Your garbage disposal can make cleaning up after mealtime (or during prep) a breeze. It may seem that your disposal can pulverize anything you throw at it, but that’s not the whole story. Like any appliance or system in your home, a little maintenance knowledge can extend the life and prevent future headaches.
Those headaches can include slow drainage, a malfunctioning disposal, or even sewer backup. Yes, you read that last one right. They don’t happen overnight, but when you start seeing issues in your home, it’s too late.
Since your disposal is connected to your drain, we also need to think about what your plumbing can handle – not just the disposal. With the whole system in mind, here are some items you should not put in your disposal.
Oil, Grease, and Other Fats
This is a major no-no. Fats and grease might melt into liquid when cooking, but they solidify in your pipes and stick to the walls. Enough of them over time, and you could have a major clog on your hands.
They’re so common, plumbers and sewer technicians even have a name for these blockages: fatberg. Think iceberg, but made with cooking fats.
Wipe out grease with a paper towel and dispose in your trash.
Coffee grounds seem innocent when matched with your disposal. However, over time, they’ll create a muddy mess in your drain.
Coffee grounds help make great compost, or toss them in your trash.
There’s plenty of debate on our number 3. However, when something breaks down into small shards, I take the cautious route. Those small pieces mix with grease and other squishy residue to clog your drains.
Better to include egg shells in your compost, or drop them in the trash.
Pasta, Oats, and Rice
Have you ever left any of these in water a little too long? Each one continues absorbing liquid until it becomes a mushy paste. That’s when it starts to cause problems.
Leftover pasta, oats, and rice is best left to your trash.
Chicken or Turkey Skin
Plenty of health-conscious home cooks will remove poultry skin before cooking. Larger pieces can get caught in the moving parts of your disposal causing mechanical issues. There’s also enough fat on it to cause problems on that front.
Make sure it goes in the trash.
You’re a fan of mashed potatoes, right? Your plumbing isn’t. Similar to pasta, oats, and rice, the gluten in potato peels can build up, essentially making mashed potatoes in your pipes.
Potato peels can hit the compost or trash.
Celery is one that’s called out specifically…a lot. Any tough or fibrous vegetable also fits this category. Rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus, corn husks, onion skins, and kale are all culprits of clogs.
The good news here, they’re great for compost! (or the trash, of course)
Have you ever tried to cut one? It’s impossible! Your disposal thinks so, too. (And don’t try to cut one, you’ll hurt your knife)
Toss fruit pits in the trash.
Unfortunately, your garbage disposal mimics the nut butter-making process. If you toss peanuts in your garbage disposal, you’re adding sticky peanut butter to your drains. Not to mention the oils that come out of the nuts.
Nuts do fine in your compost or trash.
Bones and Seafood Shells
Garbage disposal manufacturers insist their products can handle small bones and shells. But remember, we’re looking at the whole system. Your pipes don’t appreciate egg shells, and they won’t appreciate shards of bone or seafood shells either.
These are best left to the trash.
Our last one isn’t a food, but deserves a spot on the list since not all medicines can be flushed. Yes, the FDA does have a flush list of medications approved to be flushed down a sink or drain.
I prefer using the drug take back program. Most pharmacies (national chains and locally owned) participate, making it easy to find a convenient location.
If that’s not available for a specific prescription, take the FDA’s advice on how to dispose of them in the trash:
- Mix the prescription with an unappealing substance like dirt, cat litter, or coffee grounds (hey, another use for the coffee grounds!).
- Place the mixture in a sealed bag.
- Throw the sealed bag in your trash.
Bonus: make sure to mark out personal information on the prescription container before throwing it away!
Avoid a Garbage Disposal Backup
Now you’ve got some great preventative measures to keep your pipes flowing. Remember, even if your disposal can handle the item, your plumbing might not. Play it safe and keep these out of your garbage disposal.
Stuart is a North Carolina native and NC State graduate who has been a resident of the Triangle since 2012 after a 4-year adventure in New York City. This enthusiastic craft beer nerd and self-proclaimed foodie found a home among the diverse offerings of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. He lives with the love of his life, Shelby, and their rescued four-legged family member, Finnegan.