21.6 percent of the waste found in United States landfills is from food. That is an insane amount of garbage when you consider that about half the homes in this country have garbage disposals.
Then again, how many people actually know what not to put in a garbage disposal?
If the fear of breaking your disposal or clogging your pipes keeps you from using this convenient appliance, then this article is for you. Read on to learn more!
WHAT NOT TO PUT IN A GARBAGE DISPOSAL
What follows may not be a complete list of the items to avoid putting in your garbage disposal, but it is a list of some of the most common.
Additionally, we did our best to describe what characteristics these things have that make them a bad idea to put in your disposal chamber. This should make it easier for you when trying to decide whether to grind it or trash it.
BONES AND FRUIT PITS
Most garbage disposals run off of 1/2 horsepower or 3/4 horsepower. Lower range models sometimes run on a 1/3 horsepower but are weak and jam easier than other models. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the beastly one horsepower garbage disposals.
Let’s take a second and put this into perspective.
The electrical equivalent of one horsepower is 746 watts. That’s a little more than it would take to power 12 standard 60-watt lightbulbs. Anything less than that might grind up bones and fruit pits, but not before it destroys your disposal.
CELERY, PUMPKIN AND OTHER FIBROUS VEGETABLES
Everyone has done it. You’re vacuuming a rug that is starting to unravel and the loose strings get wrapped around the roller. Your vacuum starts smoking and it smells awful. Heck if the motor overheats bad enough, it might even be time for a new vacuum.
When you put fibrous veggies like celery, pumpkin, and rhubarb in your garbage disposal, you might wind up with a similar problem.
These vegetables have strong, string-like strands in them that can wrap around the garbage disposal blades and cause them to jam. You should also avoid putting corn husks in your garbage disposal for the same reason.
NUTS AND COFFEE GROUNDS
You make peanut butter by grinding nuts into a thick, gooey paste. When you eat it, the butter clings to the roof of your mouth and everything else it touches.
Your garbage disposal is little more than a giant grinder perfect for turning nuts into peanut butter. This homemade butter then gets stuck to the inside of your garbage disposal and drains.
The issue is further compounded when you start putting other things down your garbage disposal. Instead of getting ground up and drained away, the food particles stick to the goo. What you left with is one huge mess that will eventually back up your pipes or damage your disposal.
Coffee grounds create a similar mess and should also be avoided.
GREASE, OIL, AND FAT
Everyone knows someone who has had a clogged artery. Often this is caused by years of eating oily, fat-laden foods.
In a very basic way, plumbing pipes are a lot like the veins in our body. The same ones that get clogged with that sludgy mess from the unhealthy foods we eat.
Like a clogged artery, it may take a while before you ever realize there is a problem. But if you keep pouring stuff like that down your drains, it will come back to haunt you. When it does, you may be in for some costly repairs.
EGG SHELLS AND ONION SKINS
Has anyone ever told you that eggshells sharpen your garbage disposal blades? This is a common myth that has gotten some homeowners into a bit of trouble.
The next time you crack open an egg, take a closer look at the inner shell. That thin membrane is our problem child in this particular instance.
That thin skin gets stuck to the inner workings of your disposal and wrapped around its moving parts. This is similar to what happens with the fibers from stringy vegetables and the results are much the same.
It is important to note that onions have a similar membrane under their dry, outer most layers. As long as you chop it up, you shouldn’t have any problems with the rest of the onion, but it is best to throw the filmy skin in the trash.
PASTA, OATMEAL, AND RICE
Foods that expand in water like pasta, oatmeal, and rice are unlikely to hurt your garbage disposal because the particles are so tiny, they often bypass the appliance and go straight down the drain.
Once these foods are in your plumbing network that is when they tend to start causing problems. Not only do they continue to absorb water and grow, but they also become sticky when wet.
This causes the food to stick to the inside of your drains and everything else that it touches.
POTATOES AND BEANS
Starchy vegetables like potatoes and beans form a thick sludgy paste when ground up. This paste can gum up the blades in your disposal and cause them to stick.
If it makes it past the disposal and into your drains, then it could also cause your pipes to clog.
The biggest problem tends to come from the potato peels and bean hulls, but it is best to avoid grinding them in your disposal altogether.
HELP! MY GARBAGE DISPOSAL IS ALREADY JAMMED!
If you have already put something in your garbage disposal that doesn’t belong there, it’s okay. These things happen. Here’s what to do.
- Cut off the power to your garbage disposal and grab a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull out anything stuck in the chamber. Never put your hands in the disposal.
- Use a flashlight to check the disposal for solid objects like bottle caps or silverware.
- Put a half-cup of rock salt and 12 or so ice cubes into the garbage disposal. Return power to the appliance and turn it on for about one minute. This should be long enough for most of the gunk to get knocked off the blades.
- Combine one-half cup each of vinegar and baking soda and pour it down the disposal-side drain. Let the mixture fizz for about 15 minutes before rinsing with cold water.
CLEANING MY GARBAGE DISPOSAL DIDN’T FIX MY PROBLEM — WHAT’S NEXT?
If your garbage disposal still doesn’t work properly after going through the previous steps, you may need the help of a professional.
Stallion Plumbing is a full-service plumbing company in Salt Lake City, Utah that offers the best services at the best rates. We even offer drain cleaning to keep your plumbing in top working order.
No matter what service we provide to you, we will not settle for anything less than total customer satisfaction. Our goal is to make you a customer for life so if you are experiencing plumbing issues, contact us today!
If you know of any items we missed that should be added to our list of what not to put in a garbage disposal, use the comments to let us know!