A garbage disposal is a handy gadget that is installed in your kitchen sink, between the drain and the trap. It has a few other names, such as: a garburator, garbage disposer, waste disposal, etc., but it serves the same purpose no matter what you call it.
What is a garbage disposal?
A garbage disposal shreds food waste into small pieces in order to prevent clogged pipes. Shredded food bits go down the drain into your city’s sewer system, eventually getting treated at the water plant. Using your garbage disposal helps to reduce the food waste that ends up in landfills. While this isn’t a bad alternative, if you have the option of composting, we suggest throwing your food waste in your compost bin instead – it‘s a complex process for your city to treat the food waste that goes down the garbage disposal. It’s likely more cost-effective for your city to manage their compost bin program than to filter the waste that goes through the sewer system. Both are good options, though, so don’t worry about using your garbage disposal if you have one!
- Run your garbage disposal frequently to keep the blades from rusting.
- Always run your disposal with cold water to help solidify leftover grease and shred them in the process.
- If your disposal is starting to smell, toss a few cut up lemons with warm water (not hot) to keep it smelling fresh.
A quick disclaimer: all garbage disposals are different. Some may have higher horsepower to be able to grind up tougher food items like fruit pits, bones, corncobs, etc. If you can find out the model of the garbage disposal, you should be able to find guidelines for use online
To be on the safe side, here’s what we recommend you should and should not put in your garbage disposal.
What CAN go down your garbage disposal:
- Citrus Grinds: as mentioned above, it will leave a fresh smell in your kitchen
- Fruit and Vegetable Scraps (with a few exclusion – see below)
- Small Fish Bones
- Leftover Cooked Meat
What CANNOT go down your garbage disposal:
- Eggshells: This is a controversial one. Some say you can, as the eggshells help sharpen the blades. However, we’ve never sharpened a blender with eggshells, so we aren’t convinced that this works – we say toss those shells in the compost!
- Coffee Grounds: Another controversial item. Although coffee grounds do help with odor, they can create major plumbing issues.
- Fruit Pits: It will overwork your garbage disposal – not worth it!
- Big Bones: You can grind the occasional bone, but if it’s wing night, avoid.
- Fish/ Shrimp Scales: Fish and shrimp scales are thin and will pass through the blades and stick onto the side of the pipes, never going down the drain. This will leave your kitchen with a constant fishy smell.
- Grease: There will always be lingering grease in your pipes from your cooked food scrapes. As mentioned above, turn on the cold water to solidify the grease and shred it down.
- Fibrous Fruits and Vegetables: Banana peel, corn husk, asparagus, celery, artichoke, rhubarbs, pumpkin – to name a few. They have long sticky strands that will stick to your pipes and cause clogs.
- Potato Skin: Potato is very starchy and similar to shrimp scales; it will stick onto the pipes rather than going down the drain.
- Rice/ Pasta: Rice and pasta expand when soaked in water. Mix them in a blender and they will turn into mush. Not a good look for your pipes.
- Nuts: Peanut butter is made by grinding peanuts. The garbage disposal is a perfect nut grinder, so imagine peanut butter in your pipes, and you’ll understand why you should avoid this!
- Hard Shells: Similar to fruit pits, they’ll overwork your garbage disposal.
- Non-Food Related Items: If it can’t be composted, it should not go down the garbage disposal. It’s problematic for you and for your city.
Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal
Making sure to turn on your garbage disposal a few times a week will help maintain its health, and proper cleaning will preserve it for years to come.
- Fill the disposal with ice cubes
- Add 1 cup of rock salt or 1 cup of vinegar
- Run it for one minute with the tap water turned on, to remove slime and gunk lingering on the blades
- Lastly, pour 1 cup of vinegar and ½ cup of baking soda to kill any bacteria
If you find your garbage disposal not working as it should be, consider calling an expert from We Love Plumbing to take care of it!