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Fri, Dec. 13

Ask the Contractor: Not everything goes into garbage disposal

The holidays are not even upon us yet, and this was the call that came in this week: “Sandy, my husband thinks it is OK to just push every type of food item known to man into the garbage disposal; we are having ‘grinding’ discussions over this — please help.” — Susie and Ted, Prescott

The phone call was quite funny when talking to both Susie and Ted, so much so, that Susie has prohibited Ted from cleaning up after cooking, because everything goes into the disposal when Ted is at the helm.

We have all been there and “done that” and clogged the disposal — learned the hard way about what to not put down a disposal, and most of the time the “hard way” comes in the middle of breakfast or a late night dinner or a soon-to-be holiday dinner or major celebration gathering.

Throughout the ages, people have used the garbage disposal to rid the kitchen of slimy, sticky and stinky things. Well, not really throughout the ages, just since its invention in 1927. Since then, the garbage disposal has become an appliance of legend and wonder. Despite what you may have heard, not everything can go into a garbage disposal. It’s called a garbage disposal, not an in-sink trash can.

Following are the items NOT to put down a garbage disposal. There are limits to what a garbage disposal system can handle; it’s not equipped to process everything you might want to put in it.


Just because it is out of sight does not mean the garbage disposal “disposed” of it. For the most part, garbage disposal systems can handle liquids. The problem with grease is that, when it cools down, it solidifies inside your drain and creates clogs. For that reason, you should avoid putting oils and fats in your disposal unit as well. Pour the grease or oil into another container and toss it into the garbage. Remember, no fats, no grease, no oil.


These can leave you with a soupy backfilled mess in your sink. Garbage disposals do not do large qualities of veggie peels, so it is best to divide them up and grind in SMALL batches or better yet — dispose of them in the garbage and do not even take the chance. Fibrous foods such as celery, asparagus, artichokes, chard, kale, lettuce, potato peelings, and onion skins should all be kept out of your garbage disposal unit. These items can easily entangle the blades causing it to jam.


The membrane on the inside of the egg shell just loves to wrap around the blades and crate a clog. Don’t even attempt to grind egg shells — garbage can them.


The first few times they might go down fine, but over time, these pesky little grounds build up in the pipes and will causing all sorts of trouble. Again, garbage can them!


I have heard it from the plumbers. Folks actually attempt to grind bones; I know, seriously?

When you do use your disposal, put items down in small batches. Do not bulk feed the disposal. You are just asking for trouble. Grind up the material well, with cold running water and then add more. I do use my garbage disposal, only with care and caution. Most everything goes into the trash after having learned my lesson with coffee grounds and egg shells. Use the disposal with common sense.


I was unaware of this, but a plumber mentioned a problem with grinding rice and pasta. Basically, every time you turn the water on, the pasta and rice will continue to expand — even after you supposedly ground it up.

Remember, after a number of leftover dinners you had the disposal deal with, it can start to get a little gross. And, it needs to be cleaned. I clean my disposal with citrus, throwing down a slice or two, but also make vinegar ice cubes. Not only do they freshen the smell of your disposal and thoroughly clean out the hard-to-get-to crevices, but the ice actually sharpens the blade. Just sayin’, you also need to pay attention and be careful not to confuse the vinegar ice cubes for regular ice.

So remember to love your insinkerator and most everyone is the proud owner of a garbage disposal. They are convenient, they get rid of excess kitchen scraps, but keep in mind we should not think there’s nothing a garbage disposal can’t do.

Now that you have a list of what not to put in a garbage disposer, let’s talk about the hot water versus cold water and what the disposal is designed to handle.


For it to function best you should always run cold water through your garbage disposal for 20 to 30 seconds before and after you grind food stuff. This ensures that all of the food will be flushed down the drain. You don’t want a few decaying scraps sitting at the bottom of your disposal unit, stinking up your sink.

After last week’s article on Cleaning Hacks, Linda called with a great question: What does Peroxide do to septic tanks? I called our lifeline Brenda of JT’s Septic, and she said, “You can pour an entire bottle of Peroxide into a septic system and due to the enormous amount of water contained in the septic system, the dilution factor will not cause a problem.” Same with household bleach. Using a cup or so in the laundry will not cause a concern or unbalance the system, again due to the volume of water and the bleach being diluted. As for industrial strength bleach, NO — do not pour that into your septic system.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s “Hammer Time” every Saturday or Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130AM, 99.9FM, 95.5FM or online at Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry meet your local community partners and so much more. You will be entertained.

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