Don't Put These Items Down Your Garbage Disposal!

February 11, 2019

 

The garbage disposal has been a big convenience for homeowners and renters. They provide a quick and clean way to dispose of food waste, keeping trash bags lighter. The garbage disposal is a workhorse, grinding food particles away year after year. But there are certain items this appliance cannot handle. Below is a list of items you should never put down your garbage disposal.

Coffee Grounds

Don’t do it! While it’s true that dropping coffee grounds into your garbage disposal reduces odors in the short term, it can actually cause more serious problems down the drain. To understand why, think about what used coffee grounds look like when taken out of a filter: They reduce into a dense, thick packed pasty wad. That is exactly what you don’t want going in your drain lines!

 

Pasta

Anyone who’s made spaghetti or mac ‘n’ cheese knows that pasta expands when soaked in water. Given that, you can see why you might not want to drop lots of pasta into your disposal and drain where it will, after all, soak in water and keep expanding. 

 

Like most of the items on this list, a few scraps cleaned off of a plate won’t hurt. But don’t try to dispose of an entire pasta meal, and when you do run pasta through the disposal, run the water as cold as it will go for 30 seconds afterward, to flush it through the trap and into the main line. Otherwise, you’re likely to run into clog issues.

 

Bones

Garbage disposals are great at grinding up and disposing of food waste. But just because they can grind doesn’t they are made to deal with extremely hard items, such as bones.

If you do drop a chicken wing or fish bone in the disposal, don’t panic. Disposals are hardy appliances, and can handle grinding up the occasional small bone. But if you try to drop anything bigger  down your sink and grind them up, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

 

Oatmeal

Much like pasta, oatmeal is another expansion threat. Uncooked oats in particular likely to slip through the disposal untouched, only to collect and expand down-line. If you’re lucky, they’ll eventually flow out to the sewer. 

 

Nuts

Do you know how peanut butter is made?  Handfuls of peanuts are dumped into a grinder, where they’re spun and mashed into a sticky, thick paste. And your garbage disposal is an excellent appliance-sized version of a nut grinder. Limit the amount of peanuts (and other varieties of nuts) that drop into the disposal and you’ll be far better off.

 

Onion Skins

Chopped, diced, or in chunks, most onion waste shouldn’t be a problem for your disposal. The problem comes with the thin membrane that lies just below the dry, outer-most layer of an onion. That thin, wet layer is often removed before the onion is chopped, and thrown into the disposal. But the layer is so thin that it can pass through the disposal, missing the blades and wind up wedged in the drain, where it acts like a cargo net on a pickup, catching more items and holding them in place.

 

Egg Shells

Can you put eggshells in a garbage disposal? Sure. But should you? 

The next time you crack an egg, take a close look at the shell. You’ll see a thin membrane on the inside of the shell that can (like that thin membrane of an onion) get loose and lodge in the drain or around the impeller (the rotor that throws waste against the wall-mounted blades).

If you still don’t like the idea of tossing egg shells in the trash, you’ll be happy to hear they can be used in your garden.

 

Trash

I know it’s called a “garbage” disposal. That doesn’t mean that you should put all your garbage in it. You’d be shocked by how many times I have dug out paper towels, bags, candy wrappers and banana peels that definitely don’t belong in the disposal.

Let Me Fix iT Handyman Service has been called out to fix disposals that had been used as trash grinders.  Let’s just say I have replaced a lot garbage disposals.

 

Potato Peels

Potato peels are thin enough to slip past the disposal, potentially catching in the drain. There they can cause the same issue as the egg membrane, acting like a tiny catcher’s mitt, holding up other waste and creating a clog.

Again, a few peel pieces are nothing to worry about, but many recipes call for several potatoes, and the stack of peels quickly adds up. 

 

Cleaning Chemicals

I'm not talking about dish soap or normal cleaners. Those are fine for normal use. The chemicals to avoid are harsh drain busters and industrial-grade cleaners. They can put excessive wear on your disposal and possibly even the drain line.

Instead, use ice cubes to clean off the blades, and a little dish soap to deodorize and break up any grease build-ups. 

 

Paint

Latex or oil paint should never be poured straight down the drain. It can cling to the side of the disposal or sit in pipes, where it will begin to cure and harden into an intractable clog. Again, a little paint heavily diluted won’t be an issue as long as it’s heavily diluted. But brushes and rollers should be cleaned with some forethought, using an appropriate container, while bulk paint should be disposed of appropriately.

 

Corn Husks

The robust, fibrous husk and fine threads of corn silk create a dual threat for disposals.

So whether your corn is store-bought or homegrown in a garden, it’s a good idea to husk straight into a bag, and not let it near the disposal at all.

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