Can You Put Rice Down A Garbage Disposal? [No! Here’s Why]


Rice is an ingredient used in versatile ways to create hearty meals. These meals can leave you feeling full and satisfied. 

But, before you scrape the dishes clean into the garbage disposal, put any leftover rice in the garbage bag or your compost instead.

You should not put rice in your garbage disposal. It is naturally sticky and expands with water. It can leave sticky residue or pieces on your disposal blades and gears, making them inefficient. Rice can also stick and expand in your pipes, causing a clog. Water may back up into the sink if rice and starch inhibit its flow.  

A few stray grains of rice are unlikely to cause a problem, but you should avoid this to prevent any buildup. 

Read on to see why rice causes problems in disposals and pipes, as well as how to remove rice and starch residue from them.

Why Is Rice Sticky And Starchy?

While growing, rice uses the process of photosynthesis to create simple glucose (sugar molecules). These packed molecules make long polymer glucose chains called amylose and short chains called amylopectin.  

Many varieties of rice have both molecules but tend to have more of one than the other, giving them different properties.  

As the rice absorbs heated water, it releases the molecules. Amylopectin releases starch making the rice sticky and gelatinous, and amylose makes it fluffy. Amylopectin, in particular, makes the rice into a paste-like substance.

Rice also expands when it absorbs water, much like it does when you cook it in boiling water. This contributes to a full feeling when you consume rice since it will continue to expand and absorb water in your stomach too.

So, much like your boiling pot and stomach, rice will absorb water running through your pipes and expand there, becoming sticky as it releases starch.

How To Eliminate Rice Stuck In a Garbage Disposal: 2 Methods

As per your user manual, garbage disposals can only accommodate small, soft pieces of food. Even though rice is just that, as you’ve learned you, unfortunately, cannot put it down your disposal.

Your disposal may show the following signs if there is a clog or buildup:

  • Water backs up into the sink
  • Water drains very slowly
  • There is standing water in the sink
  • Bad odors come up from the opening when it is not in use
  • The disposal will not turn on or work even if electricity and connections are working

Thankfully, dissolving rice to effectively remove it and the buildup is easy to do. 

Rice grains can soften over time and break down when exposed to acid or hot water. 

If either of the following methods does not work, it may be time to hire a plumbing professional. 

Consider using a strainer cover over your disposal to keep errant grains out of your disposal in the future.

1. Vinegar And Baking Soda

What You Need

  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Pot or tea kettle
  • Baking soda (½-cup)
  • Vinegar (1-cup)
  • Garbage disposal drain plug/covering

Notes: 

  • If you have PVC pipes, boiling water can loosen the joint compounds. Therefore, use water at the hottest setting from your tap.  
  • If you do not have a way to boil water on the stovetop, you can heat water in a microwave until it bubbles. 
  • Do not stick your hand into the disposal to remove a clog. Power sources should be turned off when sticking anything other than food or liquids into a disposal’s opening.

What To Do

  1. Boil 2 cups of water.
  2. Carefully pour the boiling water into the garbage disposals’ drain opening.
  3. Wait for 10 minutes as the heat and water help to loosen and dissolve the rice.
  4. Run warm tap water into the opening and then turn on the disposal. 
    • If you see that the clog persists and water continues to drain slowly or back up, turn off the disposal and water. 
    • Then, proceed to the next step.
  5. Pour a ½-cup of baking soda into the drain opening.
  6. Pour 1-cup of vinegar into the drain opening.
  7. Quickly cover the opening with your disposal’s plug/covering.
  8. Wait for 20 to 40 minutes for the fizzy reaction to break down the clog and residue.
  9. Repeat all steps as necessary.

You can also try a commercially formulated product for eliminating clogs. 

Make sure the product can be used in a disposal, and take care not to mix ingredients. For example, bleach and vinegar should not be mixed, since they can cause toxic chlorine gas.

If this method does not work, you can try the following more intensive method.

2. Plunge, Turn Blades, Remove P-Trap

What You Need

  • Sink plunger
  • Plumbing wrench
  • Bucket
  • Pliers
  • Hex key/Wooden spoon
  • Flashlight
  • Wire coat hanger/Drain snake
  • Thread sealant

What To Do

  1. Disconnect power to the disposal with the off switch and at the main circuit breaker.
  2. Clamp or disconnect the dishwasher connection hose to prevent water from back-flowing into that appliance. 
  3. Use a sink plunger to completely cover the opening. 
  4. Add water to the sink, covering the tip of the plunger.
  5. Plunge quickly up and down. 
    • If the water flows, then the clog has been loosened or removed. 
    • Run hot tap water (for PVC) or boiling water down the drain to flush out any remaining debris. 
    • If this does not resolve the clog, turn off the water, and continue with the following steps.
  6. Use your disposal’s hex key or a wooden spoon handle to manually turn the blades. (Again, the power should still be off.)
  7. Clean the P-trap. 
    • Use your pliers and remove the trap’s fittings and empty the contents into a bucket. 
    • Scoop out any stuck debris with your fingers, a wire coat hanger, or drain snake.
  8. Reassemble all parts, using thread sealant on the removed pipe.  
  9. Restore power to the disposal. 
  10. Test the disposal to see if it works, and if not, contact a professional.

Conclusion 

Garbage disposals easily get rid of small and soft food wastes, but rice is an exception. 

It should not go into a disposal, since it can clog the pipes and leave behind a sticky and starchy residue.

If you have a rice clog, try a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and hot water to loosen it and wash it away. 

If that fails, you may need to turn off the disposal’s power, plunge the sink, manually turn the blades, and remove the P-trap to eliminate the clog. 

If these two methods do not resolve the issue, then a professional plumber can help you out.

Lisa Burlison

Lisa is a freelance blogger, literacy specialist, teacher, and self-published author with a vast DIY experience. When she’s not writing for PlumbJoe, Lisa enjoys testing homemade cleaners and doing repairs around her home. Her other hobbies include birding and bicycling.

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