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14 Things Not to Put in a Garbage Disposal & 4 Safer Choices

Peeling potato over Food waste disposer machine

Do you have anything in your garbage disposal that you shouldn’t? If so, trust that you’re not alone. Many people put things like plastic wrap, wax paper, and even whole fruit in their disposal. While these items may sound harmless, they can actually cause problems down the line. Here are 14 things you should never put in your garbage disposal.

In this article we will discuss the following:

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The 14 Things You Should Not Put in a Garbage Disposal

1. Any Household Cleaners

liquid chemical cleaner
Image Credit: LumenSt, Shutterstock

This definitely includes those abrasive ones like bleach, ammonia, and metal cleaners. You should use hand soap, dish soap, and mild cleaners to clean your garbage disposal. However, you should not put harsh cleaners down your drain. These include store-bought drain cleaners that contain harsh chemicals. These chemicals can cause damage to PVC pipes, and some of them can even destroy PVC pipes. You should use a drain snake or a plunger to clear a blockage in your pipes and disposal.

2. Fibrous Veggies

Ambrosia Hybrid Sweet Corn
Image Credit: dmitro2009, Shutterstock

Peels are another no-no for your disposal. The garbage disposal really isn’t meant to be used for the disposal of corn husks, pumpkin flesh, and other stringy veggies. Why? Because these stringy vegetables can easily get wrapped around parts of your disposal, causing it to lock up. However, more often they slip through your disposal’s teeth, causing a blockage in your plumbing.

3. Crustacean Shells

shrimp shells
Image Credit: Eldred Lim, Shutterstock

Seafood shells should not go down your garbage disposal at all – ever. These items are too hard for most garbage disposals, and they can easily become stuck in the disposal or even break it. You don’t want to ruin your evening after a lobster dinner. So be sure to toss your shells in the garbage.

4. Coffee Grounds

Coffee Grounds
Image Credit: martin_hetto, Pixabay

It’s easy to think that the soft nature of coffee grounds makes them easy to simply toss down the drain without any issue. But this is not a good idea. Why? Coffee grounds can easily become a thick, heavy clump of a mess and clog up your drain. Grounds can be heavy and difficult to remove and could block your drainpipe after you have taxed your garbage disposal.

5. Pasta/Starchy Foods

Cooking pasta in a stainless steel cookware
Image Credit: Klaus Nielsen, Pexels

Who hasn’t cooked too many spaghetti noodles on pasta night? It’s so easy to do. But starchy foods like potatoes, bowls of pasta, and rice are the best to throw in the trash. Oatmeal flakes and other starchy foods and grains can absorb water and continue expanding even after they are cooked. A thick, clump of pasta could block your drains and cause problems with your garbage disposal. And when they begin to break down, this can lead to thick mush. The mush can get so thick it can gum up not only your disposal but your pipes as well.

6. Medication

Credit: HeungSoon, Pixabay

Yes, believe it or not, some people actually toss their medications down the garbage disposal. This is a big no-no. While some pharmacies, law enforcement agencies, and doctor offices will accept unwanted medication, others may leave you to your own devices. You can grind the medication to make it useless and then toss it in bags in the trash. Don’t flush them either; flushing the drugs or putting them through the garbage disposal will cause the same problem. The drugs eventually end up in the water supply, which doesn’t help the environment.

7. Nuts

nuts dry ingredients
Image credit: ExplorerBob, Pixabay

Nut butter like peanut, almond, and hazelnut are absolutely delicious – but it won’t be so awesome if it’s caught up in your garbage disposal. This means that you shouldn’t toss nuts down the disposal because they will simply break down and turn into a DIY butter, locking up your disposal and the pipes connecting to it. Remember, peanut butter is simply ground nuts. So, simply toss them in the trash can.

8. Kitchen Trash

Aluminium foil and other metal packaging
Image Credit: Gorloff-KV, Shutterstock

This may seem obvious, but you should never place things in your garbage disposal that aren’t food. This includes any type of trash, aluminum foil, plastic dish covering, or drive-through condiment packets. Garbage disposals can only handle organic material, they’re not meant to replace actual kitchen trash cans. You also shouldn’t toss things like paper towels and plastic grocery bags or any other daily household garbage in your garbage disposal. These and other items can cause expensive repairs.

9. Animal Bones

Chicken bones
Image Credit: achirathep, Pixabay

Animal bones are another thing that you shouldn’t toss down your garbage disposal. Bones, no matter how thin (i.e., fish bones), can get stuck in the disposal and cause it to clog or break. It’s best to either recycle them or throw them in the trash can to avoid expensive repairs down the line.

10. Cooking Oil/Grease

cooking oil
Image Credit: HomeMaker, Pixabay

You should never pour cooking oil or grease down your garbage disposal. Although it may be liquid when it goes down the drain, it can solidify and build up in your pipes. This leads to clogs, and this is actually one of the most common reasons why plumbers have to unclog drains. Remember that grease will not melt when it goes down the drain and to remove it you need to use a snake or plumbing solution, depending on the severity of the issue.

11. Eggshells

Egg shells in a bowl_CA Creative_Unsplash
Image Credit: CA Creative, Unsplash

You can technically put eggshells in your garbage disposal. But you really shouldn’t. Many people believe that the eggshells will somehow sharpen the blades on the disposal wall. It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of this household myth. But it’s best not to rely on it. If your blades become dull, you can simply replace them with new ones. The shell of an egg’s interior has a super thin membrane (like onion skins) that can become loose and get stuck in the drain and cause issues.

12. Onion Skins

Onion skin
Image Credit: Uwe Baumann, Pixabay

Onion skins are another item that you may not think twice about tossing down the garbage disposal. After all, it’s soft, thin, and non-greasy, right? Wrong. Like with eggshells, the thin, outer skin membrane on an onion is thin enough to pass through the disposal and miss the blades. As a result, it can end up in the drain where it acts as sort of a cargo net by catching more items and holding them in their place. So be sure to either throw away the outermost layer or chop it up before putting it in the garbage disposal.

13. Paint

paintbrush with white paint
Image Credit: Skitterphoto, Pixabay

Yes, this may seem like another obvious no-no, but pouring discarded paint down your garbage disposal is definitely not a good idea. Undiluted latex or oil-based paint can cause serious problems in your drain. It could stick to the disposal side or in the pipes and cause a blockage. As long as the paint is heavily diluted, it shouldn’t cause any problems (dish soap is usually a good option to help break it down). But brushes and rollers must be cleaned with care by using an appropriate container. Bulk paint should be disposed of properly.

14. Meat Fat & Drippings

Cooking burger patties with fat oil
Image Credit: moerschy, Pixabay

Fattening liquids from meat trimmings are no good for your garbage disposal or drains. These fatty foods can lead to problems at every level, starting with your disposal blades. The fats that you drain down your garbage disposal can cause damage to the blades, making them less efficient for their job. After cooling, fats will build up and cause clogs. Clogs can cause drain backups that are unpleasant and costly to fix. So be sure to blot these drippings with paper towels and throw them in the trash can instead of down the disposal.

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What Can You Put in a Garbage Disposal?

Now that we’ve gotten the foods that shouldn’t go down the disposal out of the way, let’s discuss what can go down it.


man holding ice cubes
Image credit: Gheorghe Mindru, Shutterstock

You can typically toss ice down your garbage disposal with no issues. Ice can also be used to clean your appliance and remove food stuck to the blades. However, don’t believe the myth about it sharpening the blades. Have you ever seen someone sharpen a knife with ice?

Citrus Rinds

Lemon skin rind
Image Crtedit: Gil Dekel, Pixabay

Rinds from grapefruit, oranges, kiwi, and other citrus fruit are OK to toss down the disposal in most cases. Many homeowners use orange and lemon peels to clean their garbage disposal and freshen up their kitchen. However, you should only do a few at a time and no more than once a week. Refrain from using hard rinds such as those on watermelon, cantaloupe, or any other hard-surface fruits.

Soft Foods

Fresh yogurt on the table
Image Credit: NOBUHIRO ASADA, Shutterstock

Soft foods like yogurt and applesauce can generally be disposed of safely. Soups can be disposed of as long as there are no thick bones in them.

Small Bits of Meat

bacon small raw pieces pork meat
Image Credit: Alesia.Bierliezova, Shutterstock

It’s typically okay to throw pieces of meat down your garbage disposal, but it’s best to do it in moderation, especially when it comes to thick or big pieces of red meat. Meat can easily get clogged in the disposal and before you know it, you’ll have a drainage issue which can lead to inconvenient and expensive repair calls.

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Garbage disposals are very useful appliances, but it’s important not to forget what they’re for when deciding what goes down them. This means not tossing hard, stringy, or greasy food or trash items down the drain at any point in time. Always toss these things in the trash instead and only use the disposal for items like soft foods and liquids.

Featured Image Credit: mariakray, Shutterstock


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