Don’t Put This Down Your Garbage Disposal!

November 15, 2022

Do you feel conflicted about what you can and cannot put down the garbage disposal? If so, you’re not alone! Lots of people have uncertainties about the “right way” to use garbage disposals and what they can and cannot handle or what should or should not be put down them.

As Boston plumbers, we at Winters® Home Services know what should and should NOT go down your garbage disposal. We’ve repaired and replaced more garbage disposals than we can count, and many of these issues could have been avoided by simply not putting the wrong thing down the disposal.

Here are a few key tips on what NOT to put down your garbage disposal, followed by a list. Feel free to reference this at any time, or call 617-221-5899 for expert garbage disposal services in the Boston area!

No Chemicals or Drain Cleaners

For starters, you do NOT want to use chemicals in the garbage disposal. So, do NOT pour bleach, chemical cleaners, or harsh chemical drain cleaners in garbage disposals. Why? Because they are corrosive and they are not good for plumbing pipes.

The Jury is Out: No Eggshells!

To put eggshells down the disposal or not to put them down the disposal? That is the question. Many believe that eggshells are actually good for garbage disposals. They think that putting eggshells in the disposal will sharpen the blades. However, garbage disposals don’t have blades, they have impellers, which are blunt and grind food down instead of chopping it up

Please don’t put eggshells down the garbage disposal! The issue is the membrane on the inside of the eggshell. It can get wrapped around the disposal’s impellers and cause damage.

No Starches

Starches can 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 can 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.

No 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. The outer layer of onions can also gather in your drains and catch other items, which can lead to clogs.

No Shells & Rinds

Many things we eat come from shells that are generally inedible. For example, shrimp cocktails. 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 trash can instead of sticking it down the drain.

No Bread

Bread absorbs 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 pieces of bread to become a big part of any forming clog behind your garbage disposal.

No Chicken, Fish & Other Bones

If you have to use your hand to shove something down your disposal, it’s best to throw it into your trash instead. Chicken, fish, and meat bones are too hard for your disposal to break down. Yes, even small fish bones can upset your pipes, as they get stuck in your plumbing system and cause clogs.

Chicken and meat bones can completely break your disposal’s motor if they get lodged in the impellers. You’ll need an entirely new disposal system if this occurs, so avoid replacement by keeping all food scraps with bones out of your sink.

No Nuts

Take just a second and think about how peanut butter is made. Nuts get ground up and spun until a paste is formed. Well, when you pour nuts down your kitchen drain they go through a comparable process. Just as a blender chops and spins, so does your disposal. Nuts will form a gooey, thick paste that will stick to your pipes when rinsed down your disposal.

No Oils & Fats

Never pour 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 that 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 rarely 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.

Important Tip: Use Cold Water Instead of Hot

You may be tempted to use hot water when using the garbage disposal thinking it will “melt” away any food that is down there, but that’s a bad idea. While hot water does dissolve things like grease, it does more harm than good when it comes to your pipes.

Hot water can push the grease further down into the pipes where it can form a clog. Meanwhile, cold water helps solidify grease so it can move down the drain more easily.

Don’t Put These Things Down the Garbage Disposal!

Here’s a list of things you should never put down the garbage disposal:

  • Any non-food items
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Banana peels
  • Bones
  • Carrot peels
  • Celery
  • Clam or oyster shells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Corn cobs or husks
  • Edamame pods
  • Eggshells
  • Fruit pits
  • Grease
  • Nuts
  • Onions
  • Pasta/noodles
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Potato peels
  • Rice
  • Rhubarb
  • Shellfish
  • Shrimp or lobster shells

Essentially, the trick is to avoid putting anything greasy, stringy, or hard to chew down the garbage disposal. That said, we hope you found this information useful. If you find yourself needing help with a garbage disposal or clogged kitchen sink drain, contact Winters® Home Services for the professional help you need!

Your Boston Garbage Disposal Pros

Many people treat their garbage disposals like trash cans, which can lead to a serious issue. If your garbage disposal becomes broken or jammed, it could cause your kitchen sink to become clogged, which is very inconvenient and frustrating.

Garbage disposals may become jammed from stringy foods or foreign objects, or they may get clogged with grease buildup. Furthermore, garbage disposals may stop working completely if they become disconnected from the power source. If you notice that nothing happens when you flip the switch, you may be able to press the reset button on the bottom of the unit to get it back up and running again. However, if there is food blocking the blades, never reach your hand in to try to fix it yourself, which could cause an injury. Instead, call our team of professionals to clear the blockage, repair or replace your garbage disposal, and leave your kitchen sink clean and clear.

Call 617-221-5899 today for the expert garbage disposal help you need!