10 things you should never put down your garbage disposal



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.

disposal don’ts

  1. Potato Peels

    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.

  2. Banana Peels

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Bones

    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.

  6. Coffee Grounds

    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.

  7. Egg Shells

    Ditto for egg shells.  Best to toss.

  8. 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.

  9. Peach, Cherry, Avocado, & Olive Pits

    These hard cores are way too much work for your garbage disposal to break down.

  10. Bleach & Drano

    Harsh chemicals and cleaners can ruin your disposal’s seals and actually eat through pipes (70 years old or new).

disposal dos

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Have another fix-it question for our Maintenance Manager, Brian?  Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, & Pinterest.

photos: in stylelaurenconrad.com

21 thoughts on “10 things you should never put down your garbage disposal

  1. Jesse Dunn

    This article is suspect for several reasons. The most glaring red flag comes at the end unfortunately.

    Mixing baking soda and vinegar together, despite it’s merits going viral over the last 10 years, does nothing. That’s right. The acid in the vinegar and the base in the baking soda neutralize each other producing nothing but salt and water.

    My In-sink-erator easily grinds almost everything into tiny bits, including small bones.

    To clean, the only thing I’ve ever used are lemon/lime peels or the whole thing.

    I would avoid things like egg shells however because they are heavy and can lay in low points of your plumbing causing a clog over time.

    Also like the article said don’t use hot water with grease. It will eventually cool down and solidify, sticking to somewhere down the line in your pipes. If you use cold water, the grease forms small particles, stays within in the water flow and passes through fine.

  2. Pingback: Four Things Your Plumber Wishes You Knew - Absolute Plumbing in Concord

  3. Vicki

    I accidentally put quinoa down my garbage disposal:( now it’s clogged. I’ve been scooping it out but what else can I do to clear the clog and have the water run through free again?

  4. Cleaning and freshening the garbage disposal is not difficult but it is important to be cautious because you are working with sharp blades. so you should not put down anythings in this topic.

  5. Brian Stafford

    We have had an a disposal unit for 23 years without any problems until 4 years ago we replaced it to our detriment the BAD ODOUR IS AWFUL I AM REMOVING THE OFFENDING MACHINE NOW what should I BUY NOW ??

  6. Penny

    Interesting article. Between my parents and myself, I’ve been using garbage disposals for more than 50 years.

    Here are the things I put down my disposal:
    -Potato peels
    -Banana peels (but not the top part)
    -Pasta & Rice
    -Poultry bones
    -Coffee grinds & tea leaves
    -Egg shells

    The other 4 items I agree with.
    (The disposal I purchased for a previous house said it would handle celery.)

    It is also important to read what YOUR disposal says that it will “eat.”
    And to always use with cold running water, turning the disposal off before the water when finished.

    • Hi Janet,

      Great question. We did some digging and found this great response:

      “Throw some ice down once in a while. While ice will not sharpen the shredders (as is commonly believed) it does knock off any debris buildup on the sharp edges that keeps them from grinding food properly. For better results, make special ice cubes from pure lemon juice or vinegar.”

    • Ann Klein

      What is a garbage disposal for if you cannot put anything in it. What can be put in it. Just installed a new one and just curious.

    • Bobbi Fridley

      Actually, a good rule of thumb is, if a dog would eat it then it’s safe for the disposal minus bones…if you consider table scraps and left overs nothing, then you’d be correct!!

  7. I’ve noticed that most people don’t realize what a garbage disposal is actually for, so this is very useful educational article for them! The garbage disposal needs it’s maintenance and correct exploitation!

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