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The Do’s and Don’t Of What To Put In Your Garbage Disposal
There are some things that are fairly obvious that you should never put down your garbage disposal. Things like bottle caps, flatware,broken glass, cigarette butts, jewelry, safety pins, and any type of paper products. Having said that, you may be scratching your head wondering “what can I put down my garbage disposal?
It’s January 2016 as we write this article and would you believe that even today more than half of all US households still do not have a garbage disposal installed in their home? It’s such an inexpensive appliance to own we wonder why more people are not installing them. This is a topic for another day.
For those of you that have taken the plunge recently or have had one installed for awhile you may be operating under the erroneous assumption that you can put any type of food waste in that little hole.
By the time you’ve finished reading this article you will have a good working knowledge of what to and what not to put down your disposal to help it last longer and keep it running efficiently.
Garbage Disposal Basics
- Always run cold water before you turn on your garbage disposal. Continue to run the water for up to one minute after all of the grinding has stopped so that you completely flush the remaining food waste down the drain line and disposal.
- Only deposit small amounts of food down your disposal at a time. Think of your garbage disposal like the front door entrance to your home. What would happen if 50 people all tried to enter at the same time? There would be a jam, the same thing happens when you try to grind too much food at once.
- Periodically show your garbage disposal some love by grinding up some citrus fruit peels such as oranges or lemons. The natural acidity in the peels combats the odors caused by bacteria growth and keeps your sink smelling fresh.
- Never use any of those harsh drain cleaners you see being advertised on TV because they are not plumbing pipe or garbage disposal friendly. These cleaning chemicals are also not good for the environment. There are many natural drain cleaners that you can use with products that you probably already have sitting around your house, such as baking soda and distilled white vinegar.
- Have you ever heard of vinegar ice cubes before? We like to call this process the “double whammy” because not only does it clean your garbage disposal but it also sharpens your blade in the process. We all know that a sharp blade is a happy blade.
- Lastly, this one should be obvious but the obvious is often not what is practiced. Never put your fingers or hands down a garbage disposal for any reason. This is what pliers and tongs are made for.
What Shouldn’t Go In A Garbage Disposal
- Oil and Grease. Your garbage disposal was not built to digest grease and neither were your pipes. Once that grease is out of view and comes in contact with those cool pipes it congeals, clogging up the disposal and pipes. Dispose of oil and grease through solid waste channels that are appropriate in your area.
- Potato Peels. Potatoes have starch in them and when you flush them down the garbage disposal they become pasty which can cause a real traffic jam in your disposal and pipes. Consider leaving the potatoes peels on, they are quite tasty or simply just throw them in the waste basket.
- Rice and Pasta (cooked or uncooked). Very similar to the potato peels mentioned above, noodles and rice are full of starch and the slime can prevent the grind. The noodles can also choke out your garbage disposal’s blade by wrapping around it. Also, water causes pasta to swell which creates even more problems for you. No amount of water can wash away these items once they’ve become trapped in your garbage disposal.
- Flour. We seem to be on the glue train. Just like rice, pasta and potatoes flour essentially turns into a glue-like substance when it comes in contact with water. It then thickens and when it dries it gets hard. This will not be a pleasant experience for your garbage disposal.
- Banana Peels. Fibrous fruits or vegetables like banana peels, asparagus, celery, corn husks or any thing with stringy fibers. The garbage disposal blades aren’t able to cut these fibers up and they end up becoming wrapped the blades causing it to jam.
- Coffee Grounds. This one may surprise you a bit because coffee grounds don’t actually cause any damage to your garbage disposal itself. However, the coffee particles can accumulate in pipes and drains causing them to clog.
- Egg Shells. Have you ever cracked an eggshell before and the egg shell’s membrane landed on a countertop and you tried to pick it up? Well, the same thing happens when those same membranes make their way into your garbage disposal because they wrap around the shredder ring causing real problems. Shrimp shells would also fall in this category. Just toss them and be done.
- Pits and Large Bones. No, you shouldn’t give a dog a bone or your garbage disposal. It may be hard for you to believe that some people try to stuff a T-bone in a garbage disposal but believe us when we tell you they do. The problem is that this type of food is very dense, same as with large pits and seeds and they take forever for your garbage disposal to grind up. Its better just to throw these items in the trash.
All it takes to have a long-lasting and efficient running garbage disposal is a bit of a mind shift. Don’t use your garbage disposal as a substitute for your garbage can that is probably sitting just a few feet away from your sink.
The most concrete advice that we can give you, especially around the holidays when cooking food is at an all time high, is to try and scrape as much of your food waste from pots and pans straight into your garbage can and not your disposal. Reserve smaller scraps (accept the ones mentioned above) for your garbage disposal.
A garbage disposal is a handy and durable appliance to have in the kitchen but it needs to be treated well. You can no longer say you don’t know the answer to the question, “what can I put down my garbage disposal?” If you take our suggestions you’ll probably never need to consult your garbage repair guide.