If you’re lucky enough to have one, a garbage disposal can truly be thought of as your dishwashing assistant. It grinds hard for you, shredding up and disposing of the food that you didn’t have room for (or that the picky eaters in your life rearranged on their plates). And while hardworking, there are some foods and other items, though, that your disposal simply can’t digest and you should make sure to never pour down the drain.
So, we asked plumbing experts to shed some light and tell us which foods and other food-related items that make their way into our sinks should never, ever go down the drain.
There’s a chance you might’ve heard the rumor that eggshells are good for disposals because they help sharpen the blades. Not true! For starters, the membrane layers of the eggshells can wrap around the shredder ring, which then damages the disposal, explains Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company. Plus, James explains, the sand-like consistency of ground-up eggshells spell disaster for your pipes and can cause a clog. As for sharpening your blades? A few ice cubes every now and again can do the trick!
Mean, green, and will break your machine, asparagus should definitely stay out of your garbage disposal, James says. That’s because it’s a fibrous veggie and its strands can wrap around the disposal blades, he explains. Worst-case scenario, it can damage your garbage disposal’s motor. Your best bet is to toss uneaten asparagus in the trash rather than trying to push it down the sink.
Celery is the wingman to your Buffalo wings; the sidekick to your Bloody Mary. But, much like asparagus, celery’s strings can get wrapped around disposal blades and cause problems, according to James. Corn husks, artichokes, and carrots are also notorious for causing the same type of problems as celery and asparagus.
Did you know that plumbers refer to the day after Thanksgiving as “Brown Friday” because of all the plumbing calls they receive? Grease from gravy may be largely to blame for these SOS calls. Grease, whether it’s from the pan you fried your bacon in or the skillet you made ground beef in, should never go down the drain, James says. Grease may be in its liquid form while it’s hot, but if you send it down the drain, James says, it can turn into a fatty glob. It can also build up on the walls of your drain. Ick! A better strategy is to pour it into an old can or jar, like a spaghetti sauce jar, and then toss it in the trash, he says. Pro tip: Chunks of lemons down the drain can act as a natural degreaser, James points out.
Items like peach pits and apple cores are too hard and can damage your garbage disposal blades, warns Eric Lavoie, a senior plumber with Reliance Holmes. Over time, hard items like pits and cores can reduce the efficiency of your blades, and they can also make their way into the plumbing system, causing clogs. And, Lavoie says, it’s possible you’ll then need to replace your pipes.
Already, coffee grounds are itty-bitty, so your garbage disposal can’t grind them up anymore. When they get dumped in your unit, though, they can fall below the shredders and over time form a sludge that will clog up your drain, James says. We’re not sure who needs to hear this, but you probably shouldn’t eat your coffee grounds, either, as it can raise your cholesterol, according to experts at the University of California, Berkeley. Your best bet? Toss those coffee grounds or compost them.
Non-food items like twist ties, rubber bands, and toothpicks are known to sneak down the drain and into the garbage disposal, but this kind of debris can dull your blade, jam up your disposal, or potentially cause clogs, points out Keith Dees, the owner of Smart Choice Plumbing in Fremont, California.
If you’ve got a little extra flour that’s spilled out on the counter while you’re baking, it may be tempting to just brush it into your sink and let it wash away. However, as soon as the water comes into contact with flour, it forms a pasty substance which can immediately clog your drain. It can also act as a trap, picking up other food particles, and therefore compounding the problem.
Pasta seems innocent enough, right? But once it goes down the drain and starts getting splashed with water, it can expand. If you tossed enough pasta down the drain, it can cause a clog, says Lavoie. Plus, you’ve got double trouble if you have greasy pasta that has made its way down the drain, like a pasta bolognese. Think twice before sending noodles or strands down the drain.
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Just like pasta, rice has the potential to expand when it’s in contact with water, Lavoie explains. It can cause a thick paste to form, clogging up your drain.
Chia seeds are great for weight loss, making a solid addition to your overnight oats. They’re not so great for your garbage disposal. If you’ve ever added chia seeds to your yogurt or a smoothie, you’ve probably noticed them expand. They do the same thing in your garbage disposal, wreaking havoc in the same way that pasta and rice do.
Sure, you wouldn’t toss a rib bone down the garbage disposal and expect the appliance to perform a disappearing act on them. But, James says, people sometimes think it’s A-OK to send small fish or chicken bones down the garbage disposal. But if you do this, they’ll spin around in your garbage disposal unit until they slip past the blades, eventually causing a clog, he says.
Fresh plants and flowers can be a fun way to liven and brighten up your kitchen. But if you’re trimming your plants or pruning your flowers, you’re best off tossing the clippings in the garbage or composting them. They’re too tough on your garbage disposal.
Produce stickers you find on bananas, apples, and other fruits and veggies are a notorious arch nemesis of your garbage disposal. They can stick to the inside of the pipe walls or the blades, preventing these pieces from grinding food, experts at Fantastic Services tell us. Check your produce for stickers, price tags, and other sticky labels and make sure none of them make their way down the drain.
If you’ve got a pesky clog, call a plumber rather than putting harsh chemicals like drain clog removal down your garbage disposal. Because the products are so harsh, they can cause damage to your plumbing pipes. Also, they’re a risk to the environment and pollute waterways, Lavoie says.
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