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Quick Tips

What Should and Shouldn't Go in the Garbage Disposal?

Not sure what should be put down the garbage disposal? Check out this guide to see what foods are safe to put in the disposal. Maintenance tips included too!

Placing food in garbage disposal

A garbage disposal can make cleaning up your kitchen a snap, and it’s a lot more environmentally sustainable than throwing all your food waste into the trash. Grinding up food in the garbage disposal allows it to be reclaimed from the sewer system, reducing methane gas emissions from landfills.

But in order to make the most of your garbage disposal’s capabilities, and avoid breaking or clogging it, you need to know what should go into the garbage disposal – and what shouldn’t. This way, you can make your garbage disposal – and your kitchen sink plumbing – last longer and avoid incurring the hefty costs of a replacement.

Foods that Are Safe for Your Sink Disposal

Most soft or liquid foods are safe to put in your garbage disposal. If you can feed it to your baby, you can feed it to your garbage disposal without too many problems. Many solid foods, such as vegetables or fruits, can also go into your garbage disposal, but you should chop them up first so as not to strain the unit.

Foods that Are Not Safe for Your Sink Grinder

A huge part of proper garbage disposal maintenance is knowing what not to put down your disposal. Despite what you may have heard, you should avoid putting coffee grounds into your garbage disposal – they can clump together into a thick mass that will clog your drains. For the same reason, you should avoid putting pasta, rice and other starchy foods down the disposal – they’ll expand when wet, and this can block up your sink. Egg shells, potato peels, nuts and oatmeal can behave similarly inside your plumbing. You should also refrain from pouring grease, oil or cooking fat into your garbage disposal because it can solidify in your plumbing and cause a clog.

Does your garbage disposal stink? It might be because you’re putting meat into it. You should never put meat into a garbage disposal because it can stick to the interior of the machine, rot and cause a stench in your kitchen sink. Always throw meat remnants in the trash. Bones, with the possible exception of those from fish, should also stay out of the garbage disposal; your unit isn’t strong enough to grind them up. The same holds true for the shells of shrimp, lobster, oysters and other seafood, as well as the seeds of stone fruit like peaches or mangoes. Apple cores are also a bit too much for most units to handle.

Fibrous foods should also stay out of your garbage disposal because the material in them can tangle up inside the unit and jam it. Some examples of fibrous vegetables that can’t be ground up in sink grinders include pumpkin, celery, kale and lettuce, artichokes, asparagus, chard, onion skins, corn husks and rhubarb. All of these foods should go straight into the trash or compost heap.

Of course, you should also be careful not to put any non-food items down your garbage disposal. Check it for errant cutlery before grinding anything up. Avoid stuffing paper towels, candy wrappers, egg cartons, cardboard or other non-food items into the garbage disposal. You should also avoid pouring paint down the garbage disposal and take it easy on the caustic cleaning chemicals – you don’t need anything stronger than dish soap or, at the very most, a cleanser specifically formulated for use in garbage disposals.

Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips

You should always run cold water through your garbage disposal while it is in use and for 30 seconds after it has finished grinding food. This helps ensure that all food bits are washed down the drain and that none remain in your disposal.

To clean food residue out of your garbage disposal with each use, throw some ice cubes in and grind them up – they’ll help loosen food residue that is stuck to the blades. Include vinegar, lemon juice, dish soap or some other gentle, biodegradable cleanser to further clean and deodorize your garbage disposal. Throw in some orange peels or citrus wedges whenever you need to freshen up your garbage disposal.   

Now that you know what you should and shouldn’t put down a garbage disposal, you can enjoy its convenience without worrying about clogging, jamming or breaking it. If your garbage disposal does act up despite your careful usage, American Home Shield® can help cover the cost of repairing or replacing it if you have a home warranty. Call and ask about Combo Plan coverage today.

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