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What Not to Put in the Garbage Disposal

Your in-sink garbage disposal pulverizes so many things with ease; it can be tempting to use it as a convenient dumping ground for just about everything. However, that’s a great way to find yourself in need of an emergency plumber! While “garbage” is in the name of the appliance, it should only ever be used for food waste—and even then, it should be used sparingly. When in doubt, throw it in the trash or compost bin.

Do not put these things through the garbage disposal:

  • Grease, oil, or fat – It’s hard to avoid completely, since greasy residue sticks to dishes and cookware prior to washing, but these substances build up on the walls of your pipes and can cause all sorts of problems. Pour excess grease into a jar or can to dispose of or scrape off hardened grease directly into the trash.
  • Poultry skin – The remnants of your holiday turkey or chicken can clog pipes and create a smelly mess.
  • Bones or seafood shells – Bones can damage the blades of your disposal, wear down the motor, and even clog up your pipes. The same goes for lobster shells, clam shells, mussels, oysters, crabs, and other seafood shells.
  • Potato peels – Starchy potato skins turn into a paste-like mass inside your drains, which can quickly become a troublesome clog.
  • Rice, oats, or pasta – Baking oatmeal cookies to gift or making wild rice as a side dish? Foods like rice, oats, and pasta continue to expand in water, turning them into potential clogs in your drain. When cleaning up, make sure these foods stay out of the sink.
  • Nuts – Mixed nuts make popular gifts or appetizers during the holiday season, but toss leftovers in the trash rather than the disposal—otherwise you may end up with nut butter paste gumming up your pipes.
  • Coffee grounds – Your coffee maker may be working overtime to give you the energy you need this season, but keep the grounds out of the disposal. They can build up to form a sludge, like the dregs in the bottom of your pot. Eventually, this can clog your pipes.
  • Peels and pits – Banana peels, corn husks, onion skins, and any hard pits or cores aren’t compatible with the garbage disposal. They’ll either turn into a gummy mess, dent the blades, or get wound around the grinding mechanisms.
  • Fibrous vegetables – Stringy, fibrous vegetables like celery, asparagus, sauerkraut, kale, rhubarb, and others can get tangled in the disposal’s blade and wear down the motor.
  • Stickers – This one may seem obvious, until you’re washing an apple or a new coffee mug and go to peel off the produce sticker or price tag. Don’t let it wash down the drain or risk it gumming up the disposal blades or the pipes.
  • Broken glass – If you break a glass in the sink and pieces fall into the disposal, turn off the main unit under the sink, then try to remove the pieces using a fork or tongs. Never stick your hand in the disposal without being certain the unit is disabled and wearing gloves for protection.
  • Eggshells – Some plumbers say eggshells are fine to put in the garbage disposal. Others warn that eggshells create a sticky buildup that leads to clogs. We say, why risk it? Put them in the trash or your compost pile instead.

Garbage Disposal Maintenance to Eliminate Smells

Nothing ruins the holiday fun like stinky garbage disposal odors. To keep your appliance clean, fresh, and in optimal condition, follow these guidelines.

  • Use plenty of cold water while the disposal is running. Water is vital for making sure everything is flushed properly down the drain, and cold water will help solidify foods for easier grinding while also helping to prevent overheating of the motor.
  • Allow for sufficient grinding. If you switch off the disposal before it’s had a chance to fully grind and process the food, remnants may stick around in the repository and start to smell.
  • Kill bacteria with baking soda and vinegar. Pour ½ cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar into the disposal and allow to foam for several minutes, then flush with warm water. You can also freeze vinegar in an ice cube tray, then grind the vinegar cubes for a similar effect.
  • Freshen up the disposal with citrus fruits. Cut lemons, limes, or oranges into wedges, then grind them in the disposal, peels and all. (Just make sure to remove any produce stickers first!) This will help neutralize odors and cut grease.

If you need emergency garbage disposal repair this holiday season, call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® of Greater Minneapolis at (612) 430-6547