Having a garbage disposal can be really convenient for dealing with everyday food scraps, but only if you know how to use it! You can easily create headache-inducing (and expensive!) plumbing problems for yourself by putting the wrong things into your garbage disposal. And unfortunately, I speak from personal experience in these matters. Over the years I’ve learned the hard way that my garbage disposal isn’t as tough as I thought it was… not by a long shot!
In order to help us all avoid disposal-related plumbing mishaps in the future, I thought I’d put together a helpful list of “do’s and don’ts.” These are some general guidelines for using your garbage disposal correctly, including what you can put down there, what you shouldn’t put down there, and how to clean and care for it. Spending a few minutes reading these tips now could save you plenty of time and money down the line! :-)
Do’s And Don’ts For Using Your Garbage Disposal
Use dish soap. A good grease-fighting dish soap can help clear out gunk and grime that might be stuck inside your disposal. Just squeeze a bit into your disposal, turn it on, and run cold water through it for about 15 seconds.
Use plenty of water. Running water through your garbage disposal is vital for your garbage disposal to run correctly. It also helps flush bits of food through the disposal so they don’t get stuck.
Use citrus to keep it fresh. We ask a lot of our garbage disposals, so it’s no wonder that they can start getting smelly after a while. Pour a bit of lemon juice in your running disposal to freshen up the smell, or use lemon or orange peels for the same effect.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Every disposal is slightly different, so make sure you read the User Manual for your specific disposal for the best information.
Run cold water through the disposal. It might seem counter-intuitive, because cold water makes fats and oils coagulate, but this actually helps your garbage disposal break them down. Fats and oils in liquid form may solidify further down your pipes, which can lead to a clog.
Allow water to run after using. After using your garbage disposal, run the water for a minute or so to flush out any remaining food particles. This simple step can go a long way towards preventing clogs!
Use corrosive chemicals. Harsh cleaners like bleach and drain cleaners can corrode and damage your plumbing. Use gentler methods to keep your disposal clean.
Put hard food items in your disposal. Hard food items like animal bones, shrimp shells, and even nuts can be too much for your disposal to handle. Make sure these items go into the trash, not your disposal.
Pour oils and fats down your drain. Because of the possibility of fats and oils hardening in your drain, it’s best to just avoid putting them down the drain altogether.
Put anything that isn’t food in your disposal. Food scraps only! That means that anything that falls down the drain like metal, wood, glass, sponges, etc. should be fished out (carefully!)
Put eggshells in your disposal. I called a plumber to come out and deal with a clog several years ago, and he informed me that eggshells are a big no-no for your garbage disposal. The shells can easily adhere to the disposal blades and keep them from working properly. Put those shells in the trash or compost instead!
Put fibrous foods into the disposal. Some food have a very fibrous texture or stringy parts, including potatoes, lettuce, onion skins, celery, and more. These fibrous foods can get caught on the disposal blades, so these are better off going in the trash as well.
Put rice or pasta down the drain. Foods like rice and pasta expand as they absorb water, which could lead to clogs further down your pipes.
Put large amounts of coffee grounds in your disposal. A small amount of coffee grounds in your disposal can be help absorb bad odors. But putting a large amount of grounds in at once can lead to clogs, due to the high oil content in the beans.