The garbage disposal has quickly become one of the most valued appliances in the kitchen for renters and homeowners. It offers a quick and effective way to get rid of food waste, allowing users to do it with the flip of a switch. Because of their solid construction and the convenience that they offer, garbage disposals are constantly in use. However, even this sturdy appliance can break down when improperly used. Read on to discover things to avoid putting in the garbage disposal if you want to keep it running smoothly.
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1. Coffee grounds
Coffee grounds may seem pretty innocuous when it comes to items to put down the garbage disposal. Some people even argue that they can help reduce odors in the short term. Although coffee grounds may appear to be finely milled, the particles are very densely packed and are almost paste-like when taken out of a filter.
As a result, they are one of the worst things to put down your drown – while they appear to go down with ease, they will eventually build up and form a sludge (picture the dregs at the bottom of a coffee pot), which in turn creates a clog. You’re better off disposing of coffee grounds in your compost bin or using them to keep critters out of your garden.
Although it can be challenging to believe, garbage disposal has plenty of weaknesses. While they help grind up and dispose of all sorts of food wastes, they are not made for grinding up tough items like bones. Bones can significantly shorten the lifespan of your garbage disposal. When you put them down the disposal, they’ll keep spinning around with the blades, and even if they somehow go down, they’ll get lodged along the way before making it down the drain pipes.
If you drop a fishbone or a chicken wing in the disposal, you may still be on the safe side. After all, garbage disposals are pretty hardy and should be able to handle grinding up the occasional small bone. However, if you dispose of a rack of ribs down your sink and try to grind them up, you’ll end up with a clog.
3. Pasta, rice, and bread
One of the things that pasta, rice, and bread have in common is that they expand when they absorb water (pasta and rice can still expand even after you cook them). That means that if they end up in your garbage disposal, they can easily lead to a clogged drain. You may get away with getting a little bit of rice or pasta down the disposal, but you don’t want to make a habit of dumping these food items into the disposal either.
If you run pasta/rice/bread through the disposal, run it for a minimum of 30 seconds, and make sure to follow it up with cold water down the drain to flush the grains down and reduce expansion.
If you often carry out DIY projects in your home, you may have poured paint down your drain at one point or another due to the lack of disposal options or cleaned your brushes and rollers in the sink. Oil or latex paint should never be poured straight down the drain as it can sit in pipes or cling to the side of the disposal, where it will start to cure and harden into a stubborn clog. A bit of heavily diluted paint down the drain won’t be a problem, but you generally want to consider other disposal options.
Dumping a bunch of nuts down a garbage disposal may not seem like such a big deal -after all, they can easily be crushed and washed down the drain, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case – a garbage disposal is not too different from a nut grinder when it comes to how it grinds nuts (peanuts, in particular). The result of grinding and mashing nuts is a thick paste that can easily clog up your drain. You’re better off disposing of nuts in the trash.
Much like rice and pasta, oatmeal is prone to expansion when it comes in contact with water. Uncooked oats, in particular, can easily slip through the garbage disposal untouched, only to collect and expand down the drain. In some cases, oats can flow out to the sewer on their own, but you’re more likely to end up with a clogged drain.
Whether eggshells can go in a garbage disposal is a point of contention. Some people believe that they are safe for garbage disposal and even argue that they help sharpen the blades mounted on the garbage wall. This theory’s origin is hard to pinpoint, but when you stop thinking about it, when was the last time you or someone else used egg shelves to sharpen a knife or any other blade?
While eggshells don’t have a significant negative or positive impact on garbage disposal blades, the membrane found on the inside of the shell is a different story. This thin membrane can get loose and lodge around the impeller (the rotor that pushes waste against the wall-mounted blades of the disposal) or create a sticky blockage in the drain. This can create all sorts of problems for your appliance.
8. Onion skins
While disposing of chopped or diced onions in your garbage disposal shouldn’t cause any issues, the thin membrane that lies just below the dry, outermost layer of the onion is a different story.
That thin, slimy layer is often removed before chopping the onion and then thrown into the garbage disposal. The coating is so thin that it can easily pass through the disposal, untouched by the blades, and end up wedged inside your plumbing, where it acts like a net, catching more debris and holding them in place, which can potentially lead to blockage.
You can easily avoid this problem by throwing the thin outer membrane of the onion in the trash or cutting it up before tossing it in the disposal.
9. Fibrous vegetables
While most vegetables can safely pass through the disposal without causing a blockage, fibrous veggies, including rhubarb, kale, celery, artichoke, asparagus, lettuce, corn husks, and chard, tend to get caught around the disposal’s blades. Consider adding long, stringy stalks to your compost heap instead of tossing them directly in the trash.
If you’ve ever tried cutting through fruits like peaches, avocados, or mangoes, then you’ve probably encountered the hard, dense pits in their center. Pits are pretty hard to cut through with a knife, so you can imagine how difficult it will be for a garbage disposal to grind them up.
If you make a habit of dropping pits in the disposal, it initially won’t kill the motor, but as time goes by, the appliance will lose its function, and you might end up having to replace it. Save your garbage disposal by tossing pits in the trash.
11. Potato peels
When you toss potato peels down the garbage disposal, one of the following two things can happen:
- The peels may be thin enough to slip past the blades and potentially end up getting caught in the drain. This results in the same issue as the egg membrane, holding up other waste and causing buildup.
- The potato peels are ground up and turn into a thick starchy paste in your disposal. If this paste somehow finds its way into the plumbing, you can have significant blockages down the road.
The name “garbage disposal” can be a bit misleading, especially when you consider that it’s not advisable to put all garbage in it. Any non-food items, including plastic wrappers, paper towels, or tissues, can cause significant issues for your drainage system. In addition, these items can spread through your plumbing system and end up in your local water supply. Non-biodegradable items shouldn’t go down to your disposal – throw them out in the trash instead.
Hard shells from seafood such as clams, lobsters, oysters, mussels, and shrimps should never be thrown down a garbage disposal. Many of them are far too dense for the disposal blades to grind up properly, while those that might be thin enough to slip through (like shrimp) can easily catch in the drain. Skip the garbage disposal and toss the shells in the trash, preferably a small trash bag that you can immediately take out of the kitchen to prevent lingering odors.
14. Corn husks
The process of husking corn creates a lot of waste, and as much of it as possible should go in the trash, or more ideally, the compost pile, rather than the disposal. The combination of hard, fibrous husks and fine threads of corn silk pose a dual-threat for garbage disposals. Whether you grow your corn in a garden or buy it from a store, consider husking it straight into a bag and not allowing it anywhere near your disposal.
15. Cleaning chemicals
Dish soap or standard cleaners should be fine to put down a garbage disposal. However, you’ll want to steer clear of harsh drain busters and industrial-grade cleaners. These can put excessive wear on the disposal and even the drain line. Instead of using harsh cleaning chemicals, drop a couple of ice cubes in the disposal to clean off the blades and use a bit of dish soap to break up any gunk that may have built up.
16. Grease, oil, and fat
While you can get away with disposing of liquid or semi-solid fat, oil, and grease, the rest of your home’s plumbing system will be negatively impacted. These materials tend to thicken over time, which can result in a significant blockage in your drain. The best way to get rid of these substances is to allow them to cool and then throw them out with the trash. You might want to seal liquid oil and grease in a jar or can first.
It may seem harmless to toss your unused medications down the garbage disposal, but putting controlled substances into your plumbing system can eventually impact the water supply. The FDA offers the alternative of placing drugs in a plastic bag with something unappealing like cat litter, then throwing it out in the trash.
18. Produce stickers
You can put citrus or apple peels into the garbage disposal, but make sure you remove any produce stickers before you do. That way, you won’t have to worry about them getting stuck to the disposal blades.
19. Chicken skin
It might be great for your health to remove chicken skin before cooking, but avoid tossing that skin down your garbage disposal. Chicken skin can easily clog your plumbing, as well as bring germs and unpleasant odors to your sink.
20. Broken glass or metal
If glass or metal somehow ends up in your garbage disposal, hold off on turning it on. Instead, try switching the disposal off at the unit under the sink and then dislodge the broken glass or metal with a grabber, hook, or fork. If that’s not possible, put on protective gloves and try to retrieve the item carefully. Always check to see that the garbage disposal is completely turned off before you attempt to retrieve any items from the sink.
It can seem indestructible, but feeding your garbage disposal the items mentioned above can result in clogs, foul smells, and ultimately a faulty appliance. While your disposal should be able to handle ice cubes, biodegradable dish soap, chopped foods, soft foods, and fruit peels, you should steer clear of the 20 items listed in this post.