Garbage disposals, despite their name, are not meant for everything. They are a core part of your kitchen’s plumbing, but if used improperly can create a number of issues, including leaks or severe clogs that can require drain cleanings.
If you find yourself asking what can you put down a garbage disposal, have no fear. The following guide will walk you through some of the most common things that are acceptable to grind in the garbage disposal and what is not. It will also outline what to look out for, so if an item isn’t on this list you can make an informed common-sense decision about what to do with it.
Following this guide will help you keep your garbage disposal working properly and help you avoid an expensive plumbing headache in the future.
What Can You Put Down a Garbage Disposal?
Garbage disposals are only intended for soft, organic items. Keep all hard items, like cutlery or anything else made out of metal, well away from the disposal. If the garbage disposal ends up grinding a piece of metal, it will likely damage the blades and can even burn out the motor.
What is Acceptable to Put Down the Disposal
You can put almost all foods in your garbage disposal. It is designed to turn chunks of meat, vegetables, and some grains into a fine slurry that will drain down your plumbing. If used properly, your garbage disposal can greatly reduce the risk of a clog.
The primary thing to remember is that garbage disposals are for food waste. Avoid shoving an entire stalk of celery down the disposal, for instance. Instead, make sure that all waste is cut up into manageable chunks.
As a general rule of thumb, if you can eat it, it can go down the garbage disposal. The list below provides more details on a few of the types of food and kitchen waste which are exceptions to this rule.
Things like vinegar and lemon peels are a great way to clean out your garbage disposal if it becomes clogged or begins to smell bad. Their acidic nature will kill bacteria and dissolve stuck-on grease. It may be a good idea to chop up a lemon and send lemon chunks and vinegar down the drain if you’ve been dealing with a persistent odor recently.
What is Not Acceptable to Put Down the Disposal
A key exception to the above section is that you should never place eggshells in your garbage disposal. While they are food waste, the hardness of eggshells means that they can blunt the blades of your disposal over time. This can reduce the efficacy of your disposal and contribute to clogs forming in the future.
You should also stay away from starches. Pasta, potato peels, rice, and other starchy foods can leave a residue that can cause clogs.
You should avoid coffee grounds at all costs. While technically food, they cannot be ground up even more by your disposal, and putting them down the drain is encouraging a clog to happen.
You should avoid all paper products, like coffee filters and paper towels, out of principle. While some paper products are likely to grind up and wash away just fine, you should still be careful with them as they can clump up.
While hard items like cutlery have already been mentioned, you should also stay away from hard food items. Avoid placing frozen foods down the drain, and make sure bones go into the trash or compost too.
Finally, the last thing that you should keep out of your garbage disposal, and the drain in general, is cooking grease, fat, and oil. All of these products, from vegetable oil to lard to butter, can congeal when cooled. This can gum up your plumbing and lead to clogs further down your pipes, even if they make it past your garbage disposal.
Oils and fats making it past the garbage disposal are not necessarily guaranteed, either. If they harden, they can prevent the blades of the disposal from turning, preventing your disposal from grinding up other debris.
A Note on Safety
If your garbage disposal becomes clogged, keep your hands out of the disposal at all costs. The blades could come unstuck and cause horrible injuries.
If the disposal is stuck, make use of a wooden spoon handle instead. This will let you shift debris loose without putting yourself in danger. Drain cleaners are another option if you think you are suffering from a grease clog – hot water may also prove effective in the short term.
If nothing seems to be working, avoid trying to take the disposal apart yourself. They’re complicated units, and you could hurt yourself or damage the disposal in the process.
Instead, you should get a professional plumber to come in and take a look at your garbage disposal. They’ll be able to take it apart safely and remove the blockage.
Avoid Unnecessary Repairs
Understanding what can you put down a garbage disposal is a huge part of maintaining your kitchen sink. Keeping problematic items like coffee filters and grounds out of your garbage disposal prevents expensive clogs and damage.
For any questions that you might have about your garbage disposal or your plumbing in general, you should call us to set up a free consultation. We can address your concerns, and help you out with any specific plumbing or garbage disposal issues that you may currently be having.