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Garbage Disposal Tips

What Can You Put Down A Garbage Disposal

What You Can Put Down A Garbage Disposal

There are no two ways about it — garbage disposals are amazing. No longer do you have to worry about catching bits of food and stopping them from going down the drain as you do dishes. You can purposefully put food down the drain and grind it up.

There are so many reasons to love your garbage disposal. Food scraps won’t sit in your trash can and give off an unpleasant odor. Your trash bag doesn’t fill up as full because you can put a lot of things into the garbage disposal instead. What’s not to love?

However, it’s important to remember that as wonderful a tool as a garbage disposal is, it’s not indestructible. It can and will break, or be less effective, if the wrong foods go down the drain. That’s why it pays to know what things are safe for the garbage disposal and which things are no-nos.

What Is a Garbage Disposal Used For?

Your garbage disposal is intended to be used for mashing and grinding up small food waste. It takes these pieces of food and shreds them into tiny pieces that won’t clog your pipes or drains.

While the best way to keep your garbage disposal healthy is to avoid putting any food down it that it can’t handle, there are a few other things you can do to keep it working smoothly:

  • Run cold water when turning the disposal on, as this helps greases and oils solidify so they can be ground up.
  • Run your disposal regularly. Letting it sit unused will cause it to act up.
  • Don’t put down anything that isn’t biodegradable.

What Can You Put Down a Garbage Disposal?

It’s actually a lot simpler than you might expect. You can put almost anything down your garbage disposal, with the exception of a few big categories that we’ll talk about later. For the most part, however, you can grind up and dispose of most things as long as they’re a biodegradable food product.

Biodegradable Foods For Garbage Disposal

Specifically, here are just a few of the things that are perfectly safe and acceptable to put down your garbage disposal:

  • Citrus Rinds: Not only are these safe to put down the disposal, but they also help naturally clean it and leave it smelling fresh.
  • Scraps of Cooked Meat: Leftover meat scraps are fine in the garbage disposal, just watch that the chunks aren’t too large or chunky.
  • Fruit Scraps: As with citrus rinds, these won’t be a problem in the garbage disposal, and they may leave your whole sink smelling a little fresher.
  • Almost All Vegetable Scraps: There are a few exceptions to this rule that we’ll discuss later, but most veggies are perfectly safe to put into the disposal.

What Can’t You Put Down a Garbage Disposal?

While most food scraps are perfectly fine to go down the garbage disposal, there are a few notable exceptions that should be mentioned. The foods on the first part of this list are ones that are sometimes subject to debate, with some people claiming they aren’t actually harmful to your disposal.

If you accidentally let one of these items slip down the drain and the garbage disposal doesn’t instantly break and clog, you might be tempted to think these things actually can go into the disposal. But don’t be fooled. Just because something isn’t causing instant and catastrophic damage doesn’t mean it’s healthy for your disposal. Some of these foods might cause gradual damage that builds up over time, or they might instantly break the entire appliance.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Exercise a little caution and make sure to watch out for these foods so they don’t go down the disposal.

1. Can You Put Egg Shells in a Garbage Disposal?

Some parties argue that there’s no reason egg shells can’t go down the drain. The garbage disposal is perfectly capable of crushing them up into small, manageable pieces. You might hear people say the sharp edges of the shells help sharpen and clean the disposal’s blades.

However, others disagree with this. It’s not that the egg shells are too sharp or hard for the disposal. Rather, the shell’s membrane lining can cause problems. This thin lining can get caught and stick to the edges of the disposal, where it creates all kinds of problems for you and your appliance.

Eggshells In Garbage Disposal

While there is some solid evidence you might be all right with putting egg shells into your disposal, there’s also the possibility that they might cause a lot of damage. To stay on the safe side, we recommend just throwing shells in your regular garbage can. This way, you’ll save yourself a potential headache later on.

2. Can You Put Coffee Grounds Down a Garbage Disposal?

With coffee grounds, there’s no small amount of confusion about whether or not they’re safe to put down a garbage disposal. Let’s set the record straight once and for all.

Coffee grounds, particularly in small amounts, will not harm your disposal itself. Because of their strong, natural coffee scent, they might make your sink and drain smell pleasant. Because of this, many people think there’s no problem with putting grounds down the disposal. They may do it on purpose to take advantage of the nice smell.

But don’t be fooled. Although the grounds appear to be going down with no problem, they can actually cause a hefty amount of damage. They pile up quite quickly at the bottom of the drain, creating a thick and sludgy mass of sediment. This sludge keeps accumulating in your pipes and drains and can be very hard to get rid of. It’s a notorious culprit for clogs and other drainage issues. As appealing as the smell can be, it’s best to avoid trouble by tossing your coffee grounds in the trash or compost.

3. Can You Put Bones in a Garbage Disposal?

Again, there isn’t a clear-cut answer. Some people argue that if the bones are very, very small, they won’t cause any problems in the disposal. Others say that these small bones can cause damage to the appliance.

But while there is some debate over whether or not small bones are permissible, there is a clear consensus on larger bones. These are definite no-nos. They will just keep spinning around and around with the blades instead of being crushed and going through the system. If they do make it past the disposal, they won’t be able to go down the drain pipes. They’ll stick and potentially clog your entire system.

By nature of being a bone, these small food scraps are extremely hard and tough. They don’t grind up as easily as soft food scraps, making them far more susceptible to creating clogs. For the overall health of your sink and drainage system, we recommend leaving these out.

4. Can You Put Banana Peels in a Garbage Disposal?

This is one thing on which the experts agree. Putting banana peels down your garbage disposal is a bad idea.

It has to do with the fibrous material banana peels are made out of. These strings can split off from the peel itself and get wound around the disposal’s blades. The disposal gets more and more tangled as it spins, and it may eventually lead to severe damage.

While most fruits and veggie parts are perfectly fine in a disposal, banana peels are one thing better off thrown in the garbage can or a compost pile.

5. Can You Put Potato Peels Down a Garbage Disposal?

The problem with potato peels lies in their high starch content. Very quickly, these will turn into a thick, soupy mush that causes the blades to catch and become stuck. Even if the potato peels do make it through the disposal and into the pipes, this starchy soup may continue to cause clogs and blockages there as well.

While you can probably get away with putting a very small amount of potato peels down the drain, we don’t recommend making a habit of it. Keep the potato peels going down the drain to the bare minimum. Better yet, put them all into the trash or a compost pile.

6. Can You Put Oil and Grease Down Your Garbage Disposal?

This is a big category, and it includes:

  • Cooking Grease
  • Oils
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Any other fatty liquids you might have left over from cooking

Everyone knows these shouldn’t go down the drain, but people still do it from time to time. However, we cannot stress enough. Greases, oils and fats do not belong in your garbage disposal. They might look like liquid when you pour them down the drain, but they won’t be for long. These materials will slowly congeal over time, coalescing into a large mass that clog and clogs drains worse than almost anything else.

If these oils do make it all the way through your system, it’s hardly an eco-friendly way to dispose of them. As with everything else that goes down your sink, they’ll eventually make their way into your local water system, potentially damaging plants, wildlife and ecosystems.

How To Safely Dispose of Grease

Instead of pouring grease into the sink, dispose of it responsibly. Pour it into an old can or jar, and set it in the fridge to harden. When it’s fully solidified, toss it out into the garbage.

7. Can You Put Fruit Pits Down Your Garbage Disposal?

Nope. These go in the trash or a composter pile. This goes for things like peach, plum and cherry pits, as well as avocado seeds.

Keeping pits out of the disposal might seem counterintuitive, especially since we’ve already mentioned that most fruit and veggie parts can go into the disposal without a problem. But think about it. Have you ever tried to bite into a fruit pit? Have you ever cut one in half with a knife?

If so, you’ll understand why these should stay out of the disposal. They are extremely hard to cut through, making them far beyond the capabilities of most garbage disposal blades.

What Else Can’t You Put Down a Garbage Disposal?

The next items on our list are ones that aren’t usually subject to debate. All experts agree that no matter how convenient it might be to simply wash these down the disposal, they are almost certain to cause damage to your appliance.

1. Pasta and Rice

Both pasta and rice expand when they become wet. Though they seem small and innocent when they go down the drain, they won’t stay that way. They’ll interact with the water and swell up to far greater than their normal size.

From here, there’s no telling the problems they could cause. They could fill up the disposal trap or block the drain or pipes. Even if it’s just one piece of pasta, or if the pasta has been ground up, this is still one thing to keep out of your disposal.

2. Starchy Vegetables

Avoid sending these down the drain for the same reason banana peels are best kept out of disposals. The tough fibers that make up certain vegetables have a tendency to peel away and get themselves wound around the blades of the disposal. This leads to tangling, stalling and other kinds of clogging issues.

Vegetables and vegetable parts that are best composted or thrown out with the trash include celery, onion skins, corn husks, artichokes and asparagus.

3. Cigarettes

If you’re ever in doubt about whether or not something can go down the garbage disposal, ask yourself this: is it biodegradable? If the answer is no, then it shouldn’t go down the garbage disposal.

When you put a cigarette down the drain, the chemicals and other materials are shredded and spread throughout your drainage system. They may get stuck, leading to a residual unpleasant smell or a clog. And if they do pass entirely through your plumbing, they’ll only end up deposited into your local water supply.

4. Paper Scraps

This includes everything from pieces of paper to paper towels to cotton balls. All of these products turn into soggy messes once they interact with the water, which leads to clogged pipes and stopped-up drains.

Disposing of Paper In Garbage Disposal

You might be thinking, “But toilet paper can go down the drain just fine.” The difference is toilet paper is built to dissolve into the water. Other paper products are built specifically to withstand the water, meaning they will not break down like toilet paper does.

Accidents Happen: We're At Your Disposal

Call a Plumber to Assist With Your Garbage Disposal Problems

Maybe something that shouldn’t have slipped down the garbage disposal, or maybe you didn’t realize it didn’t belong down there. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all needed to enlist a little professional help to get things running smoothly again.

If you live in northern Utah and you’re having trouble with your garbage disposal unit, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Haynes Plumbing. We’re a locally owned and operated team of experienced plumbers with years of expertise helping our customers. We’re also available 24/7, including on the weekends, so you can count on our help whenever your emergency happens. Contact us today on our website or call us at (801) 425-3757.


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