Garbage disposals make life a lot easier, and there are so many brands out there. Did you know that the first garbage disposal device was invented as early as 1927? These handy kitchen junk disposals have gotten quite sophisticated since its initial release. Built with high-torque motors and safety switches, you can safely get rid of most food in your sink with a simple press of a button. However, there are some things that still don’t mix well with your garbage disposal.
What is a Garbage Disposal Designed to Do?
Garbage disposals work as a grinder that can mash and tear up food into small bits. You may think that your disposal can take on any type of waste product, but it’s not designed for that purpose. The best way to keep your disposal in good shape is to avoid putting anything down the drain that disposal blades aren’t designed to handle.
There are a few other tips for keeping your garbage disposal working properly:
- When your garbage disposal is on, run cold water at the same time to solidify oil and grease.
- Don’t let your disposal remain unused for too long or it will cause problems with sticking blades.
- Only biodegradable food should be put in your garbage disposal.
What can happen to your garbage disposal? It can become a piece of useless plastic or steel.
What is Okay to Put in Your Garbage Disposal?
Most food easily disintegrates in your garbage disposal without a second thought. There are only a few things that will cause issues, such as long-term damage to the blades. There are even some things that can clean your garbage disposal naturally. Here are a few things that are easily ground down by a garbage disposal:
- Most vegetables: While there are some exceptions, any soft vegetable that is easily torn can go into your garbage disposal.
- Fruit: While some hard fruit rinds may cause trouble for blades, most citrus is okay to go down your disposal. In fact, things like lemons, limes, and oranges can make your sink smell better.
- Cooked meat: Small portions of leftover meat can easily get ground up in the disposal and washed down the drain. However, you don’t want to put any large chunks of meat down the drain.
- Fruit Rinds: This can actually be helpful for cleaning your garbage disposal. For example, orange peels are safe to put in your disposal and will leave it smelling like citrus.
One of the golden rules is how well you can tear an item with your bare hands. If you know that something looks quite solid or shouldn’t go down a regular sink drain, then you don’t want to put in your garbage disposal.
What Isn’t Okay to Put Down Your Garbage Disposal?
Most of the food scraps in your kitchen sink will probably go down without a fight, but is your garbage disposal supposed to handle all of that strain? Most disposals aren’t designed to handle large scraps of food or hard bones. There are also some garbage disposals that claim they are stronger than others, but does that mean you should put anything down your kitchen drain?
While letting one of the items on the list below through your disposal once probably won’t harm it, you should take extra precaution when you start putting lots of food into your disposal. If your disposal gets stuck, it could ruin the motor forever. Replacing a disposal isn’t easy, so it’s best to only stick to the food that can easily shred and go down the drain.
Here are a few things that are better to throw away than to try your luck with the disposal:
Eggshells. There is actually a debate on why eggshells are perfectly safe to go down the drain. While most of the modern garbage disposals can handle crushing these shells, there’s questions about whether these should be drained in your kitchen sink. Most disposals make quick work of eggshells because they are fragile and break easily into tiny pieces, but what about the membrane lining in an eggshell?
This is the difficult part about crushing an eggshell. While the shell may break down, the membrane and residue of an egg can get caught on the blades, causing long-term issues if not cleaned. Over time, the membrane can crust and make it more difficult for blades to move as they were designed.
To be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you throw eggshells away instead. You won’t have to worry about anything getting stuck on your blades and causing corrosion over time.
Coffee Grounds. The idea of putting coffee grounds into your disposal doesn’t seem harmful. After all, they are already partially broken down, and they have a pleasant smell, which can help your disposal. However, while coffee grounds are small enough to not hurt your disposal, they can gather at the bottom of your kitchen sink drain, causing other issues.
Coffee grounds tend to collect at the bottom of drains, forming a sedimentary sludge that will clog with additional food scraps going down the drain as well. These can pile up over time if you continuously dump coffee grounds into your disposal, which inevitably will stop up your pipes and cause slow drainage.
In this case, you should just throw coffee grounds away.
Bones. You may think a small chicken bone once in awhile in the disposal is okay, but should you repeatedly put bones in your disposal? Most plumbers who fix garbage disposals say that broken bones are the number one cause for stuck blades. The issue is that bones don’t grind down with just one swivel. Bones require grinding for a longer period of time, and sometimes, blades will not be able to break through a tough bone.
You shouldn’t put bones down the drain anywhere. They can clog your entire system. Most of the time, small bones will break down, but larger bones typically don’t crush as easily. These can put a huge dent in your disposal blades and cause other issues.
Since a bone is extremely hard and thick typically, they won’t grind up as well as fruit or vegetables. Instead, you should throw these away. You can save yourself a visit from a plumber to unclog your drain and fix your disposal.
Banana Peels. Banana peels are made from very fibrous organic material that can string off and stick to the edges of your disposal. Simply put, banana peels really don’t work well with any type of disposal. Since a banana peel has so many strings, these can peel off and stick to the blades, causing long-term damage and corrosion.
You can probably get away with putting most other fruits and vegetables down the drain, but you should stay away from bananas and banana peels. You can throw these into the trash instead.
Potato Skins. Potato skins are high in starch, which means that they don’t break down like other fruit rinds and peels. The skin of a potato can be ground down into a thick, mushy sediment that will stick to blades and cause sticking. Since starch acts like sugar, it can solidify and wreak havoc on your disposal blades. In addition, you don’t want this sludge to go down your drains as it can cause a stoppage.
While putting a small bit of potato skins probably won’t harm your disposal if by accident, you should take care not to let any type of potato or potato skins to be put in your disposal in large quantities. These are better suited for a compost pile.
Oil and Grease. So, you just cooked up some beef for your tacos and drained the oil into the sink. Is that a good idea for your disposal? This is actually a bigger category than you can imagine. These oils and grease can break down into the following:
- Cooking lard or grease
- Fatty deposits
One of the first things you learn in cooking school is that grease and oils should never go down the drain. However, things happen, and sometimes you get grease that slips down your sink. It is a huge no-no to have these go into your disposal, however. It may seem like the grease and oil drains safely, but most of the time, it is solidifying in your disposal and pipes.
These oils will eventually clog and cause sticking, as well as corrosion in your disposal. To dispose of grease properly, you should simply allow it to solidify in the pan and then throw it away in the trash. In addition to being harmful for your sink, drain, and disposal, grease and oil are also not eco-friendly at all. These should never make their way back into open water because it is damaging to plants and wildlife.
You can pour grease into a jar or can and allow it to solidify before disposing into the trash can.
Fruit Pits. Do you love peaches, cherries, and plums? Well, your garbage disposal won’t like them one bit. In addition, avocado and mango pits are also to be avoided. The issue is simply the toughness of your disposal blades versus the toughness of the pit. The blades simply can’t break down these tough fruit centers.
Instead, you can dispose of pits in the trash or compost pile. These are extremely to cut through so you don’t want to damage your disposal blades by trying to see if it will drain.
Other Items That May Not Be Safe in Your Disposal. It’s crazy what people will put down a kitchen drain, but if you ever talk to a plumber, you’ll know that disposals break from all kinds of things going down the drain when they should go in the trash. Here are a few that are either bizarre or should be disposed of with care.
Starches, Rice, and Pasta. You already know that potatoes can cause issues for your disposal. While it may seem perfectly fine to put pasta down your drain, they do expand when wet. This little fact may seem innocent enough, but pasta and rice will continue to swell while in water. If you constantly find yourself putting pasta down your drain, you may have an issue later on with clogged pipes. Even starchy vegetables like celery, onion skins, artichokes, and corn husks may have trouble breaking down.
Cigarettes. You probably would never think to put a cigarette down the drain, but these things happen. The main thing to remember is that cigarettes contain chemicals and aren’t biodegradable. You don’t want anything like that going into the water supply or clogging up your pipes.
Paper and Plastic. You definitely want to avoid anything like paper or plastic getting into your disposal. These won’t grind down like other biodegradable materials, and they’re extremely toxic to the environment. However, plumbers state that many disposals break because cotton balls and plastic wrappers are accidentally drained into the disposal, where they catch and cause the blades to stick. These can also cause further problems down in your pipes. In addition, you may think that paper is okay since toilet paper dissolves in water, but it’s actually made to dissolve whereas most paper and plastic wrappers are not.
The modern convenience of garbage disposals can go away quickly if not taken care of properly. When you’re disposing of any waste in your kitchen drains, you should think about how well it will break down and move through drains. If you think that it’s too hard or fibrous to put in your disposal, then it may cause irreparable damage down the line.