What Not to Put Down the Garbage Disposal or Drain
I am not a plumber—so keep that in mind—but according to my experience and research, there are certain things you should never put in a garbage disposal. You'll find a full list of these things below. Even though I am careful with my disposal, I have thrown a couple of these "forbidden" items down the drain in the past, although not in large amounts.
What Not to Put Down the Garbage Disposal
- Your hand! If you must, unplug unit or turn off corresponding circuit breaker (don't just turn the switch off, because there will still be power to the unit), and wear safety gloves to protect your hands from the sharp blades.
- Metal objects, such as utensils. But even small pieces of metal, such as bottle lids or tabs are discouraged. They are too solid for the blades to break down, and disposing of them could result in wearing down of the blades, or (in the case of the larger items) a clog in the pipes due to the large obstruction.
- Paper products, such as paper towels, coffee filters or tea bags.
- Some vegetables and fruits, especially fibrous (stringy) ones: Celery, rhubarb, asparagus, corn husks, chard, kale, lettuce, broccoli stalks, banana peels, carrot shavings, or onion skins. Why not? Because the fibers can wrap around the blade (choking it), clog it, or get stuck in the drain.
- Starchy Vegetables, such as potato peels. Why not? As the starch gets ground up, it turns into glue, clogging the drain.
- Pasta or rice. Why not? Because they expand once they come into contact with water, and they are sticky, making it hard to go down the drain.
- Grease or fat, including butter or margarine spreads, cooking oils, animal grease, or shortening. Why not? Because once it cools, it solidifies, and clogs the drain. Also, it can leave a residue on the blade, decreasing its effectiveness.
- Fruit pits or seeds. Why not? They are often too hard for the machine to properly chop, and will ultimately damage the disposal.
- Bones or shellfish (except for dainty fish bones. Some people also say that weak or small bones are okay to put in there, but I wouldn't push it). Why not? Because they are often hard to grind, and many times they are too big to go down the drain easily. Too much strain could break the blades, or even burn out the motor.
- Egg shells. Why not? The thin membrane inside of the shell can wrap itself around the blades, and the shell itself can be ground to the consistency of sand, clogging the pipes.
- Coffee grounds. Why not? Because they can get stuck in the trap of your disposal.
- Anything combustible. Why not? Hmm, I don't know, maybe it will combust?!
- Miscellaneous list of things that some people evidently try to drop down the drain: Twist ties, pull tabs, rubber bands, glass, plastic, fabric, string, rags, sponges, plants or flowers (many are fibrous or too big), kid's toys, or hair. Many of these would wrap around the blade, are too large to break up and go down the drain, or would be too hard for the machine to handle.
- Meat. This was not mentioned in many of my searches around the internet, but one girl told an awful story about what happened when she dumped a small portion of meat in her disposal. It involved rot and flies, I'll give you that much information. If you decide you'll take the risk, at least let the water drain it down as best as you can. But I don't think you want to have Pest Control have to take care of that!
Some of the above items have conflicted opinions. There are many powerful garbage disposals that really can handle a lot. Use your best judgement. They say that if you do put some of the smaller sized prohibited items in, make sure you do it slowly, and have the water on full blast until a few moments after the disposal has stopped, once it has been ground and has gone down the drain.
How to Properly Use Your Garbage Disposal
- When you grind food waste, use a strong flow of cold water, so that if there's any grease, it'll solidify and be easier for the blade to chop up before it gets to the trap, and rinse it down the drain.
- Don't put a large amount of food down at a time. It can only handle so much.
- Don't turn the water off until the grinding is complete. Have the water running the entire time, and even a few seconds after you have the disposal on, to allow the waste to be completely rinsed down the drain.
- Remember that even if you think the blades are strong enough to handle the task, you need to take into account whether the food will choke it, make it work too hard, or clog the pipes.
How to Maintain Your Garbage Disposal
- Maintenance is important if you want to avoid an expensive replacement or hiring a plumber.
- Regularly pour a little bit of dish soap down the drain and let cold water rinse it down.
- Run the garbage disposal regularly to prevent rust and corrosion.
- Don't use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners, as they can damage blades and pipes.
- Borax is a natural sink cleaner that works to clean and sanitize. Pour about 2 tablespoons down the drain, let it set for a while, and rinse with cold water.
- Lemon or lime works as a natural deoderizer, too. Cut it in pieces (a whole fruit is a bit too big for most machines to handle), and put down the drain. Turn the disposal on while you have the cold water on full blast. It smells so good, and overpowers most nasty smells.
- Another way to freshen it up is to use white vinegar and baking soda in equal parts, dump down the drain, and let it set for a while before rinsing it out.
- Vinegar alone also works to freshen it up, but it may not be quite as effective as the above combination.
- To sharpen your blades (without damaging them) and break up grease deposits, put a few ice cubes down the drain, and turn the garbage disposal on for a few moments.
- Another clever tip I found is to freeze vinegar in ice cube trays, and run a few in the disposal. It works to freshen it up and sharpen the blades and break up grease deposits.
- On the same note as the above tip, I think freezing lemon (small pieces, or the peel) in water and using the same technique would also serve the same purpose (although I have never tried it).
What about you?
What do you especially avoid putting down the drain?
Garbage Disposal Myths
- Garbage disposals can handle anything (that is a definite myth, although I have read that some of the more expensive ones really can handle most anything. Some people would swear on it).
- Egg shells or bones help sharpen the blades. I have seen this advice in some forums, but most of the advice is against this practice, and says that they are damaging to the disposal.
- Lemons should never be put in a disposal. On the contrary, they freshen it up. Just cut it up before you throw it in, or else just use the peel.
De-Greasing a Clogged Garbage Disposal
- Remove food particles.
- Pour 16 oz of liquid de-greasing dish soap into the drain.
- Leave it in for 30 minutes.
- Heat up 1 gallon of water to a rapid boil.
- Keeping the pan far from your body (so as to avoid burning yourself), slowly pour the water down the drain. Continue until there are no more soap bubbles in the sink's drain.
- Repeat once per week for a few weeks, and about once a month afterward, to maintain it.
What Not to Put Down the Drain
If you don't have a garbage disposal, there are a lot of things that you can't put down the drain. And if you do have one, most of these apply, as well.
- Fats, oils and greases: As aforementioned, they harden and clog drains. But in addition to that, they are terrible for the sewage systems, and can even cause sewage overflow. That is a threat to the environment.
- Sauces or dairy products, for the same reason as fats.
- Food scraps, or chunks of garbage: If you dn't have a disposal, food scraps are a bad thing to throw down the drain.
- Baking goods
- Coffee grounds: They will stick to the drains, causing them to clog.
- Egg shells
- Produce stickers, paper towels, rags (Paper or plastic)
- Prescription and OTC medications
- Toxic chemicals, such as motor oil, transmission fluids, and anti-freeze
- Corrosive substances that are either acidic or caustic
- Flammable or explosive substances
- Flushable cat litter
- Feminine hygiene products
How to Clean Your Garbage Disposal
After reading this, are you more likely to be careful of what you put down the drain?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.