What Not to Put in a Garbage Disposal

For most homeowners, a garbage disposal unit is their best friend. Getting rid of food waste is as easy as flipping a switch, and there’s no need to throw leftovers in separate bins anymore.

However, treating your kitchen disposal like a garbage can will not do you any good. If you keep throwing everything down the drain, you will eventually need to deal with major plumbing issues. Knowing what not to put in your garbage disposal will save you from hefty maintenance costs. Here’s what not to put down the disposal.

Celery, Corn Husks and Other Fibrous Foods

Fibrous foods may seem like something that your garbage disposal unit can easily take care of. While it’s true that they are easy to grind, these fibers can eventually turn into a ball that can clog your pipes. Their strings can also get caught in a tangle and jam your unit’s blades.

Animal Bones

Just finished a lovely meal of turkey or fried chicken? Make sure not to put their bones in your kitchen disposal. They will just keep spinning together with the blades, and if they do get down, they’ll clog your drain and give you a much bigger headache.


Some people say that eggshells are completely safe for garbage disposal units. Some even say that they can help sharpen their blades. The opposing camp believes that the membrane of eggshells tends to stick to the blades. A large amount can accumulate and get stuck in the drain, especially for those who have older pipes. We say – better safe than sorry.

Coffee Grounds

If you try putting coffee grounds into your garbage disposal, it might seem like they go down pretty quickly. However, it can pile up and accumulate as sediment-like gunk in your drain. They also tend to have some oil, which can slowly congeal and clog your sink.

Grease and Oil

Grease and oil will clog your pipes and not even reach your disposal. Even the fat from dairy products like ice cream and butter can end up getting stuck in your sink too.

Pouring hot water into your sink is not a good idea as well as it will only make matters worse. Hot water will melt the fat and make it a lot harder for you to get rid of the gunk.

Experts recommend using cold water to solidify the fat and make it possible for the disposal to grind them. This will only work for small amounts of fat though – too much oil will just clog your pipes.


Ziti, fusilli, spaghetti – all kinds of pasta tend to expand when exposed to water. Don’t dump pasta down the drain because it can accumulate in the disposal trap. Rice, oats, and other grains that can absorb water have the same effect.

Potato Peels and Starchy Foods

It might seem like your disposal will have an easy time grinding potato peels, but these can turn into a soupy mush that will clog your drain and damage your garbage disposal. The same is true for other starchy beans and vegetables.

Shells and Nuts

Seafood shells and nuts can cause a lot of damage to your garbage disposal too. Just like a nut grinder, your disposal will produce a somewhat thick paste when it grinds nuts. This will effortlessly clog your drain and damage your disposal.

Seeds and Pits

Love eating fruits? Those pits and seeds do not belong in your garbage disposal. Their small size and round shape make them harder to grind than most food waste. Save yourself the trouble and just throw them in your regular trash.

Onion Layers

Your disposal can easily grind chopped onions, but you will have to keep an eye on their outermost layer. The membrane beneath its dry skin can slip through the grinder or wrap around the blades, jamming them. If you’re unlucky enough, it might also get wedged down the drain and trap other items you put down your sink.

Non-Food Waste

It might seem like common sense, but a reminder wouldn’t hurt. Any non-food item like plastic, paper towels, and even tissue do not belong in your garbage disposal. They can damage your drainage system and even deposit into your city’s water supply. Remember that anything that is not biodegradable should go straight to the trash.

Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal

Now that you already know what can and can’t go into your garbage disposal, learning a couple of maintenance tips will also help. This will not only prolong the lifespan of your kitchen disposal – it will also reduce the costs of having your plumbing repaired.

1. Keep Your Disposal Clean

It’s important to clean your disposal regularly to get rid of bad odor and prevent it from accumulating gunk. Mix half a cup of vinegar with some baking soda and pour it into your garbage disposal. Let it set. Wait until it foams then rinse it with warm water.

To get rid of unpleasant odors, you can also put lemon or orange peel through your disposal. Add some ice cubes then let it run for a couple of seconds.

Remember not to use bleach to clean your disposal. Aside from it accidentally splashing onto your skin the next time you run your disposal, it can also make things worse by hardening the grease in your drain. It can also affect the quality of your septic system because it will kill the necessary bacteria in your septic tank.

2. Unclog Your Disposal

Keeping your garbage disposal clog-free is also important. A good way to do this is to flush it with lots of water when grinding food waste. Another neat trick is to use dishwashing products that can remove the grease from your dishes. Grease does not only clog pipes but also holds bacteria that can cause bad odors.

3. Fix Disposal Jams

There will come a time when something gets stuck in your garbage disposal’s motor. To fix this, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the power coming from the disposal’s main electric panel. Turn the faucet off as well.
  2. Insert a wrench into its hex hole. You can find this at the bottom of the unit.
  3. Move the wrench from side to side until the flywheel frees up.
  4. Look for the object that’s jamming the blades. Use a pair of pliers or tongs to reach down the grinding chamber and remove the obstruction.
  5. Let the motor cool for at least 5 minutes and then push the reset button.
  6. Turn it on and let cold water run into it. Turn it on and off a couple of times to get rid of any debris that might’ve been caught down the drain.

4. Know When It’s Time for a Repair

Knowing when it’s time to call in an expert or have your garbage disposal replaced is just as important as keeping it running smoothly. If you are experiencing the following issues, you might want to give the plumber a call.

  • Your sink keeps getting clogged even though you’ve been maintaining your garbage disposal unit.
  • You can’t remove the odor coming from your disposal.
  • Your disposal is having a hard time grinding food waste because its blades have become dull.
  • There’s a leak that keeps coming back.
  • You’ve been pressing your unit’s reset button a lot.

The Bottom Line

Word of advice: If you can’t cut something with a knife, then it’s safe to assume that it will not be good for your garbage disposal. Keep in mind that even the most expensive garbage disposal unit won’t last if it’s not used properly. Knowing what you can and can’t put in your garbage disposal will surely save you a lot of money in the long run.

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