What Can and Cannot be Put in a Garbage Disposal

When it comes to garbage disposals, it is important to know what you can and cannot put down the drain. While these handy kitchen appliances are designed to grind up food waste and prevent clogs, there are certain items that should never find their way into the disposal.

One thing to keep in mind is that fibrous or stringy foods can wreak havoc on your garbage disposal. Items such as celery, corn husks, and onion skins can bind up the blades and cause blockages. It is best to dispose of these items in the trash.

Additionally, greasy or fatty foods should also be avoided. While the disposal may be able to handle small amounts of grease, large quantities can cause the blades to become gummy and less effective. It is recommended to wipe excess grease from pans and dishes before rinsing them in the sink.

Another important rule of thumb is to avoid putting any non-food items down the disposal. This includes things like glass, metal, plastic, and paper. These items can damage the blades and cause serious plumbing issues. It is always better to err on the side of caution and dispose of these items in the appropriate recycling or trash bin.

By following these guidelines and using your garbage disposal responsibly, you can help prevent costly repairs and keep your kitchen running smoothly. Remember to always read the manufacturer’s instructions and consult a professional if you have any questions or concerns about your specific garbage disposal model.

Proper Use of Your Garbage Disposal

Using your garbage disposal properly can help prolong its lifespan and prevent costly repairs. Here are some tips to help you use your garbage disposal effectively:

  1. Always run water before and after using your garbage disposal. This helps flush the waste down the drain and prevents clogs.

  2. Only dispose of biodegradable food waste in your garbage disposal. Avoid disposing of non-food items such as glass, plastic, paper, or metal, as they can damage the blades and motor.

  3. Cut large food items into smaller pieces before putting them in the garbage disposal. This helps the blades break down the waste more easily and prevents the motor from becoming overloaded.

  4. Avoid putting fibrous foods like celery, corn husks, or banana peels in the garbage disposal. These fibrous materials can wrap around the blades and cause clogs.

  5. Avoid pouring grease or oil down the garbage disposal. They can solidify and cause clogs in the drain pipes.

  6. Make sure to keep your garbage disposal clean by regularly pouring a mix of cold water and dish soap down the drain. This helps remove any buildup and keeps the disposal smelling fresh.

  7. If you suspect a problem with your garbage disposal, such as unusual noises or persistent clogs, it is best to contact a professional plumber. Attempting to fix the problem yourself can cause further damage.

  8. Remember to use your garbage disposal regularly to prevent rust and corrosion. Running it every few days helps keep the parts moving and prevents them from seizing up.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure the proper use of your garbage disposal and avoid unnecessary repairs or replacements. Remember to always prioritize safety and consult a professional if you are unsure about any issues with your garbage disposal.

Foods that are Safe to Put in a Garbage Disposal

While it’s important to understand what should not be put in a garbage disposal, there are still many foods that can be safely disposed of in the appliance. Here is a list of foods that are safe to put in a garbage disposal:

  • Fruit peels and scraps: Citrus peels, apple cores, and other fruit scraps are safe to put in a garbage disposal. They can even help freshen up the appliance and eliminate any unpleasant odors.
  • Vegetable scraps: Similar to fruit peels, vegetable scraps like carrot tops, potato peels, and celery stalks can be safely disposed of in a garbage disposal. Just be sure to cut them into smaller pieces for easier grinding.
  • Eggshells: Contrary to popular belief, eggshells can go in the garbage disposal. They can help sharpen the blades and add additional calcium to the drain.
  • Coffee grounds: Coffee grounds are safe to put in a garbage disposal. They can help eliminate odors and even act as a gentle abrasive to clean the blades.
  • Small amounts of cooked meat: If you have small amounts of cooked meat left over, you can safely put them in a garbage disposal. Avoid putting large amounts or tough cuts of meat, as they can overload the appliance.
  • Bread and pasta: Leftover bread and pasta can be disposed of in a garbage disposal. However, it’s best to feed them gradually to prevent clogs.

It’s important to note that while these foods are safe to put in a garbage disposal, you should always run cold water while using the appliance. This helps flush the food particles down the drain and prevents clogs.

Overall, understanding what foods are safe to put in a garbage disposal can help you make the most of this convenient appliance while avoiding potential issues and malfunctions.

Foods that Should Never Go in a Garbage Disposal

While a garbage disposal can help to quickly and easily dispose of food waste, not all foods are suitable for it. Putting the wrong foods down the disposal can lead to clogs, damage to the disposal unit, and even a foul odor in your kitchen. To avoid these issues, here are some foods that you should never put in a garbage disposal:

  • Grease and oil: When these fats cool, they solidify and can create clogs in your pipes.
  • Bones: Garbage disposals are not equipped to handle bones, which can damage the blades and motor.
  • Coffee grounds: Coffee grounds can accumulate and form a sticky paste, leading to clogs.
  • Eggshells: The membrane on the inside of the eggshell can wrap around the disposal blades, causing them to jam.
  • Fibrous vegetables: Foods like celery, asparagus, and corn husks have long fibers that can tangle around the disposal blades.
  • Pasta and rice: These foods expand when they absorb water, which can lead to clogs in your pipes.
  • Non-food items: Avoid putting anything other than food waste into your garbage disposal, as non-food items can damage the motor or cause clogs.

Remember to always run cold water while running the garbage disposal and never overfill it. By being mindful of the foods you put down the disposal, you can prolong its lifespan and avoid common issues. If you’re unsure about a food item, it’s best to dispose of it in the trash or compost instead.

How to Clean and Maintain Your Garbage Disposal

Keeping your garbage disposal clean and well-maintained is crucial to ensure its proper functioning and avoid unpleasant odors. Here are some tips on how to clean and maintain your garbage disposal:

  • Regular cleaning: To keep your garbage disposal clean, it’s recommended to run cold water through it after each use. This helps remove any food particles or debris that may have accumulated.
  • Deodorize: If your garbage disposal starts to develop an unpleasant smell, there are a few methods you can try to deodorize it. One option is to pour a mixture of vinegar and baking soda down the drain, followed by running cold water. Another option is to grind up citrus peels in the disposal to release a fresh scent.
  • Avoid certain foods: To prevent clogs and damage to your garbage disposal, there are certain foods you should avoid putting down the drain. These include grease, oil, large bones, fibrous vegetables (such as celery), pasta, rice, and coffee grounds.
  • Sharpen the blades: Over time, the blades in your garbage disposal may become dull, leading to decreased performance. To sharpen the blades, you can try running ice cubes through the disposal. The ice helps remove any buildup on the blades and keeps them sharp.
  • Use a disposal cleaner: Occasionally, using a disposal cleaner can help remove any buildup or debris that may be lurking in your garbage disposal. There are many commercial disposal cleaners available, or you can make your own using a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.
  • Check for leaks: Periodically, it’s important to check for any leaks in your garbage disposal. Look for any signs of water dripping or pooling under the sink. If you notice a leak, it’s best to contact a professional plumber to repair it.
  • Avoid overloading: To prevent your garbage disposal from clogging or wearing out prematurely, avoid overloading it with too much waste at once. Instead, feed the disposal small amounts of food waste at a time and allow it to fully process before adding more.
  • Professional maintenance: If you’re unsure about how to clean or maintain your garbage disposal, it’s always best to consult a professional. They can inspect your disposal, provide any necessary maintenance or repairs, and offer expert advice on keeping your disposal in optimal condition.

By following these tips and regularly cleaning and maintaining your garbage disposal, you can ensure its longevity and keep it running smoothly for years to come.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting for Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals are convenient kitchen appliances that help to eliminate food waste and reduce odors in the kitchen. However, like any other appliance, they can develop issues over time. Here are some common problems that you may encounter with your garbage disposal and troubleshooting tips to fix them.

1. Clogged Disposal: One of the most common issues with garbage disposals is clogging. If your disposal is not draining properly or making a humming sound, it could be due to a clog. To fix this issue, turn off the disposal and use a flashlight to look for any visible debris. You can use tongs or pliers to remove any objects that are causing the clog. Alternatively, you can try pouring a mixture of hot water and dish soap down the disposal to loosen the clog.

2. Jammed Disposal: Another common issue is a jammed garbage disposal. If the disposal does not turn on or makes a humming noise when you switch it on, it may be jammed. To fix this problem, turn off the disposal and use an Allen wrench to manually rotate the blades in both directions. This can help to dislodge any stuck objects. Once the blades move freely, you can turn on the disposal to see if it works properly.

3. Strange Noises: If your garbage disposal is making unusual noises such as grinding, rattling, or squealing, it could indicate a problem. This could be due to loose components, worn out parts, or damaged blades. In such cases, it is best to call a professional plumber to inspect and repair the disposal.

4. Leaking Disposal: Leaks are another common problem with garbage disposals. If you notice water pooling under the sink or dripping from the disposal, it could be due to a leaky seal or pipe. To fix this issue, you can try tightening the connections or replacing the worn-out parts. However, if the leak persists, it is recommended to seek professional help.

5. Overheating: Garbage disposals can sometimes overheat, especially if you overload them with too much food waste. If your disposal stops working suddenly or the reset button keeps tripping, it may have overheated. In such cases, turn off the disposal and give it time to cool down. Once it has cooled, you can press the reset button located at the bottom or side of the unit to reset it.

By understanding these common issues and applying the appropriate troubleshooting tips, you can keep your garbage disposal running smoothly and avoid costly repairs. However, if you are unsure about how to fix a problem, it is always best to consult a professional plumber to avoid further damage or injury.

Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to Using a Garbage Disposal

If you want to reduce your environmental impact and find alternatives to using a garbage disposal, there are several options available to you. These alternatives can help you reduce water consumption, minimize organic waste, and promote sustainable practices in your home.

One environmentally friendly alternative is composting. Instead of sending food scraps down the garbage disposal, you can collect them in a compost bin or pile. Composting allows organic waste to break down naturally, creating nutrient-rich soil that can be used in gardens or landscaping. This method not only reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills but also helps improve soil quality.

Another alternative is feeding food scraps to pets or animals. Some food waste can be safely given to pets, such as fruit and vegetable peels or cooked grains. However, it’s important to research which foods are safe for specific animals before feeding them. By feeding pets or animals with food scraps, you can reduce your waste and provide them with additional nutrition.

If you have a garden, you can also consider using food scraps as natural fertilizer. Certain types of food waste, such as coffee grounds, eggshells, or vegetable scraps, can be mixed into the soil to enrich it with nutrients. This not only reduces waste but also promotes healthier and more sustainable gardening practices.

In addition, practicing mindful meal planning and portion control can help minimize food waste and the need for a garbage disposal. By only buying and preparing the amount of food you need, you can reduce the amount of waste generated in your kitchen. Leftover foods can be stored properly and consumed later, further reducing waste.

Finally, recycling is always an environmentally friendly option for disposing of certain materials. Many items commonly disposed of in garbage disposals, such as aluminum cans, glass bottles, or plastic containers, can be recycled instead. Make sure to check your local recycling guidelines and sort your waste accordingly to reduce environmental impact and promote a circular economy.

Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to Using a Garbage Disposal
Feeding food scraps to pets or animals
Using food scraps as natural fertilizer
Practicing mindful meal planning and portion control


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Ryan Pietrzak

Ryan Pietrzak, a licensed plumber with 12+ years of experience, is the trusted expert behind Plumbing.Academy. With a wealth of practical knowledge, Ryan guides you through plumbing challenges, making informed decisions easier. His reputable advice, rooted in real-world expertise, empowers both DIY enthusiasts and seasoned plumbers.