11 Things Never to Put Down a Garbage Disposal

Most every home has a plumbing system that includes a number of drains. One of those drains may have a garbage disposable attached to it. It’s tempting to put all manner of things down it—and other drains, too—because it’s just so convenient. But hold on. Every drain in that system, especially the one attached to the garbage disposal, is vulnerable to breakdowns. Plumbing repairs are not cheap.

In fact, the National Average Price to unclog a drain, as I write, has shot up to $225. To make sure you won’t be calling a plumber anytime soon, do not put the following 11 items down your garbage disposal or any other household drain, for that matter.

Grease & Cooking Oils

It’s tempting, that’s for sure. Especially if it’s just that last bit of cooking oil. Or to drop that last bit of bacon or chicken skin down the garbage disposal.

It does seem reasonable that once ground up, it will flow easily through the pipes, but don’t believe it.

Grease will slowly accumulate and not only stop the disposal from grinding up food particles—it will create drain clogs the likes of which you do not want to experience. Grease and fat clings to the inside walls of pipes and that attracts other stuff to attach as well.

Never put grease, oil, or fat from gravy, meat, bacon, or poultry down any drain, even if it has a garbage disposal attached. Instead dispose of grease, fat, and oil in the trash.

 

Potato Peels

Leftovers and peeled potato skin with a kitchen knife left in a kitchen sink, overhead indoors shot

Potato peels, when put down a drain, expand and attache themselves to the drain and pipes. They turn into glue.

As time goes on, that gluey starch hardens and slowly blocks the drain. This applies to garbage disposals as well.

By the time the drain stops draining, you’ll have a full-blown blockage requiring an emergency call to a professional.

Plan on this happening right in the middle of your big Thanksgiving celebration or other meal that features your famous mashed potatoes. Do yourself a favor and put potato peels into the garbage can or compost pile—never down the disposal!

 

Artichoke Parts, Anything Fibrous

Chef cutting artichokes for dinner preparation - Man cooking inside restaurant kitchen - Focus on vegetable - Vegan cuisine, lifestyle and healthy food concept

Don’t attempt to grind anything that’s tough and fibrous like an artichoke’s leaves, stalk, or even that furry center inedible part.

Fibers from artichokes—corn husks, celery, onion skins, too—can tangle and jam the garbage disposal motor and block drains.

And by the way, citrus peels, while touted by many as a great way to freshen and clean a garbage disposal—they are a problem just waiting to happen. Trust me on that.

From personal experience, let me say that garbage disposals are, for some reason, most likely to misbehave in the presence of lime.

RELATED: How to Make a Good Meal Great (It’s All About the Sauce!)

 

Fruit Pits, Seeds

handful of wet peach seed with pulp leftovers isolated on white background

Many homeowners assume it’s okay to let the pits of peaches, cherries, avocados, and other fruits go into the garbage disposal. However, fruit pits can easily crack, dent, or break your disposal’s blades.

Don’t put peach pits, pumpkin seeds, avocado pits, sunflower seeds down the drain. Your garbage disposal really can’t stand up to these hard items. A busted garbage disposal is bad enough without adding a clogged drain to the mess.Toss fruit pits and seeds into the compost or the garbage.

 

RELATED: Peaches—Tips, Tricks, My Grandmother’s Peach Cobbler

 

Bones

Chicken bone on a white plate wooden background

This is controversial as there are sources out there that insist grinding chicken bones in a garbage disposal will sharpen the blades and keep the appliance tuned-up.

I don’t know what machine they’re talking about, but this does not work for me. My advice: Don’t.

Even though very small bones will probably pass through without a problem, it’s safest to keep all bones out of your garbage disposal. These hard items can break your disposal or clog up your plumbing. Even if they are ground up, they can end up in the bottom of some pipes, causing a potential blockage. Ka-ching.

 

RELATED: How to Cook Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (No-Fail Secrets!)

 

Seafood Shells

seafood in a skillet

Like bones and pits, seafood shells should not be pitched down the disposal.

Whether it’s clams, oysters, mussels, or lobsters, the hard casings can damage the blades or cause a clog.

 

 

 

Coffee Grounds

spent coffee grounds

Let’s call this one debatable, then err on the side of good sense. No coffee grounds down the drain or through the garbage disposal.

While most garbage disposals can easily handle the grounds, the pipes on the other end of that handy appliance, cannot. Coffee grounds attract grease. The resulting build-up creates a gross sludge-like mess, which can then clog up a drain making it, on top of everything else, stink!

There are lots of uses for coffee grounds to give them a second life instead of disposing of them.

 

RELATED: 7 Easy Ways to Give New Life to Leftover Rice

Pasta, Rice

unfinished meal of spaghetti

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If it expands in the presence of water, likewise it’s going to expand when it hits water in your pipes.

Think about it: We cook pasta and rice in water until it absorbs the water and nearly doubles in size. Think of it doing that in your pipes.

The answer is clear: No pasta, no rice down the garbage disposal. Figure out how to use it up instead!

Or if all else fails, pitch it into the garbage.

 

 

RELATED: 7 Easy Ways to Give New Life to Leftover Rice

Eggshells

eggshells

It may be an urban legend that eggshells help sharpen the blades of a garbage disposal. The folks at American Home Shield contend that to be a myth:

“Garbage disposals do not have blades. They have impellers that are not sharp, but blunt. So, putting eggshells down the disposal to ‘sharpen the blades’ will not do any good.

“In fact, eggshells are not recommended for the garbage disposal as the membrane can get wrapped around the impellers and cause damage.”

And so we should add eggshells to our list of nevers.

RELATED: How to Make Dirt: Compost 101

Medications

Pills and capsules in medical vial

Who among us has not been tempted to toss an expired prescription or OTC medication down the garbage disposal, or into the toilet?

We all have those old medications somewhere in our medicine cabinet. For whatever reason—it’s expired or you no longer need it—the prudent response is to dispose of medications properly.

The garbage disposal is not considered at all proper in this context. The chemicals in medications can impact the water quality near you and that’s about the last thing you want to happen.

Do the right thing: Drop it off at your nearest pharmacy so they can dispose of it with other medical waste.

Paint

Liquid multicolor paint flow in sink drain as a creativity and art concept

Whether oil-based, water-based, stain, lacquer, tempera or any other kind of paint—no. Do not throw the excess down the drain. It sticks to the pipes’ sidewalls, and immediately beings to impede foods from getting through. You will long regret having done this!

Instead, inquire with your city or county’s hazardous waste facility that disposes of paints properly ad in a way that is not hazardous to the earth or its inhabitants.

Don’t know how to find that facility? Ask the people at the store where you bought the paint. Or any such store near you.

 

 

 

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  1. Nancy says:

    I’ve been around garbage disposals for most of my 70 years and I’ve put just about all the things you mention except maybe peach pits. I should add, though, that I’ve always been a renter, never an owner, so why worry about long-term effects? I did, however, live in my last apartment for 19 years and started having garbage disposal problems for the first time(s) ever. It started with fresh pineapple trimmings. I thought they were cut small enough, but I rushed it into a bad clog. I forget what rendered the disposal useless, but at one point it had to be replaced. The last time I clogged it, I was told I would be paying the plumber. I moved out shortly thereafter. Three or four major clogs in 19 years doesn’t seem that bad to me. Why have a garbage disposer if you can’t ever use it?

    Reply
  2. Jane Bice says:

    I told my plumber I needed a garbage disposal for cilantro, rice and celery. He looked at me funny but still installed it. I actually don’t use it, but have it for friends and family who drop things in the sink. It gets enough use that I don’t get my sink clogged up.

    Reply
  3. Susan says:

    Regarding disposal of medications: I recently took leftover prescription capsules to my pharmacy (in a large supermarket chain in Florida) for disposal, having read numerous times (as you have said) that the pharmacy would accept them and dispose of them safely. Sadly, the pharmacist said they were no longer allowed to accept such medications for disposal, as some pharmacy employees had been know to keep them and sell them illegally. He said I could take them to a police station for disposal. I was, of course, stunned by the irresponsibility and greed shown by pharmacy employees who would do this.

    Reply
  4. Don says:

    DON’T PUT ANYTHING DOWN THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL. Put it in the compost pile or in the trash can. Not only can garbage clog your pipes, everything that goes down the drains in our town ends up at the water reclamation plant and has to be filtered out. Why take a chance on costly plumbing repairs and contaminating your city’s water supply? Just don’t use the garbage disposal.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Great question, Pat. The purpose of a garbage disposal is to handle small bits of food … think scraping a plate before putting it into the dishwasher. Meat scraps provided they’re small; fruits, vegetables scraps. Its purpose is not to replace the garbage can or compost, but to handle annoying, food debris.

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