. Compost if you can.

If you have to separate out your fruit and vegetable scraps anyway, you might as well make the most of them by collecting them to compost, either in your own backyard or through a municipal program, if your city provides one.

5. Look on the bright side.

Yes, you have to deal with a little more daily upkeep when you don’t have a garbage disposal, but there are quite a few benefits. You have more storage space under your sink. You aren’t sending trash to wastewater treatment facilities (and if you compost, you get double the green points). You don’t have to worry about expensive garbage disposal malfunctions and repairs. And you never have to experience the irrational fear of the disposal turning on all by itself somehow that strikes whenever you stick your hand in to grab a fork that dropped into the drain. (I can’t be the only one, right?)

Do you have a garbage disposal in your kitchen? Any other tips for surviving without one?