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10 Things You Should Never Put In Your Garbage Disposal

October 30, 2023

Garbage disposals are convenient to have if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Instead of having to throw your food waste into the trash, you can just dispose of it down the sink. The disposal will pulverize the scraps into tiny pieces so that they will get washed away with the water.

Not only will it save you time but it’ll also reduce odors in the kitchen as food won’t be left in the trash to rot. You won’t have to use as many trash bags either, which is better for the environment.

As great as garbage disposals are, however, they’re not meant for everything. For example, it’s not uncommon for some food items to clog the unit and if that happens, your sink won’t be able to drain and that can be a costly fix.

What food items should you avoid putting down the garbage disposal? What other things don’t belong in the unit? Keep reading to find out!

10 Things That Shouldn’t Go In the Garbage Disposal

Without further ado, here are some things that you should never wash down the drain.

1. Coffee Grounds

coffee groundsCoffee grounds might seem harmless given how fine they look but don’t let their appearance fool you. They’re actually super dense and almost paste-like.

And instead of breaking down, they clump together in water. This can lead to clogs in the pipes, which will prevent the drain from doing its job. For example, it’s not uncommon for the grounds to get stuck in the U-shaped segment under the kitchen sink.

Instead of flushing your coffee grounds down the drain, throw them in the trash. Or if you can, toss them in the compost. You can even add it to your garden as fertilizer. They’re rich in nutrients such as potassium and nitrogen and can help absorb heavy metals from the soil.

2. Animal Bones

The garbage disposal is not designed to break down hard items. Seeing as how bones are one of the hardest naturally occurring substances out there, it only makes sense that you shouldn’t wash them down the drain. If anything, they can significantly shorten your disposal’s life span.

Don’t worry if you accidentally flushed a small chicken or fish bone down the sink, though – it can still handle that. Anything larger, however, will spin around inside and damage the internal parts. Not only that but it can also jam the the unit.

Given that, it’s best to throw your animal bones in the trash or compost bin (out of reach of pets, if you have any).

3. Onions

You want to be careful with onions. While chopped pieces can go down the disposal with no problem, the outermost layer can cause some issues. More specifically, it’s the membrane beneath the skin that’s the culprit.

Compared to the rest of the onion, it’s extra thin, which means it can easily pass through the disposal unit and cause clogs. For example, they can get wedged in the drain and if that happens, they can trap other food particles along with it. Not only that but they can also wrap around the blades.

Instead of using the disposal, throw your onion leftovers in the trash or compost bin.

4. Egg Shells

eggshellsContrary to popular belief, egg shells will not sharpen your disposal’s “blades”. In fact, garbage disposal units don’t even have blades; they have impellers that spin rapidly to break down food – and they’re more blunt than sharp.

If you flush eggshells down the drain, the impeller will ground them up into a sandy substance, which will build up and get stuck inside the pipes.
Not only that but the eggshell membrane can also wrap around the grinding mechanism and that can cause a myriad of issues, most of which can be expensive to fix.

Instead of dropping your eggshells in the disposal, put them in the compost bin, They’re rich in calcium and will give your plants extra nutrients as they decompose in the soil. That’s not all, you can also use them to feed the birds – just bake them in the oven for a few minutes and crumble them into tiny pieces.

5. Potato Peels

Potato peels are bad for a couple of reasons. For one thing, they can easily slip past the disposal and get wedged in the pipes, given how thin they are. They don’t dissolve in water either, which worsens the problem.

More often than not, the impellers will turn them into a starchy substance, which can stick to and cause blockages in the pipes. In some cases, it can also cause the blades to stick together.

Considering that, you want to keep them out of the garbage disposal. Throw them in the compost bin or trash can instead. This goes for other starchy vegetables as well such as green peas, beets, squash, and corn.

6. Grease and Oil

The grease and oil that you’re dealing with may be a liquid now, but that can easily change. Depending on the temperature, they can soldifiy in your pipes and cause a blockage.

What you want to do instead, is throw them in the trash after letting them cool down. You can also use a paper towel or napkin to wipe away the grease before rinsing your dishes with water.

If you accidentally poured some grease down the drain, you can clean it out with some baking soda. Pour half a cup of the soda into the drain and follow up with an equal amount of white vinegar. The two will produce a chemical reaction that will help dissolve the grease and oil.

7. Pasta, Bread, and Rice

pastaThese grains all have one thing in common – they expand if exposed to water and as you can imagine, that can easily lead to a backed-up drain. Having said that, a few tiny pieces off of a plate won’t hurt. Just don’t pour an entire plate’s worth of pasta or rice down the disposal.

If you do run pasta, bread, or rice down the garbage disposal, leave it on for at least 30 seconds. At the same time, run cold water down the drain – that will help flush it out without causing them to expand.

The better option, of course, is to toss them in the compost bin. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re throwing away pasta, it’s best to break it down into small pieces before composting as that’ll speed up the decomposition process.

8.  Nuts

Nuts (including their shells) are similar to bones in that they can damage your disposal. For one thing, it’ll dull the blades, which will reduce the unit’s lifespan. This goes for softer nuts as well, such as peanuts.

The impeller will grind up the nuts and turn them into a thick paste, which can easily clog your pipes. In fact, that’s how peanut butter is made – by grinding and mashing peanuts.

Instead of using the garbage disposal, toss them in the trash. Some types of birds also eat nuts so you can feed them your leftovers as well (as long as they’re unsalted – salted nuts can do more harm than good to animals).

9. Fibrous Vegetables

pumpkinFibrous vegetables such as celery, asparagus, corn husks, kale, lettuce, and rhubarb should never go into the garbage disposal. While it might be okay if they’re cut into small pieces, it’s not worth risking a clog.

Pumpkin is another example – you’ve probably noticed how long the strands can be if you’ve ever scooped them out for Halloween. As you can imagine, the stringy material can easily get caught on the grinder, and that can turn into a sticky mess. For example, it can burn out the motor or cause a jam.

So save yourself the potential headache and dispose of them in the trash or compost bin – whether they’re raw or cooked.

10. Non-Food Items

It goes without saying but you should never put any non-food items into the garbage disposal. This includes things like plastic wrappers, paper towels, napkins, and tissues. Unlike food waste, they’re not meant to break down in water and will cause major clogging issues.

They can also spread through the drainage system and enter the local waterways, where they can potentially harm marine life.

This is especially true for chemicals such as paint as they often contain harmful chemicals, which can pollute the environment. In some cases, they can also contaminate your drinking water supply.

That’s not all, the paint can also damage your disposal unit and pipes. Take latex and oil paints, for example, they can coat your pipes and harden, which over time, can result in clogs.

Instead of pouring paint down the drain, throw them in the garbage. Alternatively, you can pour the leftover paint onto a newspaper and let it dry before throwing everything out.

And there you have it – 10 things that you should never put in the garbage disposal. As you can see, they’re not indestructible; they can and will be damaged if you put in the wrong things – even if they’re food. Not only that but they can also cause damage to your drain and pipes.

Have you accidentally put any of these items in your garbage disposal? Are you worried about grime or residue from these things causing issues? Well ACTIVE Disposal Cleaner may be able to help! It’s powerful foaming action breaks down stubborn residue to keep the moving parts functioning properly.

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Picture of Ethan Clarke

Ethan Clarke

Ethan Clarke is a seasoned expert in appliances and household waste systems. Referencing his extensive experience as an appliance repairman, Ethan shares his invaluable knowledge through detailed maintenance & troubleshooting manuals. Ethan’s insights help homeowners understand and maintain their appliances efficiently, ensuring longevity and optimal performance. He’s here to provide practical, easy-to-follow advice for all your appliance needs.

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