How to Protect Your Garbage Disposal Unit

A garbage disposal is a hard working appliance, it makes our lives easier because we can dispose of food scraps without clogging the sink by flipping a switch. Unfortunately, some people don’t use their garbage disposal correctly and they treat the unit like a garbage can. This can cause plumbing problems that require the intervention of a professional plumber to fix. Prevention is better than the cure and with small changes, you can protect your garbage disposal unit and keep it working efficiently for longer.

What Can be Placed in a Garbage Disposal?

Before we look at what you shouldn’t place in the garbage disposal, let’s take a look at what it’s designed to handle. The unit is designed to handle biodegradable foods and most soft or liquid food waste falls into this category. You can place vegetable scraps, cooked meat scraps, fruit peels, and citrus rinds in the garbage disposal. But, if the food scraps are large it’s a great idea to chop them into smaller pieces to avoid straining the unit. Many people believe that a garbage disposal has blades that chop up the food waste. This is incorrect, the unit has a complex grinding system to deal with the waste. Inside the unit, there is a disc that spins quickly and this forces the waste against the grinding chamber wall. This interaction pulverizes the food waste into small bits that can be easier to handle. At this point, the cold water should be run to wash the ground food waste into the grinder chamber holes and then out into the drain.

6 Food Items That Should Not be Placed in the Garbage Disposal

Now that we understand what a garbage disposal is designed to handle, let’s take a look at six food items that should not be placed in the unit. They are:

1.   Cooking Oils, Fats, and Grease

Many people pour waste oil down the drain and then run the garbage disposal to grind food particles that may be suspended in the liquid. This is a bad idea, these food substances are thick and sticky and they tend to coat the inner surfaces of pipes. Although you may pour warm or cooled oil in the drain, it will harden inside the pipes. This forms a sticky surface that other materials will adhere to and this is how drain clogs form. A better form of disposal is to let the fats, oils, and grease cool and place them in a sealed container. Freeze the container and you can place the waste in the garbage can. If you have a nearby recycling area that can handle fats and oils, you can take them there instead.

2.   Coffee Grounds

Approximately 60% of people drink coffee in various quantities on a daily basis. But, making coffee can be a messy process and what can you do with the remaining coffee grounds? Some people throw them in the sink, run the disposal and go on with their day. This is a bad idea, plumbers agree that coffee grounds are one of the prominent causes of clogged drains. Coffee grounds are attracted to grease and when these materials are combined they form a texture like mud. This sticky material is very likely to cause a clog and coffee grounds should be placed in the trash or composted.

3.   Eggshells

Placing eggshells in the garbage disposal is a bad idea for a couple of good reasons. First, ground eggshells tend to build up on the inner surfaces of pipes which can contribute to the formation of drain clogs. Second, the inner elastic membrane of eggs is sticking, it can stick to the grinding mechanism and this reduces the efficiency of the unit. Some people believe that placing eggshells in the unit will “sharpen the blades” but as we learned earlier a garbage disposal has no blades. Eggshells should be placed in the trash or they can be composted to create your own fertilizer.

4.   Corn Husks

These are fibrous peelings that can wrap around the garbage disposal disc which may prevent them from spinning efficiently. This action is essential to grind food particles and if the disc performance is compromised the unit will not work as intended. Corn husks and other fibrous veggie and fruit peels, such as banana, celery, rhubarb, and asparagus, should be placed in the garbage can.

5.   Seafood Shells and Small Bones

Many people misuse their garbage disposal because they have a fundamental misunderstanding of what they are designed to handle. There is an incorrect assumption that a garbage disposal unit can grind bones and seashells. When these items are placed in the garbage disposal they simply spin and rattle in the grinding chamber. Even smaller bones are simply too tough for the unit to grin and they can even ruin the appliance. If they pass through the unit, they pass partially into the pipes where they can create blockages and/or contribute to drain clogs. Seafood shells and bones should be placed in the trash for disposal and kept out of the garbage disposal.

6.   Rice and Beans

When rice and beans are placed in the garbage disposal they create a thick and starchy substance that can cause drain clogs. This is a sticky material that other things can adhere to and it forms a clog that’s tough to remove. A few stray grains of rice or a bean here and there will not be a significant problem. But, any more than 2 tablespoons of rice and/or beans is enough to create a clog. This food waste should be placed in the trash can to protect the garbage disposal.

In Conclusion

It makes sense to protect appliances because we rely on them on a daily basis and they can be expensive to repair or replace. Some other foods to avoid placing in the garbage disposal unit, include fruit pits, non-food items, peanut butter, and onion skins. If you have a problem with your garbage disposal, contact your local professional to repair the unit safely.