Owning Garbage Disposal

What Can I Throw in the Garbage Disposal?

As the name suggests, a garbage disposal is for getting rid of – wait for it – garbage. While that might seem obvious, what’s not as clear is what kind of garbage? You see, not all garbage is created equally and while some items are well-suited for the garbage disposal, other items are not. Before we discuss that, however, let’s take a closer look at what a garbage disposal is and what it actually does.

How a Garbage Disposal Works

A garbage disposal is an electrically powered device that is installed under a kitchen sink and sits between the sink’s drain and the drain trap. When food and other debris goes down into the garbage disposal, it passes through a shredder (some people refer to the teeth of the shredder as blades) that work to grind the food up in pieces that are small enough to continue down the drain and pass through the house’s plumbing system.

Most garbage disposals last around 10 to 12 years, depending on how well you take care of it and more importantly, what you put in it. If you abuse your garbage disposal by repeatedly sending items down into it that you shouldn’t, you not only won’t get as much lifetime use out of it, but you may cause some plumbing issues as well.

Items You Can Throw in the Garbage Disposal

Citrus rinds: It may surprise you to learn that throwing the rinds of oranges and other citrus fruits into your garbage disposal are actually good for it. They not only help to naturally clean your disposal, they also leave it smelling nice and fresh.

Coffee grounds: There are some mixed answers on this one, but we’re okay with you putting small amounts of coffee grounds down your drain. Just don’t put a large amount, however, because it can collect in the pipes and create a clog or backup. This is actually because of the oil that is found in the coffee grounds.

Cooked meat scraps: Leftover meat scraps from dinner are fine to put in the garbage disposal when you’re clearing off the dinnerplates. Once again, no large amounts though or big chunks.

Most fruits and vegetables: Almost all fruits are okay to toss in the garbage disposal and most vegetables are as well. There are a few exceptions to this, which will discuss below.

Small bones: Bones are rather hard on a garbage disposal and we would prefer that you throw them away rather than send them down into the garbage disposal. That being said, if you do happen to drop a small bone down into the garbage disposal, it’s usually no big deal and should grind up without causing any problems.

Wet (canned) cat/dog food: It’s usually not a problem in our house, but if your cat or dog leaves uneaten canned food in their bowl, it’s perfectly find to dump it down the garbage disposal.

Items You Should Not Throw into the Garbage Disposal

Artichokes: The leaves of an artichoke are super tough and can easily get caught in the teeth of the shredder.

Asparagus: One of several fibrous materials that are known to cause jamming problems and can shorten the lifespan of your garbage disposal.

Banana peels: While a banana can pass through a garbage disposal with no problem, a banana peel is super fibrous and can wrap around the grinding teeth causing it to jam.

Corn husks: Another fibrous material that can cause jamming problems, plus they cause your garbage disposal to have to work really hard.

Egg shells: This is another one of those items that people disagree on. While some people think that it helps to sharpen the teeth of the grinder others believe they cause more harm than good. We like to err on the safe side and say that you should just toss them or use them in your compost pile.

Fruit Pits: Think of them like tiny rocks. Best just to throw in the garbage, or better yet, compost them.

Grease: We don’t want you to pour grease or anything else that is super fatty down your drain ever – even if you don’t have a garbage disposal. All grease does is congeal and once it does, it creates a big gooey mess that over time will clog your pipes. If you pour it down into your garbage disposal, it will make the problem worse because all that grease will be coating the grinding chamber and the teeth of the shredder.

Large bones: This will really wear out your garbage disposal in a hurry. Don’t do it.

Nuts: Think about how peanut butter is made. It’s a lot like that only the peanut butter you create will be sticking to the shredder in your garbage disposal, making one big mess.

Onion skins: Just no.

Pasta and rice: You would think that since pasta and rice are so soft, what could possibly be the harm. The problem is that even when they are shredded into smaller pieces pasta and rice will expand. They also become a sticky substance and that can clog your drain.

Potato Peels: They may make it through your garbage disposal okay, but they are really starchy and not good for the drain. Best to toss them or work them into your compost pile.

Shrimp shells: Not only are they hard on the garbage disposal, shrimp shells can leave behind an unpleasant scent that lingers. Trust us on this

Garbage disposal unit

A garbage disposal unit (also known as a waste disposal unit, garbage disposer, garburator etc.) is a device, usually electrically powered, installed under a kitchen sink between the sink’s drain and the trap


The garbage disposal unit was invented in 1927 by John W. Hammes, an architect working in Racine, Wisconsin. He applied for a patent in 1933 that was issued in 1935. His InSinkErator company put his disposer on the market in 1940

In many cities in the United States in the 1930s and the 1940s, the municipal sewage system had regulations prohibiting placing food waste (garbage) into the system. InSinkErator spent considerable effort, and was highly successful in convincing many localities to rescind these prohibitions


In the United States, some 50% of homes had disposal units as of 2009, compared with only 6% in the United Kingdom and 3% in Canada. In Sweden, some municipalities encourage the installation of disposers so as to increase the production of biogas. Some local authorities in Britain subsidize the purchase of garbage disposal units in order to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.


Food scraps range from 10% to 20% of household waste, and are a problematic component of municipal waste, creating public health, sanitation and environmental problems at each step, beginning with internal storage and followed by truck-based collection. Burned in waste-to-energy facilities, the high water-content of food scraps means that their heating and burning consumes more energy than it generates; buried in landfills, food scraps decompose and generate methane gas, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.


Garbage disposals were invented for a reason: they’re a quick and easy way to clean up the kitchen and dispose of excess materials. Most garbage disposals, however have limits on what they can and cannot dispose of. When it comes to your sink, prevention is the best medicine, and adopting good habits is the best way to keep your sink clean and disposal functioning. Next time you’re cleaning your kitchen, think twice before putting these things down the garbage disposal.

Coffee Grounds

Disposing of your coffee grounds in your garbage disposal should be avoided. While it seems like a quick solution to throw them down the drain, coffee grounds can get stuck in your garbage disposal and cause a costly backup. One pot of coffee per morning down your disposal can cause a back up quickly. To avoid fighting with your sink and annoying backups, compost or throw away your coffee grounds.

Celerey, asparagus, corn husks and the likes

While some vegetables can go down your garbage disposal no problem, others can back it up and cause sizable problems. Vegetables that have long fibers such as celery, asparagus and corn husks all fall into this category. These fibers can get tied up in the blades of your garbage disposal, so throwing them away, or even better composting them, is the best solution.

Egg Shells

When you make your morning omelette, don’t make it a habit to throw your eggshells in the garbage disposal. The inner membrane within egg shells can get wrapped up in the blades of your disposal making it dull and stuck. Enjoy your eggs, but if you don’t like clogs, keep them out of your disposal.

Rice and Pasta

While ideal for stir fries, spaghetti, curry, and more, rice and pasta should be kept out of your garbage disposal. Because both foods expand in water, they can increase in size in your disposal. This causes a gross gooey mess in your sink and can cause your drain. Rather than spending your evening fighting with your sink, enjoy your Chicken Tikka Masala but don’t put the leftover rice down the disposal.

Do’ and Don’ts for Your Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are an appliance that provides many conveniences to our kitchen. What do you do with that week old, leftover pasta sauce or soup that you found in the back of your fridge? It’s easy to dump liquid foods down the sink just to get rid of it quickly. Unfortunately, improper use of your garbage disposal can often lead to ugly problems. By following a few simple rules you can avoid these problems, like unwanted odors or the garbage disposal not draining properly in your apartment. Here are our do’s and don’ts for your garbage disposal.

The basics

While your specific garbage disposal may be able to grind and dispose of more than just liquid food, it doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. Most cities’ plumbing systems are not built to handle large amounts of food waste. There are some things that should never be put down any garbage disposal because you will run the risk of clogging pipes or other future garbage disposal problems. Proper use and regular cleaning will keep your garbage disposal in working order and keep the plumbing pipes clear and grease-free.


Put a slice of citrus fruit down the drain and run the disposal with the water running to eliminate odors. Try a quarter of a lemon, lime or grapefruit—make sure to include the peel.

Use your disposal in moderation. It’s designed for breaking up small food particles, not large amounts of food.

Always run cold water before, during and after use.

Check the drain for fallen items like spoons, bottle caps and other small things before running the disposal. If you find something, use tongs to extract it out of the drain.

Contact your apartment‘s maintenance team if any issues arise.


Don’t put your hand in the garbage disposal to retrieve fall items.

Don’t pour grease or fat from food down the disposal.

Don’t grind anything other than food scraps.

Don’t put coffee grounds, egg shells or potato peels down the disposal.

Don’t run hot water through your disposal as it can cause clogs.


Cleaning your garbage disposal is probably not something you think of when cleaning your apartment, but it should be! Luckily, there is nothing special that you need to buy to keep your disposal clean—you can use natural, everyday items that you probably already own. Here are a few easy ways to clean your garbage disposal.


The dispatch line rang and our customer service representative answered, ready to help with any plumbing-related issue. “I need to get an octopus out of the drain,” a voice muttered.

“Okay, we’ll be happy to help,” the representative cheerfully responded and promptly sent a plumbing tech to wrangle the animal and inspect the disposal for damage. is an ocean-lover’s paradise and while that fresh, live octopus will make an amazing calamari dish – the octopus might not agree with your plans.

Garbage Disposer Don’ts

Once upon a time, our grandparents lived without garbage disposals. This is probably more shocking to some than an octopus in the drain.

However, there are some items that should never go down the garbage disposal.

Grease and fats: Often the problem with grease, fats and cooking oil is that they create problems further down the waste disposal system. They solidify, making sludge and create clogs. Do not send grease and other fats down the drain, not even with hot water/soap.

Bones and Fruit Pits: This should be common sense, but it is a frequently seen problem for plumbing service appointments where garbage disposals fail. They can damage the blades or just don’t ever get broken down, creating a mass of items to block the sink drain.

Rice, Pasta and Coffee Grounds: This is one that isn’t as much common sense as others. You might see these “digestible or dissolvable” items. But, what happens in the garbage disposal is detrimental to the appliance. As these mix with water and other foods, it becomes sludge that can jam the blades, slowing or limiting rotation.

Celery, Carrot or Potato Peels: Celery has very long and strong fibers throughout the stalk that can tangle in the motor of the blades. Asparagus and corn husks provide the same risk. The same for carrot or potato peels.

Egg Shells, Shellfish and Fish Scales: There is some debate as to whether egg shells are bad for the garbage disposal, with some people saying there is no harm and the grinding of the shells actually helps sharpen blades. There are other ways to sharpen the blades without having slimy linings potentially stick and clog the shredder.

Do’s for Garbage Disposal Health

Dishwasher Use: Dinner clean up is much easier with a dishwasher. Make sure the dishwasher hookup properly drains into the sink and don’t just let the waste flow down the sink drain. Rinse plates before you put them in the dishwasher to make sure excess food and taboo junk doesn’t make it down the drain (or jam the dishwasher).

Cold Water: Use cool or cold water when running the kitchen faucet and garbage disposal to make sure any grease on plates and dishes isn’t liquefied. You don’t want it to later become a solid deep down in the pipeline of your plumbing and drain system.

Waste Trap: Use a mesh drain strainer that you can buy at your favorite Point Loma, Mission Hills, or and other local San Diego housewares store to collect food, skins, peels, and bones before they go down the drain. Then, throw them out.

Clean the System: Use a homemade drain cleaning solution to help reduce grime, much and sludge build up. A quick DIY utilizes baking soda, vinegar, and lemon to break down sludge and deodorize the appliance. Some folks will actually mix ice cube with the lemon and vinegar to help sharpen blades while cleaning.

Stop and Clear: If you find an octopus or anything else that is the core problem for your sink drain and garbage disposal problem, turn it off, unplug it and work to remove whatever it is that’s blocking or clogging the system. If this isn’t something you are comfortable with, make an appointment with your local plumbing service.