The last thing you need is a clogged sink or a garbage disposal that stops working because you dumped something in it that should have gone into the trash or compost bin.
Yet these scenarios happen all the time when people get too eager to clean the kitchen quickly.
It’s not just inconvenience you’ll have to worry about with careless disposal habits, either. You may have to call a plumber, and that’s never cheap.
Abuse your garbage disposal too many times and you could also end up paying anywhere from $150 to almost $1,000 to install a new disposal, according to home project resource Angi.
The good news is you can avoid your disposal mistakes swirling down the drain of hard-earned life lessons if you know which food items can create a clog and garbage disposal nightmare.
Read on to learn about several things you should never put in the garbage disposal.
Fibrous veggies and peelings
Next time you’re about to scoop up a pile of potato peelings and toss them down the disposal, head for the trash can or composting bin instead. The same goes for stringy, fibrous vegetables like celery stalks.
“Fibrous foods are big contenders [for causing disposal problems] and include celery, corn husks, carrots, onion skins, potato peels, asparagus and artichokes,” says Doyle James, president of company-owned operations at Mr. Rooter Plumbing, headquartered in Waco, Texas, with locations nationwide. “These tend to wrap around the disposal blades, potentially damaging the motor, so toss them in the trash instead of down the sink.
“While a small amount of potato peels may be okay, too much produces starch that transforms into a thick, sticky paste that prevents the blades from working correctly.”
Tossing that T-bone or a bunch of chicken or pork chop bones down the garbage disposal may seem like the best out-of-sight, out-of-mind solution. But those bones could come back to bite you in the bank account when you have to call a plumber.
“Meat bones, even just a chicken bone, can jam the blades and hurt the motor,” says Michael Petri, owner of Petri Plumbing in Brooklyn, New York.
Also avoid putting large chunks of meat in the disposal, since these can also jam the blades and clog the drain. If you pour soup that contains small pieces of meat in the disposal, add small amounts gradually while running water, Petri says.
Rice and pasta
Rice, macaroni, spaghetti and other pastas are expandable food items that can bloat in the disposal and drain.
“When you add water, these items expand, which can lead to clogs within the disposal and pipes,” says James.
When placed in a proper composting environment, banana peels may decompose within a couple of weeks or months. But with other disposal methods, it can take banana peels much longer to decompose.
Banana peels may not stay in your garbage disposal for years, but they’re still bad news for garbage disposals, says Petri. That’s because they stay in the garbage disposal for a long time and get wrapped around the blades, causing disposal damage and problems with operation.
You may have heard that eggshells are good for disposals because they sharpen the blades, but that’s not true. In fact, following that false advice can lead to disposal damage and backed-up pipes, according to James.
“The membrane layers of eggshells can wrap around the shredder ring, potentially damaging the disposal, and the sand-like consistency of eggshells can cause pipes to clog,” says James.
Grease and oil
Pouring hamburger grease and other meat greases or cooking oils into the garbage disposal is a slippery slope when it comes to taking your chances on clogging the pipes.
Grease and cooking oils are “a definite no-no” for the plumbing system, says Petri. These substances solidify on disposal blades, interfering with the appliance’s ability to do its job. “Frying oil is terrible for a drain,” says Petri. “It creates huge backups that are hard to clean.”
Peach and other fruit pits are should never go in garbage disposals, since disposal blades don’t chop them up as easily as other foods.
“Fruit pits, like from a peach, take a long time to break down,” says James. “Anything that is grainy can provide a place for grease and soap to attach, promoting a clog.”
Dumping a batch of coffee grounds down the disposal probably won’t damage the blades but could result in a call to a plumber to clear backed-up pipes.
“While not a problem for the garbage disposal itself, the grounds may accumulate inside the pipe and lead to clogging,” says James.
Nuts and seeds
Thinking about grinding up sunflower seeds, almonds or dishes that contain nuts or seeds in the disposal? That’s a bad idea, since remaining bits of seeds and nuts can jam disposal blades, says Petri.
It may seem like common sense that non-food items shouldn’t go into the garbage disposal, but that doesn’t stop some people from tossing them in, says James. Also watch out for accidental items that slip down the disposal like a dishcloth or paper towel, for example.
“Never put anything you wouldn’t eat down the drain,” says James. “This includes twist ties, rubber bands, string, bottle caps and plant clippings. These items don’t break down in the disposal, allowing them to clog the sink.”
Never reach into the garbage disposal with your hand to try to free jammed blades. And if your wedding ring slips off, don’t instinctively try to snatch it back quickly from the disposal. That kind of impulsivity could lead to no ring finger left at all.
“Do not reach in to try and get it out,” advises Lee’s Air, Plumbing and Heating, which operates in several California cities. “Call a plumber or unscrew the pipe below yourself to retrieve it.”