Five Things You Shouldn’t Stick Down the Garbage Disposal

The holidays are the busiest time of the year for one particularly pesky and all-too-common plumbing problem: drain clogs. To be more specific, kitchen drain clogs. While we count on our garbage disposals to take care of pesky food waste for us, they cannot and should not be the be-all, end-all solution to disposing of organic matter. In fact, a number of things you might be putting down the drain even now could be contributing to a nasty clog that might rear its head at a very inopportune time.

If you want to avoid the frustration and hassle of a kitchen drain clog this holiday season, here is a list of five things you should avoid putting down the drain or throwing into the garbage disposal.

Starches

Starches have the ability to bond together into a sticky, thick, and sludge-like paste that is extremely slow to move through drains. All the while, starch often catches and holds on to other types of food waste, creating an obnoxious obstruction that is extremely hard to get rid of. Starches also have the ability to turn into a solid, crusty form of waste that is difficult to re-dissolve or get rid of.

Starches come in many different forms, but some of the most common are flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and other powdery ingredients. This can also include things like potato skins or leftover mashed potatoes.

Stringy Foods

Fiber-loaded foods often have a stringy texture, and while that fiber may be great for your digestive tract, it doesn’t quite have the same effect on your plumbing system. Rather than sweeping the debris out of your drain lines, the fibers from these foods become caught and create a nasty web that clings to other foods and builds into a frustrating clog. Fibrous foods to avoid putting down the drain include a number of vegetables, like celery stalks, asparagus, or even corn husks.

Shells

A number of things we eat come from shells that are generally inedible. For example, shrimp cocktails or deviled eggs are often a favorite appetizer at holiday celebrations. However, the shells that come off these foods during the preparation process are difficult for your garbage disposal to handle properly, and the shell bits are great fodder for a forming clog. Their solid texture makes them difficult to move, and they can even cause damage to your disposal should one become improperly lodged in the grinding system. If you need to remove a shell or rind from a particular food, throw it away in the regular trash instead of sticking it down the drain.

Breads

Breads have the ability to absorb moisture or liquids like a sponge. This causes them to expand and take up even more space in your drain line. However, they also become sticky and tacky when wet, making them stick to everything from the walls of your plumbing line to other food waste. It isn’t uncommon for breads to become a big part of any forming clog behind your garbage disposal.

If you’re preparing stuffing this Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor and throw any leftovers in the regular trash. Alternatively, store some of it as leftovers in the refrigerator, as it stays remarkably well for a few days after cooking!

Oils & Fats

Finally, and perhaps the most obvious, you should never throw oils or fats down the drain. Fats and oils tend to solidify at lower temperatures, creating a sticky mess that accumulates into a clog extremely quickly. And to make things worse, fats and oils are some of the most common waste products found in the average kitchen. Cooking almost always involves the use of some sort of fat or oil, and many foods naturally excrete oil of some sort when heated. Tossing this waste down the drain may seem convenient, but it leads to rapid clog buildup. It’s also extremely hard to properly get rid of.

However, if you have ever worked in a commercial kitchen before, you may be wondering why you are encouraged to dispose of fats and oils down the drain there. The answer is because commercial kitchens are equipped with a grease trap—a type of containment system that separates grease and oil from wastewater so it can be safely contained without damaging your plumbing system. Homes are almost never equipped with grease traps, so we strongly advise disposing of your grease and oils by placing them in a disposable container and then tossing them in the regular waste.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family at Winters Home Services to yours! Call us at (617) 977-3101 today if your garbage disposal is giving you trouble or you have a nasty clog problem.