You may not know this, but you can’t put certain things down your garbage disposal. You might think that it’s just “garbage” and that it will be fine, but the truth is that if you put certain items in your garbage disposal, they’ll clog up the blades and cause problems. Before looking at a list of 11 things you should never put in your garbage disposal, you first need to understand what this device is and how it works.
What Is a Garbage Disposal?
A garbage disposal unit is a small appliance that you install under your sink to help get rid of scraps and wasted food. Inside every garbage disposal is a series of blades (impellers) powered by an electric motor. When turned on, these impellers spin extremely fast and cut the food scraps into small bits so that they can flow down your drain easier. Once the impellers inside the disposal break up the scraps, they are then washed down to your sewage system or septic tank.
You might think that as long as you cut up your pasta into small pieces, it’s no big deal if you put it in your disposal. But as you know from cooking it, pasta expands a lot when you add water. If you put a big piece in the disposal, it’s going to expand and cause a clog.
Rather than risking a clog, scrape your leftover pasta into the trash instead. But if you accidentally drop some in the disposal, don’t panic. Run cold water through the disposal for a few minutes to flush it down. Cold water is less likely to expand the pasta as much as hot water would.
2. Fat and Grease
Grease is another item you should never put in your disposal. When you pour grease down the drain, it cools and hardens. Grease, then, collects other materials heading toward the sewers to form big clogs. Not only does this cause problems with your pipes, but it will also create an expensive plumber’s bill.
Remove grease from your pans by scraping them off into the trash instead. If there’s only a little bit still on your pan, wipe it off carefully before washing the pan.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about chicken bones, fish bones, or any other kind of bone. Never put them in your disposal! They will cause the impellers to jam and will stop the disposal from working. Furthermore, they can damage your drainpipes.
When you have leftover bones from a meal, discard them in the trash instead of using the disposal. However, there’s no need to panic if you accidentally drop a small bone in. Most garbage disposals can handle small bones.
4. Nuts and/or Nutshells
As you know, nuts are hard, and if you run them through the disposal, they can easily damage your impellers. They also pose a risk of damaging your garbage disposal by causing it to overheat.
If you have leftover nuts, discard them in the trash instead. Alternatively, you can compost them or use them as mulch.
Many people try throwing eggshells in their disposals because they think these hard shells help to sharpen the impellers and get rid of odors. However, eggshells have an alkaline base that doesn’t break down or dissolve in water. Rather, they can cause a real mess in your sink! Even worse, they can easily clog your drain and cause more problems.
Throw eggshells in the trash instead. You can also compost them or use them around plants that need calcium.
6. Corn Husks and Cobs
Corn husks are another item that you should never put in your disposal because they don’t break down easily. They can easily clog up your drain or damage your garbage disposal impellers. Just discard your corn husks and cobs in the garbage instead.
7. Potato Peels
Never throw potato peels into your garbage disposal. The peels of potatoes have a high starch content, and over time, the starch will gather to create a big lump that can clog up your drain lines.
If you want to get rid of potato peels, compost them instead, or discard them in the trash if you don’t have access to a garden or a composter.
8. Coffee Grounds
They might seem small and insignificant, but they can quickly cause clogs. The grounds expand when they get wet, so the small amount in your disposal will turn into a big lump very quickly. Always remember to remove the coffee grounds from the filter before cleaning your coffee machine.
9. Anything That Isn’t Biodegradable
Items that don’t break down easily should not be put in your garbage disposal. These include tissues, paper towels, and cigarette butts. Never put these items in your disposal because they can get stuck under the impellers and can cause damage to the machine.
10. Fibrous Foods
Foods such as celery, orange peels, or banana skins can get caught under the impellers and cause problems with the machine. If those foods do end up going down your unit, run warm water through the disposal to help push them towards the drain.
11. Pits and Seeds
Believe it or not, you should never put cherry pits, peach pits, or avocado seeds down your disposal. Like bones, they will cause the impellers to jam and will stop the disposal from working.
If you’ve got fruit with pits or seeds to discard, put them in the trash instead. If you’re already overloading your garbage can, compost them. This will ensure that these hard seeds go back into their natural cycles and help other plants grow rather than jamming up your plumbing system.
Tips to Help You Take Care of Your Garbage Disposal
Always run cold water when using the garbage disposal. Cold water will help keep food particles moving to prevent them from jamming up your disposal or drain lines. You should also turn on your garbage disposal regularly if you want it to operate at its best for a long time. If you only use the garbage disposal once in a while, it can get gummed up and stop working quite easily.
Remember to clean your garbage disposal regularly to keep it working at its best. All you need to do is pour some dish soap down the drain and run warm water on top of it for a few seconds. You can also use some vinegar and baking soda for extra cleaning power.
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking for any clogging or jams before turning it on. If something does get stuck in there, never try and force it out because this could cause damage to either the machine itself or create a bigger problem with your drain lines. Instead, shut off the power, and call a licensed plumber to inspect the problem.
Got a problem with your garbage disposal or looking to install one? Tarpy Plumbing, Heating & Air is your trusted partner for all things plumbing in San Diego and surrounding areas. Our certified and experienced plumbers can also help you with drain cleaning, pipe repair, emergency service, furnace repair, and much more. Call or schedule online for your next service.