Shot glasses, plastic bottle caps, silverware, jewelry. My maintenance manager and I have seen some weird things pulled out of a clogged up garbage disposal, that’s for sure. But there are common things that tenants often put down the drain without a second thought. Things like egg shells, coffee grounds, lemon peels, carrots, chicken bones, etc. So we decided to look into what the professionals had to say about what is ok to put down the sink.
For starters, your garbage disposal shouldn’t be treated like a food processor to grind up your leftovers – that’s what the trashcan is for. And if you live in an older building, keep in mind that your pipes may be original. Ever wondered what your leftovers look like trying to get through a 70 year old drain? Yikes!
Also keep in mind that if you live in a multilevel apartment building, more than likely your pipes are connected to the other apartments above or below you at some point along the drainage highway to the main sewer system. This means that whatever you and your upstairs (or downstairs) neighbor put down the garbage disposal, it all meets up and mingles and can create a back-up for you and/or them.
If it’s Sunday night and you’re making your famous mashed potatoes, don’t even think about putting the peels down the garbage disposal. The starches in the cut potatoes turn into a thick gluey paste and can cause the disposal’s blades to stick or create a major traffic jam in the pipes.
Fibrous materials like banana peels, onion skins, corn husks, and artichokes are extremely rough on your garbage disposal. These vegetable jackets are designed by nature to protect the food inside so they can handle a bit of beating from your garbage disposal. Your disposal motor and drain on the other hand, can’t handle these tough skins and can get jammed or blocked.
Bacon Fat, Grease or Oil
You might think that running hot water to liquefy the fats and oils will help to lubricate the blades and pipes, but that’s not the case. It’s actually bad news and causes the grease to slowly build up and coat the blades which impedes their grinding ability and can clog drains.
Pasta & Rice
Just as these foods expand when you put them in boiling water, they do the same thing in your disposal and pipes. “Al dente” pasta and rice is cooked until they are still firm which means that there’s still room to absorb water and expand when flushed down the drain. Quinoa, cous cous and bread are also no-nos.
Contrary to what you may have been taught by mom, bones don’t sharpen the disposal’s blades – it dulls them just as they would do to your cutlery if you tried to cut them up with your kitchen knives. Always toss all animal bones (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and fish) in the trash.
The thought here is that flushing coffee grounds down the disposal will help to eliminate odors. While this can be true, those little crusty coffee particles actually accumulate in the pipes and cause blockages. It’s best to toss the coffee filter and grounds in the garbage.
Ditto for egg shells. Best to toss.
Asparagus & Celery
These long vegetables fall into the fibrous category like banana peels because they’re so stringy. These ‘strings’ can actually wrap around the disposal blades and cause the motor to seize.
Peach, Cherry, Avocado, & Olive Pits
These hard cores are way too much work for your garbage disposal to break down.
Bleach & Drano
Harsh chemicals and cleaners can ruin your disposal’s seals and actually eat through pipes (70 years old or new).
Use Cold Water
Running water obviously helps to flush out the debris in the disposal and get it through the pipes, but cold water is better than hot. Why? Cold water actually helps to solidify any grease or oil that makes its way in there which allows the blades to chop it up. Who knew?
Use It Regularly
Your garbage disposal can actually rust or seize altogether without periodic use. So give it a whirl every time you’re cleaning the sink or doing dishes.
Disinfect & Clean
You can use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to keep your garbage disposal clean and smelling fresh without the need for harsh chemicals. And if you’re not putting a ton of food in there like we mentioned above, the occasional lemon, lime or orange should be just fine. Just make sure you cut it up into quarters first for easier grinding.
With these tips your garbage disposal should always be in good working order and ready to tackle any small food scraps that find their way in there.