What Can You Put Down a Garbage Disposal?


How many of you have had your garbage disposal go kaput when you had a houseful of people for a holiday gathering?  We are willing to bet that more than one of you reading this can relate.  There are food items that are safe to put down a disposal and food items that are not safe, meaning they can stop your disposal from working! This article will clear up the mystery of what you can safely put down your disposal and what you can’t.  So, if you are preparing for upcoming holiday festivities in your home, read on to find out how to keep your disposal working throughout this busy season and beyond.

Some items are safe for your disposal, and some items aren’t.  We will explain why most small bits of food are ok and what foods freshen your disposal. We will also bust some myths.  Are eggshells actually good for your disposal? And, rice is small, so shouldn’t it be ok?  Read on to find out some surprising information on what can and can’t be put down a garbage disposal!

“While visiting for Thanksgiving, my husband’s aunt was helping prepare the meal.  Down the disposal went all the potato peelings.  I was not in the kitchen when she did it or I would have stopped her.  That is how my husband ended up under the kitchen sink fixing our disposal on Thanksgiving Day.”  If this story from an Indialantic resident sounds familiar or you are hoping to never experience a similar incident, then you are in the right place.  What exactly can you put down a garbage disposal?

Food Items That Are Safe to Put Down a Garbage Disposal

We are specifically addressing which food items can go down a garbage disposal because this is the most common question.  You already know that water, dish soap, and hand soap are fine to go down any kitchen sink with or without a disposal.  It is the food items that get tricky and can cause problems.  

When you scrape your plate after supper, those small bits of food are fine to go down the disposal.  The disposal “blades” should easily be able to chop up the small pieces to pass through your pipes.  Don’t put half of Stacy’s steak down there though!  Throw it away, feed it to the dog, or save it for tomorrow, but don’t put it down the disposal unless you cut it up into smaller pieces.

You can also put citrus peels, such as lemon, lime, or orange peels down the disposal.  Smaller chunks are better, so cut them up if necessary.  There is also the added bonus of naturally freshening your disposal.  If your disposal has been a bit stinky, this is a natural, safe, and effective way to freshen it.

Food Items That Are Not Safe to Put Down a Garbage Disposal

This list is essentially longer, but we will make it as straightforward as possible.  First, there is a myth circulating that egg shells down a disposal will sharpen the blades.  American Home Shield is a home warranty company that sends contractors out to do home repairs covered by homeowners’ warranties.  AHS states on their website, “Garbage disposals do not have blades. They have impellers that are not sharp, but blunt. So, putting ice or egg shells down the disposal to sharpen the blades will not do any good. In fact, egg shells are not recommended for the garbage disposal as the membrane can get wrapped around the impellers and cause damage.”

Do not put hard food items down your disposal.  Things like nuts or shellfish shells are not good for your disposal.  Do not place bones down the disposal.  When you clean off your plate, throw that wishbone in the trash!  

Potato peels, as mentioned in the above story, are a no-no!  They are a great way to clog a disposal, and that is not your goal!  Banana peels are also a big no.

Any food that expands or clumps together can cause clogs in your disposal.  If they make it past your disposal, they may cause a clog in your pipes which is an even bigger pain.  Coffee grounds, pasta, and rice are all items to avoid.  While the disposal can chop up the pasta without a problem, it expands and clumps together, a deadly combination for a garbage disposal.  Rice is already so small that it doesn’t need to be broken down by the disposal.  It is its propensity for expanding and clumping like pasta that makes it a disposal’s enemy.

Lastly, grease should not be poured down any sink, including one with a disposal.  Grease thickens and congeals as it cools and sits in your pipes.  Too much of this and it is a great pipe clogger.  It’s a sure way to get to know your plumber!


Garbage disposals are super handy, but you must treat them right.  As with any kitchen appliance, it has its limits.  If you have the unfortunate circumstance of a broken down garbage disposal or a clogged pipe, then please give us a call at Sun Plumbing.  We have been in business in Melbourne, FL, for over 45 years!  We pride ourselves on “being as dependable as the sun.”  When your garbage disposal lets you down, Sun Plumbing won’t!  We will get your plumbing up and running again efficiently and professionally.  While we wish you nothing but holiday bliss, if you need us, we’ll be there!

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