What You Can and Cannot Put Down Your Garbage Disposal

If you have a garbage disposal, you know they can be an invaluable tool in the kitchen. However, if you or the rest of your family is not familiar with how a disposal works, you can do some costly damage to it. When it comes to most garbage disposals, there are some easy-to-follow guidelines for what can and cannot be put in them.

What CAN be Put Down the Garbage Disposal

Ice Cubes 

Not only are ice cubes okay to put down the disposal, they’re actually recommended. If you throw a few ice cubes down the drain on a regular basis, it will dislodge residue on the blades. For an extra punch of cleaning, freeze vinegar or lemon juice and use that to clean and freshen your disposal.

Soft Foods and Liquids 

A good guideline is that if a toddler can chew it, you can put it down the disposal. Some foods that are more solid can also be put down the disposals if you chop them up.

Dish Soap 

It’s pretty hard NOT to let dish soap into your garbage disposal. Luckily, it’s fine for it to go down the drain and can also act as a quick drain cleaner.

Cold Water 

Cold water is perfect for your disposal and you should run it for 20 to 30 seconds before and after you put anything down the drain. Without enough cold water, some food scraps can remain and cause an odor. They can also dry on the blades and create a situation that requires a heavy-duty drain cleaner.

What CANNOT be Put Down the Garbage Disposal

Pasta, Rice, and Bread 

These substances absorb water and expand, leading to clogs. If a few strands of spaghetti or pieces of rice get in the drain, don’t worry about it. But you certainly don’t want to dump large quantities down the drain. You should also avoid disposing of oats or other grains that need to be boiled.

Coffee Grounds 

Though they may appear innocent, coffee grounds are packed tightly and develop a paste-like consistency when combined with water. They can develop a stubborn sediment in your drain and cause clogs.

Nuts and Shells 

Nuts and any type of shells can damage your disposal. Seafood shells are especially damaging, but even softer shells like those from peanuts are still not good for your disposal as they can clog it.


Your disposal was not made to grind up hard items and bones are one of the hardest substances in the kitchen. If put them down the disposal regularly, you can shorten the life of your disposal by years. Though most disposals can likely handle small chicken or fish bones, anything larger will damage the grinding mechanism.

Seeds and Pits 

Seeds and pits are usually small, round, and very hard, making them difficult to grind up. Another good rule of thumb is that if you can’t cut something with a knife, it shouldn’t go down the disposal.

Outer Onion Layers and Egg Shells 

The membrane of the onion and shells can pass through the disposal and wrap around the blades. They can also get wedged in the drain and trap other items with them. Though chopped onions and egg yolks/whites are fine to put down the disposal, throw the outer layers in the trash.

Stringy Fruits and Veggies and Potato Peels 

Fibrous fruits and veggies like banana peels, celery, and asparagus have strands that can tangle around the grinder and potato peels can catch in the drain or form a starchy paste that leads to clogs. All of these are better off in the trash can.

Fat, Oil, and Grease 

These substances can change form very quickly. When hot, they’re liquid. But they congeal when they cool and can cause blockages in your drain. The best way to dispose of them is to let them cool and then scrape them into the trash.

Keep your garbage disposal running well and smelling great by knowing what you can and cannot put down it. If you have a major clog that you can’t dislodge, give us a call at ASAP and we’ll get you back up and running in no time!

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