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

It can be confusing to know what you can and can't put into the garbage disposal. We're here to provide you with info to make sure you're grinding food safely.

Placing food in garbage disposal

Updated: 6/19/2020

No modern kitchen is complete without a garbage disposal. No more smelly trash — just toss your food waste into the garbage disposal, right? But when your disposal gets clogged, starts leaking or otherwise quits working, that modern convenience can quickly cause headaches.

To keep your garbage disposal from getting clogged or breaking, you need to know what is safe to put down it and what to avoid. By getting rid of food waste properly, you can make your garbage disposal last longer and keep it running smoothly.

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Foods that Are Safe to Put Down a Garbage Disposal

Most soft or liquid foods are safe to put in your garbage disposal. If you can feed it to your baby, you can put it down 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 You Should Never Put Down Your Garbage Disposal

A huge part of proper garbage disposal maintenance is knowing what not to use it for. 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 sink and wont allow it to drain. For the same reason, you should avoid putting pasta, rice and other starchy foods down the garbage 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 stringy material in them can tangle up inside the unit and jam it. Some examples of fibrous vegetables that can’t be ground up 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 to never 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 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

Maintenance of your garbage disposal is fairly straightforward. You should always run cold water through it 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.

Is your garbage disposal starting to smell? It’s easy to clean a smelly garbage disposal with ice, baking soda and vinegar or lemon juice, and dish soap. To clean food residue out of your garbage disposal with each use, throw some ice cubes in along with your food waste and grind them up – they’ll help loosen food residue that is stuck to the blades. Keep a bag of orange, lemon, or other citrus peels in the freezer and toss some in when 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 fully enjoy the convenience of rinsing food waste right down the drain. 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. Check out our plans and coverage today.

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If you’re already an AHS member, we’re here for you when you need us. If you have garbage disposal issues, and your garbage disposal is covered under your home warranty, then you can request service in MyAccount 24/7. Not sure if your garbage disposal is covered? You can also find that out in MyAccount.

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AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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