Ahhh, garbage disposals. They’re a little like magic, aren’t they? Toss in your scraps, fire up the motor and with a heartwarming “whirrrrr” they disappear down the drain, never to be heard from again.
There are some things that should never be put in your garbage disposal under any circumstance (and no matter how curious you might be to see what happens). If you’re not sure what those things are – don’t panic. We’ve put together a list of the things you should keep far, far away from your garbage disposal. We also share why throwing them in is a bad idea:
- Drain Cleaner, Bleach & Other Harsh Chemicals
When things get plugged up, it’s tempting to pour liquid plumber or other corrosive chemicals down the disposal to try and get it unstuck. What you may not realize is that the caustic chemicals will deteriorate the seals in the disposal and weaken the metal grinding chamber components, damaging your disposal. (If this has already happened, we’ve got your garbage disposal parts covered!) If your drain system is clogged, you should dismantle the plumbing and clear the drain system with a “snake” or similar tool. While it may be a hassle, it will save you a costly repair down the line.
- Cooking Grease & Fat
Let’s face it – after a greasy breakfast, everybody feels a little bit lazy and NOBODY wants to be the sucker caught having to do all of the dishes. So they usually pour the grease down the drain. Bad idea!
Liquid grease and fat can solidify within the disposal and drain system, clogging them up. This gets even worse when you rinse the grease down with hot water, causing it to congeal. The result? You’ll have to take apart the plumbing and clear it as we described above, a prospect that’s even less enticing after a greasy meal. Always dispose of your grease separately (or reuse it for cooking!) and never, ever pour it down the sink.
- Pasta & Rice
When you add water to pasta and rice, they expand. Logic would dictate, then, that when you cram these things down your drain and keep adding water to the mix, they just keep expanding.
- Extremely Fibrous, Starchy or Stringy Items
Celery, banana peels, lettuce, artichokes, corn husks, potato peels, pineapple crowns and other fibrous or starchy items are all strict no-nos when it comes to your garbage disposal – as are butcher’s string or plastic ties.
These items have a nasty habit of “balling up” and can create a drainage issue or clog the disposal chopper chamber. If that wasn’t bad enough, they can also dislodge the seals and create leakage problems, which is about as fun to deal with as a root canal.
Instead of pitching ‘em, channel your inner Captain Planet and start up a compost. Mother Earth will thank you.
- Egg Shells
Like a Kardashian marriage, egg shells aren’t that tough to break up – but that’s not the problem when it comes to your garbage disposal. There’s a tiny membrane inside of the eggshell that can stick itself to the blades and grinding components of your disposal, a mess that will gum up the machinery and create problems over time.
- Coffee Grounds
When you’ve finished your morning cup(s) of Joe and you’re riding a caffeine buzz, it’s tempting to pitch those grounds right down the disposal like a linebacker spiking a Super Bowl touchdown. It seems innocuous enough, but it’s not a great plan as these have a tendency to get caught in your garbage disposal’s trap. Throw them out, our add them to a compost heap.
- Things That Aren’t Food
If it sounds obvious, this is one of those situations where common sense just isn’t as common as it should be. While it might be fun to imagine what your garbage disposal would do your ex’s favorite shirt, a beer bottle (where the idea to try grinding up your ex’s favorite shirt probably came from) or a handful of marbles, garbage disposals weren’t designed to accommodate these materials.
No glass, plastics (including plastic bags and bread tags), balloons, Styrofoam, utensils, metal bits, cigarette butts – or even paper – should ever grace the inside of your disposal. The hard materials will damage the components of the disposal, while other items can get caught in your drain.
Your disposal is not a garbage. Keep in your mind that everything you put down the drain ends up somewhere, too – those items don’t belong in your septic tank or water supply.
- Your Fingers, Hand, or Any Other Appendage
If you need us to spell this out for you, you probably need more help than we can give. Needless to say, putting any part of your body anywhere near blades designed to crush and mangle anything that they encounter isn’t something you should consider. JUST NO!
And no matter what you’re putting in, don’t put too much at once. Feed your disposal small meals, and it will chew through them effortlessly. Cram an entire ham down there, and you’re in for an evening of cleanup.
Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips
Alright – so you know what not to put down there, but how can you keep your disposal running well? Here’s a few tips from our expert appliance repair technicians:
- If your disposal is stinking up the joint, quarter a small citrus fruit (first remove the fibrous peel) and install it into the disposal. Put on the stopper and run the disposal for a few seconds to grind up the fruit – then let it sit for a minute or two. Finally, flush the disposal and drain system with cold water. This helps to get rid of those nasty odors left over from fish Friday.
- Certain types of hard articles such as small bones (fish bones, small chicken bones, etc.), fruit pits and ice cubes can be put into the disposal and can actually help clean it out! The hard objects bouncing around in the chamber create a “scouring” effect and clean the residue from the grinding chamber blades and edges. Just don’t throw anything too large in there.
- Always use cold water when you run your disposal, as this will help to cool the motor and grinding chamber components during operation. When you’re done grinding things up, keep running water for a few seconds to flush out the system and reduce odors.
- Run your disposal regularly to prevent rust, corrosion and any buildup that could clog it up.
Keeping your garbage disposal happy, healthy and grinding like a ravenous Tasmanian devil is as simple as that. If you have any disposal maintenance tips that we haven’t touched on, let us know in the comments! As always, if you need any parts for your garbage disposal, you can depend on us.
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