Expensive Mistakes: 4 Things Not to Put in Your Garbage Disposal

Expensive Mistakes: 4 Things Not to Put in Your Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are the little unsung heroes of our kitchen sinks. They grind up all the things we throw down them, leaving behind a clean and scrap-free area.

However, many people take some liberties with their garbage disposal. They throw anything and everything down there—bones, hard food, coffee grounds, you name it—clogging the drain, breaking the blades.

If your garbage disposal breaks down, not only will you have to pay to repair or replace it, but you’ll have to deal with the aggravation of not using it for some time. Perhaps you’ll have to place a little screen in there and—oh, the horror!—clean the filter by hand.

While you can find a disposal for about $70, experts recommend not paying less than $250. After all, you get what you pay for. And of course, you also have to add labor costs to that, which can range depending on the plumbing services you hire.

So, why not skip the hassle and the costs? In this list, we cover four big no-nos when it comes to putting things down your garbage disposal.

1. Keep Starches Away

Anything starchy should stay out of your garbage disposal at all costs. Starch becomes a thick clog of what’s essentially glue. This buildup causes the blades to not work correctly, as they’re congealed with the starches.

Starchy food includes things like:

  • Potatoes (including sweet potatoes and potato peels)
  • Corn
  • Chickpeas
  • Squash
  • Peas

If your dinner menu consists of any type of starch, be mindful of placing any scraps in the trashcan. While you may not notice any issue with your garbage disposal right away, the starchy paste will build up over time. 

2. Avoid Any Oil, Grease, or Fat

Any cooks in the kitchen know that grease is a pesky one. It’s hard to dispose of—but that doesn’t mean you should take the “easy” way out and pour grease, fat, or oil down the drain.

It’s not just the grease alone that’s bad, but what it combines with while in your plumbing. Fat, grease, and oil mixed with other chemicals in the sewer, together form “nasty conglomerations” that ultimately build up and clog or block the pipes.

What these pipes should be doing is taking dirty water to the wastewater plant. 

This blockage forms a significant problem, not only for you as a homeowner, but for the entire industry. About 47% of the 36,000 sewer overflows that happen in the US every year are a result of these fat and oil buildups. That’s an astounding number!

Unless you want the sewer coming out of your kitchen sink, avoid putting any of these things down your drain. Instead, let grease cool and then put it in the trashcan. 

3. Nothing Stringy or Fibrous 

Just like starches, stringy or fibrous foods can mess with the function of your disposal’s blades.

Examples include foods like pineapples, corn, asparagus, celery, and anything else that has stringy qualities.

These foods ultimately tangle around the disposal’s blades and cause them to stop functioning correctly. Of course, this leads to other types of buildup, too. 

4. Eggshells Are Not Your Disposal’s Friend

There’s a myth that eggshells can sharpen the blades of your disposal. Notice the word myth there—the edges of your disposal are actually fairly blunt and don’t need sharpening.

Instead, the egg membrane, like fibrous foods, tangles around the disposal’s blades and causes their functionality to go down.

Tips for Using Your Garbage Disposal Smartly

Now that you know a few essential items to avoid, we’ll cover some garbage disposal maintenance tips, so yours stays in tip-top shape.

First, if you’re having a question about putting something down the drain, don’t. Always lean on the side of caution. Because, while you may not notice a problem immediately, you could be starting a buildup of something that reveals itself as an issue later.

Also, like a boat or an RV, you need to run your disposal every few days to keep it “fresh.” Even if you have nothing to grind, run cold water and the disposal anyway. Not only can this get rid of any scraps that were left behind previously, but it keeps the blades from rusting due to lack of use.

Most importantly, if you need to clean or repair your disposal, cut its power. For obvious reasons, this is not the place to make a mistake and get the blades started while you’re working on it. Power the disposal down at its source, the circuit breaker.

If you notice clogging, avoid using bleach or harsh cleaners to solve the problem. These chemicals can erode the appliance over time (and also be dangerous for you if there’s any splash-back).

Lastly, if you smell something foul or unusual coming from your garbage disposal, you can use warm (read: not hot) water and citrus to spruce up the odor. Lemons are high in citric acid, which also has anti-bacterial. Additionally, lemon peels are a natural way to scrub the blades, cleaning them, and removing any residue.

Get Rid of Your Garbage—The Right Way

As you can see, the best garbage disposal practices are relatively easy to remember. Your garbage disposal is not a one-stop-shop for all your kitchen leftovers. Keep the chicken wings out of there and put them where they belong—in the actual trash can!

Of course, if all else fails, and you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. That’s where we at Millwood Plumbing come in. We’d be happy to take a look at any plumbing issues you’re having, and either repair or replace.

Contact us today for reliable, informed, and friendly services!

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