The garbage disposal is the unsung hero of any kitchen. Quietly on guard in your sink, it stands sentinel to keep large food items from clogging or damaging your pipes and drainage hoses. It can chew its way through a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other kitchen waste. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget (or ignore) that this trusty mechanical soldier may have limits, until it’s too late and water is backing up into your sink or from pipes underneath.

Here’s a quick reminder on what you CAN feed your garbage disposal and 10 things you CAN’T!
Oh, and we’ll throw a couple cleaning tips in there for good measure at the end.

Items you CAN feed your disposal:

This “can” comes with a basic rule of thumb; if a toddler can chew it, it’s often good to go down the garbage disposal. If you have chunk of solid food…take a moment to cut it up.

This usually means the following items are safe in small sizes:

  • Most fruits & vegetables scraps and peelings (with some exceptions, listed below)
  • Cooked meat scraps (as in, small leftover bites on a plate)
  • Most liquids and soups
  • Very small, soft bones (think chicken and fish bones)
  • Wet pet food

With the meat and bones on that list, we stress that small sizes and frequency are key to doing it safely. Likewise, with fruits and vegetables, it can depend on the type, size, and total volume.

10 items you CAN’T feed your disposal:

  1. Glass, metal, plastic, or paper (including cigarette butts, fruit stickers, string ties, etc.).
  2. Grease, oil, or fat (including meat fat and cheese).
    • Tip: Put your grease in a metal or glass container and either save it for reuse or throw it out in the trash.
  3. Harsh chemicals (like bleach or drain cleaners).
  4. Stringy, fibrous, or starchy vegetables (celery, corn husks, artichokes, onion skins, etc.).
  5. Pasta or rice (foods that expand when water is added, they will gunk up the motor).
  6. Starchy foods (such as potato peels, beans and other starchy vegetables tend to accumulate and result in sludge within the disposal).
  7. Large fruit pits and seeds
  8. Large, hard meat bones
  9. Coffee Grounds (they have a tendency to build up and not wash away completely, eventually causing a clog).
  10. Eggshells—the big controversy!
    • There is conflicting information out in the world about the benefit versus risk of sending eggshells down your disposal. One school of thought is that the eggshells help sharpen and clean the blades (and some say coffee grinds help eliminate odors). This may very well be based in truth, however, the eggshells most likely contain membrane and yoke residue that can gum up your disposal (like the rice and pasta.) At Ben Franklin Plumbing, we err on the side of caution and recommend that you do NOT send eggshells down your disposal on a continuous basis. A very little bit, every once in a while, should be fine.

Two more BIG DON’Ts for your disposal:

  1. Don't turn the water or garbage disposal off until grinding has finished. Then, turn the garbage disposal off and let the water run for 10-15 seconds before turning the water off.
  2. Never put your hand or utensils down the disposal! If you need to remove something, shut off the electrical power switch first, located underneath the garbage disposal itself. If you can't find the switch, turn off the disposal at the main breaker box.

Garbage Disposal CLEANING Tips:

  • Ice cubes: Use about a handful down the disposal while it is grinding. The ice removes gunk buildup from the walls of the unit and the blades.
  • Citrus fruit: A few slices can help deodorize your disposal. Make sure the rind remains on the citrus fruit you choose, such as a quarter of an orange or half a lemon.
  • Baking soda and vinegar: Sprinkle some baking soda in your unit and rinse it with about a cup of vinegar. Let this mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes before rinsing.
  • Fun chemistry experiment alert! This mixture will bubble like a mini-volcano out of your disposal…fun for kids of all ages!
  • Old toothbrushes!
  1. Safety first! Make sure your disposal is turned off at the source.
  2. Once the disposal unit is turned off, grab an old toothbrush and add a little detergent to the bristles.
  3. Clean the splash guard by gently lifting the rubber flap and scrubbing underneath.
  4. Rinse with warm water when finished.

Even with the most care and attention, a garbage disposal can sometimes reach its limit. If this happens, just call your local professionals at Ben Franklin Plumbing. Our technicians are bonded, insured, and high-trained to address your plumbing concerns correctly, safely, and affordably the first time. We’ve been proudly serving customers in Charlotte and the surrounding area for decades, including Indian Trail, Concord, and Mooresville.

Visit or call our 24/7 customer service line today 800.471.0809.