Sometimes, the products we use every day are poorly named. Take the garbage disposal. Technically, it does neither: it’s not for garbage and it doesn’t dispose of much. “Food wasterator” might have been a better name. And a more accurate name for this kitchen appliance might save more people from inadvertently, or unfortunately, sending no-no’s down the drain into the disposal.
Garbage disposals also suffer from a popular misconception that they are similar to food blender appliances. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
All garbage disposals use centrifugal force to push debris through a metal grind ring to break down food waste so it’s tiny enough to move through the plumbing without clogging up the pipes.
Even stuff that seems perfectly safe can be destroyers of garbage disposals. It needs to be fed in small bites, and not too much all at once. Think of it like an infant–the smaller the bites the better to avoid choking or spitting up.
These things cannot go in your garbage disposal
Fibrous foods, including:
- Artichoke leaves
- Asparagus stems
- Banana peels
- Corn husks
- Edamame shells
- Fruit peels
- Onion skins
- Pea pods
- Potato peels
- Poultry skins
In a nutshell, any starchy, stringy, or fibrous food waste, unless it’s been finely chopped, should not go in the garbage disposal. Compost instead. (By the way, nutshells–and any nuts–also CANNOT go into the garbage disposal.)
But wait, there’s more…
Be sure you don’t let the following food scraps end up in the garbage disposal. They are either too large, can expand, or will congeal, all of which can lead to clogged pipes:
- Cooking oils, grease, and any fatty liquids
- Egg shells
- Oatmeal, uncooked
- Plant or flower clippings
In addition to food waste no-no’s, watch out for bottle caps, soda can pull tabs, bread bag twisties, and bits of glass from when someone inevitably drops a drinking glass near the sink. Diligence around your kitchen sink will help you avoid a startling “clank” when you turn on the garbage disposal. It can also help keep your disposal running smoothly in the long run.
Things that can go in your garbage disposal
Here’s what your garbage disposal likes:
- Cold water: run it before, during, and after you run the disposal
- Chopped, less-fibrous vegetable scraps (like the leftovers scraped from a sauté pan)
- Citrus peels (think lemon twists from a martini, not the whole peel from a Tangelo)
- Coffee grounds (again, in small amounts—a coffee pod size at a time, max)
- Fruit scraps from bananas, grapes, and apples
- Ice cubes (helpful for loosening food bits stuck to the disposal’s metal grind ring)
- White vinegar cleaning solution (be sure to clean your unit once per month)
- Yogurt, applesauce, soup (no bones), and other soft foods or liquids
Many online sources include cooked meat and small bones as OK for some garbage disposals. These food scraps may be fine for your home’s unit, but always consult your manufacturer’s manual to confirm your disposal’s can-do list.