10 Things You Should Never Put Down Your Garbage Disposal

Think before throwing it down the sink.

The garbage disposal is a hardworking kitchen appliance, but it can't handle everything thrown its way. Even though "garbage" is included in the name, be mindful not of what you're tossing down the sink. It's worth the extra effort to take care of this valuable kitchen tool to avoid pricey plumbing problems down the road.

Things You Should Not Put Down the Garbage Disposal

  • Eggshells: Many people debate whether or not eggshells can go down the garbage disposal; it's better to err on the side of caution. The thin membranes of the shells can get stuck around the blades of the shredder and cause major issues. Instead, throw eggshells in the trash or use them as fertilizer for your garden.
  • Grease, fat, and cooking oil: Ever watched what happens to hot grease, fat, and cooking oil as it cools? It thickens and hardens—and it will do exactly the same thing in your pipes if you pour it down the drain. To discard, let it cool and solidify in the cup or jar, and then throw it away.
  • Fruit pits or seeds: Can you cut through the pit of an avocado or peach with a knife? Your disposal can't slice them either.
  • Bones and seafood shells: While tiny bones and seafood shells might slip through the garbage disposal just fine, larger ones cannot be ground up. The disposal wasn't built to tackle something so hard and dense.
  • Coffee grounds: Coffee grounds slip through the garbage disposal but pile up in the pipes and turn into a sludge-like mess, causing a major clog.
  • Pasta, rice, beans, or oatmeal: Starchy foods like pasta, rice, beans, and oatmeal will expand when drowned in water, clogging the pipes over time.
  • Nuts: Garbage disposal blades work much like a blender, shredding food into tiny bits. What's the product of grinding nuts? Nut butter, which will create a sticky mess that will adhere to the walls of the pipes.
  • Fibrous veggies: The stringy fibers of vegetables such as celery, pumpkin, lettuces, kale, artichokes, asparagus, and pumpkin can get caught around the disposal blades.
  • Potato peels: Starchy potato peels can create a huge mess in the drainpipes down the road. Over time, the peels stick together and form a thick paste that causes a clog.
  • Medication: Rather than pouring unwanted medication down the garbage disposal (or flushing it down the toilet), take it to the pharmacy, where it can be properly disposed of. The chemicals in the medicine can have a harmful effect on the quality of water in your area.

How To Care for Your Garbage Disposal

Now that we've covered what you should never put down your disposal, there are a few things you should do to make sure it stays in top shape. First on the list: When running the disposal, always run cool water. It keeps food and fat solid so the disposal can wash the particles away. Hot water can melt fat, which will get far down the drain line before gelling again and becoming a clog. You'll also want to take care to only use garbage disposal cleaner; never use drain cleaner. Now for those odors. Grind lemon and lime peels for a quick refresh and, to keep blades sharp and clean, grind ice occasionally.

What To Look For When Buying a New Garbage Disposal

Before you shop, do your research, and you'll end up with a wise buy. Here's what to look for.

  • Rpm: Revolutions per minute tells you how fast your garbage disposal's blades turn. This translates into how fine the food gets chopped up before traveling down your drain. A unit that runs at 2,600 rpm is desirable.
  • Blades: Choose a disposal with stainless steel grinding components. It will last longer and work more efficiently.
  • Noise control: You'll be grateful you purchased a unit with sound insulation when your spouse is grinding up leftovers while you're trying to talk on the phone.
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