The holidays are here! And a lot of you undoubtedly have friends, family and extended family to cook for. The kitchen can become a hectic place, and if you’re anything like me (impatient!) you will take some short cuts that you may regret in the long run.
Let me paint a picture for you. Last Christmas Eve, I was running around making preparations for a big family holiday dinner and began peeling potatoes. As usual, I let the peels fall into the sink and when I was ready to bring them over to the garbage, I noticed the garbage was full (ahem…Nathan). My impatience got the best of me and I decided to turn on the garbage disposal. BAD IDEA!
Luckily, I live with a plumber, but STILL – 3 hours later when the clog was cleared I was behind in everything and trying to focus on the joy of the holidays and not letting myself become so stressed out due to the inconvenience of a pretty significant drain clog on a very important day.
So, I researched it. I found out all of the things that are NOT supposed to go down your garbage disposal… and as I shared this list with family and friends, they were all surprised about at least one item. Therefore I’m hoping to help all of you to avoid a big hassle this year by sharing some very helpful tips that I could have used myself 1 year ago!!!
1. First on the list is: Anything that you don’t need to put in it.
You should use your garbage disposal to take care of the little bit of stuff that ends up in your sink drain that is inconvenient to keep out of the drain. You should not use the garbage disposal to get rid of garbage. If you cut up some vegetables on the counter and need to dispose of the scraps, you should take them to the garbage can instead of the sink. Or better yet take them to a compost bin. You should not take things to the sink so you can run them down the garbage disposal.
The real reason for this is not the garbage disposal itself, but where this stuff goes after the garbage disposal chews it up. It goes into the drains in your house, and then on to the sewer or septic system. Some of the garbage you might stuff down the garbage disposal should not be put into the drain pipes in your house. Water moves the other things in the pipe along. If you put something in there that doesn’t flow well in water then it is going to sit in your pipes and could cause a backup. So the stuff may go through the garbage disposal with no problem, but it might sit in the P-trap underneath the garbage disposal and cause problems there. And this type of problem can happen in your septic system too.
2. Non food items
Don’t put anything down the garbage disposal that is not going to break down in your septic system or sewer. No plastic wrappers, rubber bands, balloons, bread bag clips, paper, styrofoam, sticks, etc. These items can get hung up in P-traps and bends in your drain pipes. They also will not break down in your septic system and can cause problems there.
3. Bones, fruit pits, really hard things
If you can’t chew it up then you probably shouldn’t put it into your garbage disposal. Some garbage disposals can handle some smaller bones but we still don’t recommend it. Not only is it pushing the limits of your garbage disposals capabilities but it is also putting pieces of bone in your drain pipes and septic system or sewer system.
4. Grease, oil, greasy food
Grease and oil do not mix with water and don’t flow well with water. Grease may be liquid when you dump it down the drain but it will harden when it cools. This can cause clogs in your drains and can gum up the disposal. It is also very bad for septic systems. It doesn’t break down well and will build up there.
If you feel the need to put grease in your garbage disposal, use cold water to solidify it so the disposal will break it up and send down in solid pieces.
5. Rice or Pasta
When you dump rice or pasta down the garbage disposal it mashes up into a thick paste that can clog things up fast. It can gum up the disposal so bad that it will stop turning. Sometimes the garbage disposal will still be turning but the goop will plug up the drain holes in the garbage disposal so the water will stop going down. It can also soak up water and expand if left in the disposal, making the problems even worse.
6. Hard Fruit and Vegetable peels
A few potato, carrot, or apple peels down the drain would be fine, but don’t plan on peeling a dozen potatoes and stuffing it all down the disposal. You may end up with a plugged up drain. If you feel the need to put all the peels down the garbage disposal, make sure you do it a little at a time.
7. Stringy vegetables
Strings from vegetables like celery or asparagus can wrap around parts in the disposal and slow them down. Corn husks should never go in the garbage disposal. Some leafy vegetables like lettuce, collard greens, or bok choy can seem harmless but they may have stringy parts.
8. Coffee grounds
Coffee grounds are not going to hurt your garbage disposal but if you dump a bunch of grounds in at one time you could plug up your P-trap. A little would be fine but a lot could be bad. Oh, and don’t put the filter down the garbage disposal either.
9. Large pieces of citrus fruits
We have heard of people putting half of an orange or lemon in the garbage disposal to clean it and make it smell good. Half of an orange is too much. And while it does make it smell good, it doesn’t really clean the garbage disposal. Many garbage disposals can handle half of an orange, or even a whole orange, but we have other concerns about it. If you put an object this large in your garbage disposal you can feel it shaking the sink as it is working on grinding it up. It is like a clothes washer when it has too much on one side and it starts shaking. Our concern with the large piece of fruit is that it is putting strain on the drains and the seal where the garbage disposal is attached to the sink.
If you like the smell you can put a slice or two, or just a couple pieces of the peal, down the drain but don’t put half of an orange down at one time. You can also buy products that go in your garbage disposal to clean them and make them smell good. This is a good idea before leaving on a trip so your garbage disposal doesn’t make the kitchen smell bad while you are gone.
10. Some other common items that you might avoid putting in your garbage disposal:
Onion peels, shrimp shells, silverware, jewelry, your hand, banana peels, hard vegetable stems, cigarette butts, nut shells, etc.
If you do happen to find yourself in a clogged state, please call Duell Plumbing, Heating and Cooling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and we will promptly respond.
“Call us this morning, we’ll be there today.”
And from our family to yours, Happy Holidays!!!
Kari, VP of Marketing and Public Relations


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