Ask Any Hour: Are there things I should not put in my garbage disposal?
Dear Any Hour,
I grew up in a house where we threw everything into the garbage disposal to get rid of it, but my wife says that there are things we should not be putting down our disposal. So, I wanted to know what advice you would give on this. Are there things we should not put in the garbage disposal?
- Jack G.
Garbage disposals are fantastic to recycle your food scraps, but they have their limits. They're not fully capable of processing everything you might want to run down it. One of the most common garbage disposal questions is what you can run through the garbage disposal. Although this will vary depending on how much horsepower your unit has, there are a few basic guidelines everyone should follow.
Here are some of the do's and don'ts of what you should be putting down your garbage disposal.
- GREASE & OIL - Grease is the number one mistake to put down your garbage disposal. Though for the most part your disposal doesn't have a problem with liquids, grease is only in a liquid form temporarily. As grease cools down it solidifies, which can be a disaster if done in your disposal. Clogs and thick films on the shredding teeth can easily form, eventually culminating in the decomposition of the grease that will cause a foul odor. No matter how much water you pour down with it, grease and oils are never a good idea for your garbage disposal.
- PASTA OR RICE - If you've ever cooked pasta or rice, you know that when they are exposed to water they expand. While this is great when cooking, it's can be a big problem when they expand down in your garbage disposal. You'll have some pretty sizeable clogs in no time. Save your rice and pasta leftovers for the trash when throwing them out.
- COFFEE GROUNDS - There's a bit of a mixed consensus of whether coffee grounds are a do or don't for the disposal, but according to multiple plumbers, coffee grounds can be a huge hassle when put down the garbage disposal. They can attract grease, build up and create a clog, and make your drain smell like bad coffee. Instead of putting them down the disposal, try putting them to better use and utilizing them for composting instead.
- EGGSHELLS - Another controversial disposal item, eggshells can cause problems when put down your disposal. The membrane on the inside of the shells gets wrapped up in the blades, and they can also get stuck to the walls of the pipes and cause blockages. Though there is back and forth on whether or not eggshells are safe to put down the disposal, it's a better idea to stay safe and just put them in the compost pile.
- STRINGY VEGETABLES - Just like with a washing machine or vacuum cleaner, things can wrap around the spinning mechanism of your disposal and stop it in its tracks. Avoid stringy fruits and vegetables such as celery stalks, corn husks, pumpkin guts, and asparagus from going into the drain and keep things moving!
- VEGETABLE & FRUIT PEELS - The exterior of most fruits and veggies are harder than you think, especially potato peels, banana peels, and onion skins. It’s best to keep these out of your garbage disposal.
- BONES, FRUIT PITS, & PEBBLES - While you may think a couple of odds and ends going down the disposal is ok, bones can devastate your garbage disposal. Generally speaking, if it’s something you can’t chew up yourself, don’t send it down the disposal --unless you want to call a plumber to come fix it of course.
- NON-FOOD ITEMS - The name may be deceptive, but garbage disposals are for food waste, not garbage. Paper, metal, plastic, cigarette butts, and wood should never be put down the garbage disposal.
- COLD WATER - Water should be running the whole time the garbage disposal is on. Cold water is best because it solidifies grease and fatty/oily foods.
- SMALL BITS OF FOOD - Small scraps of food left over on a plate after a meal is what a garbage disposal is intended for. It’s good to put as much leftover scraps into the garbage first before rinsing it in the sink and letting stuff go down the garbage disposal.
- DISH SOAP - Obviously, you wouldn't use your garbage disposal to shred up dish soap, but running soap down your drain can help clean the disposal. Simply pour a bit in with some cold water and let it run for a little bit. It's an easy and quick way to sterilize your disposal.
- ICE CUBES - While you want to be careful with how many and how often you put these down your disposal, throwing a few in every once and a while can knock food residue off the blades of your unit. To help them be more effective, try using ice cubes made from vinegar or lemon juice to freshen the unit up a bit.
- LIQUIDS - Most liquids are garbage disposal safe. Cold water is recommended to run down the disposal for about 20 to 30 seconds before grinding food items to help them go through smoothly. Your disposal is much more equipped to take liquids than solids or sludges.
Your garbage disposal can handle a lot you throw its way, but knowing exactly what can and can't run through it will help reduce the risk of clogs and extend your disposal's life.
Do you have any questions? Contact Any Hour Services today to discuss any questions or problems you have regarding your garbage disposal. We're happy to help!
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Other helpful articles:
- How to Clean A Garbage Disposal
- IN THE HOUSE Podcast - Garbage Disposals
- Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting
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Oct 25th 2021