Thank goodness for garbage disposals. Without them, you have to toss out the garbage a lot more often, deal with gross buildup in drain traps, and spend a lot longer with any cooking or cleaning job. Garbage disposals make everything in the kitchen a whole lot easier, but that doesn’t mean they can handle just anything you throw into them.
Many people take advantage of the garbage disposal’s presence by putting any scrap they come across into the kitchen sink. But this can be problematic. To prove this to you, we discuss 4 things that can damage the garbage disposal or your pipes. When you do run into trouble with your plumbing, reach out to our friendly team!
1. Hard Food Items/Non-Foods
Your garbage disposal does not have sharp “blades” the way you might picture. The impeller that spins around is relatively dull—it’s the grinding of food against a platform that really breaks things down. That’s why hard food items will not break up properly (and they’ll clog your drains anyway).
These should never go into the disposal. Basically, if you couldn’t chew it easily with your own teeth, it doesn’t belong in the disposal. Hard food items include any of the following, and more.
- Fruit pits
- Meat bones
- Popcorn kernels
Of course, plastic wrappers and paper products don’t belong in the disposal either. This may be obvious to you, but be sure to remind kids in the home of this fact often.
2. Stringy/Fibrous Foods
Fibrous, or stringy, foods can wrap around the impeller of the disposal, which can jam the mechanism. These foods may seem relatively harmless, but can do quite a bit of damage.
- Onion skins
- Potato peelings
After it becomes a habit, it’s easy to assess whether something belongs in the garbage can or the disposal. If you feel you must put celery or asparagus into the kitchen sink drain, be sure to cut it up into small pieces first. This is explained in greater detail below.
3. Large Portions
Large helpings of leftovers shoveled into the drain at the same time can create a major problem for your disposal motor. It can quickly become overworked. If this happens, try resetting the disposal with the button underneath the sink. However, this can cause a lot of damage, so it’s better to use the disposal for small bits of leftover food, or else to spoon leftovers in slowly.
4. Items that Can Clog Your Pipes
When you have a garbage disposal that is powerful, you forget that some food items, while they can be broken up, are bad for your pipes. You may not realize that some of these things are damaging your drains:
- Fats, Oils, Grease: These items solidify when they cool and coat the drainpipes, and are some of the biggest reasons for clogged drains.
- Pasta and Rice: Because they expand in water, pasta and rice are often the culprits for sudden drain clogging, even when broken up by the disposal.
- Coffee Grounds: Any plumber can tell you about how coffee grounds clump together in the pipes and form blockage. We have all seen this many times before!
So, yes, the disposal can handle breaking these things up. That doesn’t mean they are safe to put in there!