Ask a Plumber Blog: Guidance from a Master Plumber

What Can You 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

food items shown of what not to throw in garbage disposal plumbing problems trinity plumbing

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.

Now that you know how a garbage disposal works, it’s easier to understand why some items are better suited for going into the garbage disposal while other items are not.

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.

When to Call Trinity Plumbing

We want you to know that if you’re having a problem with your garbage disposal you can call us. Whether your garbage disposal has quit working or is just making some really odd noises, our experienced team will troubleshoot the problem and get your disposal up and running again in no time.

Contact Trinity Plumbing to schedule service for your garbage disposal.

Other helpful information when it comes to your garbage disposal:

Why Do Garbage Disposals Stop Working?

Do I need a kitchen sink strainer?

Helpful maintenance plumbing tips for your kitchen (sinks, garbage disposal, dishwasher, faucets)

Picture of Robert (Master Plumber)

Robert (Master Plumber)

Owner of Trinity Plumbing, LLC
Residential & Commercial Plumbing

Serving: Acworth, Dallas, Kennesaw, Marietta, Smyrna, & surrounding Metro Atlanta areas

Full Bio & All Author Posts
Picture of Robert (Master Plumber)

Robert (Master Plumber)

Owner of Trinity Plumbing, LLC
Residential & Commercial Plumbing

Serving: Acworth, Dallas, Kennesaw, Marietta, Smyrna, & surrounding Metro Atlanta areas

Full Bio & All Author Posts