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Things You Should Never Put in a Garbage Disposal


Many times, when our Maryland plumbers are called in to resolve a clog or a similar plumbing issue, it is something preventable. Some homeowners are unaware that there are things that shouldn’t end up in your plumbing, while others simply take a shortcut and hope for the best. Unfortunately, wishful thinking doesn’t work with plumbing. We’ve talked about preventing clogs in the past, but today, in view of the upcoming holidays and all the cooking you are about to do, we want to dedicate some time to your kitchen garbage disposal. Handy and powerful as it is, there are certain things you should never place in it.

How a Garbage Disposal Works

If you think that a garbage disposal mechanism is identical to that of a blender, you are mistaken. And it’s an easy mistake to make, because everyone knows that a blender does a good job of chopping food into tiny particles. However, it’s a bit different with a garbage disposal. It doesn’t use any blades, but instead has a spinning plate that pushes food into a grinder and then out with the waste water. This approach ensures that only smallest food particles make it through. Here is a good video explaining this process:

Now that you saw the mechanism inside your kitchen garbage disposal, you can see how certain types of foods can prevent it from doing its job.

What NOT to Put in a Garbage Disposal

Oil and Grease

Grease causes a whole bunch of problems in a garbage disposal. First of all, it can slowly clog the drain as it cools down and solidifies. Second of all, it can cause an unpleasant smell as it gets stuck inside the grinder ring. For large amounts of grease, wait till it cools and then pour into a container, such as an old milk carton or coffee can. Then wipe the pot or skillet with a paper towel to remove any remaining grease. If you frequently use a fryer, consider reusing the grease or recycling it in your local facility.

Starchy Foods

Foods like rice, beans, pasta potatoes and a few other similar foods tend to swell when in contact with water. Even when ground in tiny pieces they can form a sticky paste that can clog the pipes over time.

Pits, Seed and Large Bones

The chances are, if your smoothie maker can’t process it, neither can your garbage disposal. If you accidentally drop a large bone or a pit inside the disposal, turn it off and reach in with long pliers or tweezers to retrieve it. Smaller bones should be OK to put in the disposal, but if you can avoid it, throw them into trash instead.

Fibrous Foods

Some foods like celery, asparagus, banana peel, corn husks, potato peel, onion peel, etc. can wrap around the grinder and cause an obstruction. If you are peeling potatoes or other vegetables, do it over a strainer, so that you can easily empty the peel into the trash.

Coffee Grounds

Despite already being ground into fine particles, coffee grounds can get stuck in your garbage disposal’s trap or inside the bends of piping. It’s best to toss as much as you can into the trash or compost pile. A small amount of coffee grounds left from washing off your coffee maker or a reusable K-cup shouldn’t do much harm.

Egg Shells

Contrary to popular belief, egg shells don’t help sharpen the grinder. But they are capable of clogging the pipes because they don’t dissolve or decompose—they are simply finely ground to a sand-like consistency.

Non-Food Items

If it’s not food, don’t put it in the garbage disposal—put it straight in the garbage. Your sink is not an alternative to a trashcan. Inorganic matter like twisty ties, broken glass or rubber bands can’t be efficiently processed in a garbage disposal and shredded into small enough pieces.

So What Can I Put in The Garbage Disposal?

At this point you may be thinking about what is left to put in the garbage disposal that’s not on the prohibited item list. Well, most food remains from your plate, such as cooked meat, most veggies and fruit are good to go down the disposal. Keep in mind that the purpose of the garbage disposal is not to collect your trash—it’s to protect the pipes from clogs and make washing the dishes a bit more pleasant.

And if anything happens to your garbage disposal, you know our Maryland plumbers at Michael Runk Plumbing & Heating will be happy to troubleshoot, repair or replace your garbage disposal. Just give us a call!

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