What Not to Put down a Garbage Disposal

Know what not to send down the disposal in order to keep it running smoothly. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

Know what not to send down the disposal in order to keep it running smoothly. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

The handy kitchen garbage disposal is useful for getting rid of a variety of food scraps and waste that might otherwise create unpleasant smells in the kitchen. However, many foods can actually damage your disposal or render it useless. These tips can help keep your garbage disposal running smoothly.

Fibrous foods

The strings of celery, artichokes, asparagus, lettuce, corn husks, carrots, onion skins and potato peels can wrap around the blades, preventing proper operation of the motor. If you feel you must put fibrous foods into your disposal, do so in very small quantities, and run the cold water before, during and after operating the unit.

Grease, fats and oils

Greasy foods will distribute a film over the blades, diminishing their effectiveness. Eventually, the grease will begin to decay, causing an unpleasant odor in the kitchen. Pouring grease into a garbage disposal can result in clogged drains when the grease solidifies.

Egg shells

Some people claim that egg shells sharpen the blades of the unit, but this is not true. The shells' stringy membrane layers can wrap around the shredder ring, and the shell itself will be ground to a sand-like consistency capable of clogging pipes.

RELATED: How Much Does Drain Cleaning Cost?

Pasta, rice, potatoes and beans  

Even small particles of these foods will swell with water to form a paste-like substance, and eventually clog the trap.

Non-food items

Avoid the example of homeowners who have placed rubber bands, twist ties, cigarette butts, pull tabs, fabric, sponges and plant clippings into their disposal units. These items cannot break down enough to wash down the drain.

The garbage disposal is a sturdy kitchen appliance; however, even the best model cannot handle unsuitable items. If you run into any problems with your unit, you should seek the help of a licensed plumber. Sign in to Angie’s List to read trusted consumer reviews on highly rated plumbers.


So basically you can't use your disposal.

Every once in a while I get some of my auto oil and place in the garbage disposal. I could see the results instantly that the blades are running smoother that before.

Glad I read reviews. They give a much needed perspective

It says "AVOID"

this article + some of the comments = a migrane

Just like dieting -- everything in moderation!

In Japan disposals are forbiden. They know something we don't. I never use mine.

I couldn't disagree with Angie more. I love my disposer. I put all kinds of things down that thing, food, egg shells, bones, old furniture, you name it.

So cold water only. Check! I love that you all suggest compost, and I use to do that. But when you start to have people that live around you that are not, let's say tidy. It becomes a issue with Rodents. I can no longer compost do to the Rat issue in our area. I will NOT bring them closer to my home. And I don’t like tossing it in the trash, as that is just a way to invite them over as well. Guess I will be clogging my pipes, ot taking my trash with me to work everyday. :-(

The guidance certainly depends on the capability/power of the disposal. I have a 3/4 horsepower model that recommends chicken bones to "sharpen" the blades not dull them (I frequently put the remaining carcass of a chicken. Citrus rinds are also recommended to make the disposal smell nice. And the best advice - if there is something that won't grind away, use ice cubes to help the process along.

Why have a garbage disposal at all. Is it just a sink decoration? I have put almost all the foods listed down mine and not had a problem. I'd like to know just what it is that you can put in the garbage disposal.

Debbie's comment was uncalled for, inappropriate, and rude. Remember, Debbie ... if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. You wouldn't want anyone to call you stupid, now would you?

I agree and I never put the named subjects in disposal

There are huge variations in quality and atrength of disposals. I think these prohibitions apply to the lower end of the line, whereas a top-of-the-line dispower (costs a fortune) can handle almost all of them.

Ha! So funny that that this article makes the garbage disposal worthless.

We put everything down the disposal including chicken bones (but not any other bones) and excepting coffee grinds. Also, we premix grease like bacon fat with detergent first. Never a problem SINCE WE INSTALLED A FINE GRING HIGH END DISPOSAL. And yes, we flush with cold water after grinding.

The insinkerator book says not to put icecubes down the disposer to sharpen blades which I have always done, the secret is don't put too much of anything in all at once and you should be ok, limited grease, no bones, and no stringy stuff.

Ok folks! Let's calm down. This article's references must not be plumbers. I am. The main problem with disposers that clog up, bind up, or lock up is not the disposer as much as the user. Always use cold water only. Start it running, turn on disposer and SLOWLY add waste(ie. chick bones, celery, egg shells, rice) into disposer. Once grinding is complete turn off disposer, then water. Follow these steps everytime and you shouldn't have any problems. Disposer with a low horsepower can not do what a high HP can. Anything under a 1/2 HP is worthless. I recommend 3/4 HP unless you run a restaurant, then spring for the commercial duty 1 HP. Your welcome!


I can verify the artichoke leaves...been there, done that, not a good idea.

Uh, OK, so according to this article what can you safely put down the disposal besides cold water?

The caution regarding not putting rice into a garbage disposal is very good advice. My wife once dumped a pot of old cooked rice into ours. The swollen rice clogged all the little holes through which the ground-up stuff has to pass. Removing the rice by hand from the main part of the unit didn't unclog the little holes. The clogged holes prevented the drain from draining, and created a huge backed-up mess in the sink. Due to the way disposals are built, you can't snake them out. It took me over two hectic hours with a plunger to clear the disposal and get the drain flowing again. Old rice goes in the garbage, not the garbage disposal.

You shouldn't be putting anything down a disposal, you should be putting it in a composter! Many municipalities have programs where you can pick up composters at a bargain price, and they take up as little as a 2X2 space outside. Just dump the stuff in and let it break down. All organic matter and most paper can go in the composter, along with grass clippings, waste from the garden etc.

This article misses several ways to prevent problems. For grease or greasy food use hot water to keep it liquid in the cold pipes. Run the hot water for a minute or two then while running the desposer pour in the grease then maintain the hot water for a couple of minutes more to get it flushed all the way out. This works for large quantities of food as well just remember to never dump huge quantities of anything all at once.

I know this isn't for everyone -- especially apartment dwellers -- but I compost raw fruit and vegetable waste along with eggshells and coffee grounds.

Here's an even better idea: Don't have a garbage disposal! Most of what you put down one can be composted, and even if you don't do that, it probably makes better sense ecologically to not use the excessive amounts of water a disposer requires. Some municipalities have been them already.

Coffee grounds are also a no-no.

Beth, The text box is expandable: click-and-hold the "control handle" at the lower-right corner of the box and drag it down and to the right. Voilà!

I agree - why have one if you can't put anything in it?

Please tell me what I can put in the garbage disposal.

Obviously according to this article, you should only put water down your disposal. lol.

I agree with last few... what can you use it for? Seems better not to have one! When I was growing up we did not have one and collected veggie scraps for composting. This seemed less messy then my sink disposal.

Then why have/use a garbage disposal at all?

I love the closing, "The garbage disposal is a sturdy kitchen appliance..." Perhaps we have different definitions of "sturdy" - based on what it CAN'T be used for according to this article, I'd say "sturdy" is a gross misnomer!

And it's really hard to write a coherent sentence in this itty bitty text box!

These are good tips, but I would like to add a motivational note. I had a large pot of chili that was going bad, and I dumped the whole thing in the disposal. When the disposal jammed, I was left with a sink full of mushy, rotting food. As I was scooping the gunk out with my hands I vowed to always remember the consequences of abusing the garbage disposal.

That is funny. The list of things you can put in a disposal might be shorter. I agree that cooking grease and hard bones should not go in a disposal. But in general, if you can eat it, then you can put it in the disposal. Metal, paper, plastic and non food items in general should not go into the disposal. Also, 3 or 4 cups of ice cubes into the disposal is a good way to clean the blades and scrape stuff from the sides. If I used this article as a guide, I would not need the disposal.

I had to laugh when I read this, some people are just stupid.

The company that made my disposer encourages pits and bones to be put down the disposer as it helps sharpen and clean the blades.

in other words---don't use your disposal

The instruction book that came with my insinkerator unit advised to put chicken bones down the disposal to sharpen the blades. I don;t do it often, maybe once or twice a year, but I have never had any issues.

I think this is a little ridiculous. If you can't put most of the foods listed down a garbage disposal, 1) What's the point of having one; 2) It might be easier to list you can put down a garbage disposal. I have put most of the items listed down my garbage disposals, new and old, and never had a problem.

If I can't throw the items you listed above, then why bother getting one!

The instruction booklet that came with my disposal contradicts this article in almost everything. According to this article there's hardly anything that's safe for your wimpy disposal. Pits and stringy celery are no-nos but forget the rest of this article!

So, with all that you can not put into a garbage disposal, what CAN you put in and what's the point of having one?

Does water hurt it too?

Add comment


What is Angie's List?

Angie’s List is the trusted site where more than 3 million households go to get ratings and reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Stop guessing when it comes to hiring! Check Angie’s List to find out who does the best work in town.

Local Discounts

Daily deals up to 70% off popular home improvement projects from top-rated contractors on Angie’s List!