Garbage Disposal 101: The Dos and Don’ts of Using a Garbage Disposal

The Dos and Don'ts of Using a Garbage Disposal

I have a love/hate relationship with my garbage disposal. I love the convenience of putting food down the disposal to be chopped into tiny bits and washed down the drain, as opposed to smelling in my kitchen trash can and being sent to rot in a landfill, but I have no clue what is and isn’t acceptable to put in the disposal, which has caused more than one call to a plumber to unclog the drain. The most recent culprit was rice. I had no idea that I shouldn’t be putting rice down the garbage disposal, but a call to the plumber and $100 later I am now very aware that rice is a garbage disposal no-no, along with tea bags (which I know thanks to a previous visit from the plumber).

To save myself money in the future, I decided it is time to educate myself on the dos and don’ts of using a garbage disposal. As I was researching I was surprised to find that I have been putting things down the garbage disposal that I shouldn’t have been for most of my life.

Garbage Disposal Don’ts:

Don’t pour grease down the garbage disposal. While it’s perfectly fine to pour most liquids down the garbage disposal, grease is a big no-no. As grease cools it becomes solid and can end up clogging your drain, so save yourself from any future trouble and dispose of grease in the trash. The same goes for fats and oils.

Don’t put rice and pasta in the garbage disposal. Take it from me, rice will clog up your garbage disposal and I have the plumber’s bill to prove it. It never occurred to me that rice would be a problem, but because it expands when it gets wet, a large clump of it can end up clogging your drain and so can pasta for the same reason.

Don’t put coffee grounds down the garbage disposal. Some people like to put a few coffee grounds down their garbage disposal to freshen up the scent, and while a few grounds are fine you should avoid pouring a heapful of coffee grounds down the disposal because they can get caught in the drain trap and cause a clog.

Don’t put potato peelings down the garbage disposal. This is another one that I am very guilty of. I have always disposed of potato peelings in the garbage disposal, which probably explains some of those plumber visits. Potato peels are fibrous and can get entangled in the disposal blades, causing them to jam up. For this reason you should avoid putting most fibrous foods down the disposal including lettuce, artichokes, celery, and onion skins.

Don’t put hard, solid items in the garbage disposal. This includes fruit pits, apple cores, bones, and any nonfood item. These items are too solid for the disposal to chop up and can break the blades. If you have a compost pile, add them to it or throw them in the trash.

Garbage Disposal Dos:

Do use cold water when you run your garbage disposal. This is yet another thing that I have been doing wrong for decades. I have always run hot water when I turn on my garbage disposal, but it is actually cold water that should be run with the disposal. This is because cold water will cause any oil or grease that has slipped into the disposal to solidify so it gets chopped up with everything else. Hot water will keep it in liquid form so it slips into your drain pipes and then solidifies, creating a clog. For this reason you should avoid dumping boiling water down the garbage disposal drain.

Do pour dish soap down the disposal every now and then. Once a week or so pour a little dish soap in your disposal and run it for a few minutes with cold water to help keep it clean and keep any stench at bay. Another way to give your disposal a nice scent boost is to run orange or lemon grinds through it.

Do put ice cubes down the garbage disposal. Ice cubes are actually good for your disposal unit because chopping them up helps sharpen the blades and can clean off any stuck on food that may have accumulated on them. For an added bonus, freeze some vinegar in an ice cube tray and toss the frozen cubes in. Your unit will get the added bonus of the vinegar’s cleaning power.

Do cut up large pieces of food before putting them in the garbage disposal. If you find yourself having to use a utensil to shove a piece of food into the disposal, it’s too big and should be cut up and fed into the disposal in pieces. Taking a few minutes to cut up a large piece of food can save you a lot of money and headache down the road.

A good rule of thumb for garbage disposal usage is that if it is biodegradable it is usually OK to put down the disposal. Follow these do and don’ts and your garbage disposal should last you a long time and you should be able to avoid frequent visits from the plumber.


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