Garbage Disposal Etiquette: 10 Things Not To Put Down Your Disposal

Garbage disposals are a standard in most homes. They help keep your kitchen pipes clear, but if used incorrectly, you risk a blockage, leaks, and even damage to the unit. 

Some of the things that should never go down your disposal include tough-peeled or stringy vegetables, starchy foods, fruit and vegetable pits or seeds, animal bones, and grease. Coffee grounds should also go in the garbage can or the compost pile. You must also avoid putting non-food items in your garbage disposal.

While garbage disposals are designed for grinding food scraps, they can’t grind everything.

Proper garbage disposal etiquette says that you should avoid washing down foods that could clog the pipes. This is especially true if you live on a lower floor in a condo or apartment building. 

1. Tough-Peeled Or Stringy Vegetables 

Fibrous veggies or tough-peeled ones should never go down the garbage disposal. They can affect the mechanism in various ways. 

Stringy fibers can wrap around the blades and mechanisms, preventing them from turning or working properly. This could put a strain on the motor, burning it.

The blades might also fail to grind tough peels properly, and this could lead to a blockage. 

2. Starchy Foods

Starchy foods can cause a host of different problems in the garbage disposal. 

The blades generally do a poor job grinding rice, pasta, boiled potatoes, and even corn or polenta. Pieces left behind, even if small, can turn into a mush that can gum up your disposal and clog the drain.  

3. Egg Shells & Shellfish 

Egg shells and shellfish are some of the items most commonly thrown down the drain. Generally, a garbage disposal can grind them.

However, the hard shells are rich in calcium and other minerals that don’t break down fast enough for the water to wash them out of your disposal. 

This leads to an accumulation in the unit that can clog or jam the system. 

4. Bones 

Bones are another no-no in the garbage disposal. Unlike egg or seafood shells, bones are too hard for the unit’s blade to grind. 

They can damage the blades, put a strain on the motor and lead to overheating, and could damage your pipes if they manage to get through the garbage disposal.

5. Coffee Grounds 

Coffee grounds are often mentioned as a DIY solution to sanitize and get rid of foul odors from the garbage disposal. 

However, even if the smell of coffee could mask a bad odor, coffee grounds won’t sanitize your garbage disposal. On the contrary. 

When wet, coffee grounds get clumpy and heavy and can overload the motor. They are also hard to get through and could clog both the garbage disposal and the pipes.

6. Grease

Unlike the items above, grease and oils rarely damage the disposal blades or motor. However, they congeal quickly and build up on solid surfaces. Eventually, they can clog the system and even your pipes.

An easy way to get rid of some grease that accidentally got in your garbage disposal is by running hot water through it for a few minutes. Generally, though, check how to dispose of grease and oils properly with your local authorities. 

7. Pits Or Seeds 

Fruit pits and seeds can clog or damage the garbage disposal in the way bone and egg shells can. 

You should also avoid washing nuts down the drain. When ground, they often turn into a gooey mess that’s hard to get rid of – much like starch.

8. Cigarette Butts 

The first non-food item on this list, cigarette butts, can often end up in sinks. However, you should collect them and throw them in the garbage can. 

When they get into a garbage disposal, the blades might not be able to grind the soft yet fibrous material properly. 

They usually accumulate on the bottom of the disposal and expand, clogging or jamming the system. They can also give off a horrendous odor.

9. Other Non-Food Items 

Alongside cigarette butts, you should also avoid flushing stuff like napkins, paper towels, wipes, and other non-food items. 

Take off your jewelry (especially bracelets and rings) when cleaning the kitchen sink to avoid washing them into the unit. These items can jam the mechanism and burn the motor.

Toys, cutlery, and other small items that could be washed down the drain should also be removed from the sink before using the garbage disposal.

10. Harsh Chemicals 

Bleach and other harsh drain cleaners should also be avoided when using the garbage disposal. 

While many people use them to clean and sanitize drain pipes, they can build up and damage your appliance. 

Garbage Disposal Dos 

Knowing what not to put into a garbage disposal is essential, but you should also learn how to use the unit according to etiquette: 

  • Always use the garbage disposal with cold water. Cold water is preferred because it helps keep grease and oils in food scraps solid while chopping them. This prevents liquid grease from depositing and congealing onto the pipes or inside the disposal later on.
  • Keep your garbage disposal clean. When you’re done washing, add a few squirts of dish detergent and let the water run for a couple of minutes to clean the system.
  • Do grind some hard materials, like fish bones and small fruit pits. These create a scouring action inside the unit, helping dislodge stuff deposited on the disposal’s walls. 
  • Cut large items into smaller pieces before feeding them into the disposal unit. 
  • Always feed the garbage in small portions at a time. Wait for a minute before feeding another portion. 
  • Run your garbage disposal regularly to prevent rust and corrosion and to make sure that all parts move properly.


Garbage disposal etiquette defines the dos and don’ts of using such a unit. You should never put starchy, fibrous, hard, or non-food items at your disposal. You shouldn’t put coffee grounds or grease either. 

However, you should run the garbage disposal regularly, keep it clean, and feed small portions at a time to prevent blockages and malfunctions.

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Roxana Bikfalvi

Roxana is a copywriter passionate about home improvement and interior design. When she’s not writing, you can find her upcycling old furniture or remodeling interiors. She has written for numerous home improvement blogs before joining PlumbJoe.

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