Cooking at home is such a deliciously rewarding activity—but who likes to clean up after all of that savory goodness is gone? Perhaps the only bright spot about cleanup is the garbage disposal—-it makes disposing of food scraps and other waste a snap.
Hold on a minute; before you attempt to stuff the rest of your Thanksgiving turkey down the drain, there are some things you should know about your hard-working disposal. It can take some use and abuse, certainly—but it is not indestructible.
Over time, moving parts have a tendency to gunk up and wear out, leaving you in the lurch if it decides to break down in the middle of a cleanup session. In that case, you’re going to need a plumber to do some plumbing repair.
Here are some things that you should keep far away from your kitchen sink and your disposal to ensure that it continues to work in your favor for months and years to come:
Never put these items in your garbage disposal.
While it may seem harmless, don’t attempt to put coffee grounds down your garbage disposal! While they can absorb odors in the short term, the potential for them to form a thick, pasty wad is great, and this can cause issues with your plumbing. A bit of advice—use the coffee grounds to keep critters out of your garden, and leave the odor killing for some other appropriate substance.
Anyone who has made macaroni and cheese or spaghetti recently knows that pasta expands when it is placed in water; this can quickly become a thick, pasty mess as well when you dump large amounts of pasta down the drain. If you must dispose of it, consider putting it in the trash; you’ll save yourself both time and money that an expensive repair might require.
One surefire way to “kill” your disposal is putting bones down the drain. Your disposal does have a grinding mechanism, but it is not equipped to handle large, hard objects such as beef and chicken bones. Don’t fret if the occasional chicken wing makes it down there, as your disposal can most likely handle intermittent hard jobs, but if you attempt to put a rack of ribs down there, you are setting yourself up for certain disaster.
It seems harmless, doesn’t it? Oatmeal is another expansion disaster waiting to happen, though. Sticky, gooey oatmeal can quickly clog up pipes and even obstruct them completely, if you eat it often enough. Do yourself a favor and either finish the bowl or put it in the trash to prevent a clogged disposal and clogged pipes.
Are you familiar with how nut butters like almond butter are made? Almond nuts are placed into a grinding mechanism and ground repeatedly until they form a thick, gooey, delicious paste. Almond nut butters may work great on toast, but a disposal lined with almond butter is not going to serve you well down the road.
Chopped onion is usually not a problem for a garbage disposal—but the inner, wet layer just beneath the outer skin can pose a problem for your delicate pipes. This layer acts as a cargo net which can trap and hold other waste in place, causing issues with buildup. Discard this thin membrane in the trash, and look forward to a longer relationship with your disposal.
It is a myth that dropping egg shells into your disposal helps to sharpen your blades. Egg shells, like onions, also have a thin, wet layer right inside the shell that can quickly gunk up your disposal; discard of these in a different way, or use them outdoors for garden fortification.
Just because it’s called a “garbage disposal” does not mean you can throw just anything in there. Things like paper towels, candy wrappers, banana peels, and even wayward homework should not find its way into the sink. Put it in the trash where it is supposed to go.
Pumpkin and other fibrous vegetables
If you have ever scooped out a pumpkin or squash in preparation for cooking, you’ve likely seen how fibrous and messy these vegetables can be. Other produce like celery and rhubarb are equally as capable of clogging up your pipes; dispose of this solid waste in the trash, and you’ll save yourself some unnecessary repairs later on.
Peaches and avocados are divine when in season, although they do get messy when it comes to disposing of the pits. A good rule of thumb to follow is, if it can’t be cut with a knife, it should not be put down the disposal, either. Again, the occasional accidental pit thrown down the drain is not going to cause too many issues, but repeated abuse will cause your unit to break down prematurely.
Soap and water are fine for a drain, but harsh, abrasive chemicals are not. They will cause your gear to wear out faster than you’d like; if you have a clog in your drain or disposal, do what you can to flush it out with hot water and a little soap, if necessary. If this doesn’t work, call in a plumbing professional to assess the problem.
Take Care of Your Garbage Disposal!
Taking care of your plumbing, drain, and disposal will help you to keep your kitchen clean and debris free for years if you care for your equipment properly. Taking care to grind items that are safe for the disposal will help you extend the life of your equipment and make cleaning time efficient and fun! And always remember, if a problem gets too serious in your home, your favorite emergency plumber is just a phone call away!