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What do you put down the garbage disposal?

I know this isn't really a food question, but I know I will get responses from people that cook frequently. Everytime my mother in law visits she "messes" with my kitchen - burning up pans, teapots, breaking bowls. It's unbelievable. She also puts some things down the garbage disposal I would put in the trash. Today she put down a whole banana peel with the woody stem. I saw it down there and was able to pull it out before I turned it on. She thought I was being ridiculous and just anal about the kitchen. It turned into a big discussion over dinner. Thought I would get opinions from fellow chowhounders! Tell me I'm not crazy!!!

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  1. my mum puts small chicken bones down hers - she's positive they sharpen the blades!

    I was told by a garbage disposal engineer to NEVER put onion skins, banana skins or tea bags in.

    1 Reply
    1. re: smartie

      i've been putting everything (bones, banana skins, etc) down mine for about 20 years now and it works just as well today as it did when i installed it.
      the machine needs to work for me, i don't want to work for it.
      that said, i don't cook potatos, so i have no experience with those.

    2. You are ABSOLUTELY right! Among other things you should not put down the garbage disposal are asparagus, celery or anything stringy or fibrous. The strings wrap themselves around the blades and moving parts and you have a strangled garbage disposal on your hands.

      1. As a 16 year professional General Contractor running a Handyman business, I put in and service alot of garbage disposals. I have made lots of money taking out coins, dog collars, towels, bottle caps, screws, pieces of metal such as parts of forks, spoons, etc., and these are usually from rental apartments. Of course this gets charged backed to the tenants by the owners/property managers, so I walk away looking like a knight in shining armor for rescuing them...............TILL THEY GET THE BILL from someone other than me!

        The worst things, bar none, to put in a garbage disposal? Potato peels. And cooked rice. Both, but especially potato peels turn into glue in your drain, as the starch gets ground up, sitting in your pipes to harden or just cause a blockage if not enough water pushes it all the way to the water treatment plant. A little bit, a little at a time may be fine, but that Thanksgiving dinner or Xmas dinner potato preparation could cause you a large plumber's bill. Beware!!!!!!!!!! I have NEVER taken stringy blockages out of a garbage disposal or pipes, though I agree with that advice in a general sense. My general rule of thumb? Put your bones, garbage, debris in the garbage pail, and save the disposal in the sink for the crud that gets washed off the plates doing dishes. Scrape those plates into the trash can. Don't say that you haven't been warned. I love your money! There is good reason New York City banned garbage disposals. Too big a load on the waste water treatment facilities trying to remove the debris in processing the water.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Handyman

          A question, please Handyman - how should those of us who bake a lot of bread dispose of the flour-water (AKA paste) sludge that clings to bowls? I use a "biga" or starter so there is that flour-water mixture as well as the dough remains.

          Yes, I scrape as much as I can into the trash but stubborn bits still cling to the bowl. I'm particularly concerned about this since my house is built into a hill and all effluent must be pumped UP the hill to the street sewer line. A bread dough clogged sewage ejection pump does not bear thinking about.

          Have already learned the expensive potato peel lesson which was a surprise to me because these disposals are very high-powered. I now use lots of water - before, during and after grinding - hoping to help move things along.


          1. re: Handyman

            My husband hasn't gotten the message on the no-vegetable-skin rule, so I've gotten well-versed on how to take apart the pipes under the sink, pull out the clogged peels and putting it all back together again without calling a plumber or handyman.

            1. re: Handyman

              You are absoultely incorrect. I have been a licensed plumber since 1976, and hold a Master Plumber's license in NYC since 1982. GARBAGE DISPOSALS ARE NOT BANNED IN NYC.
              If you need plumbing assistance in NYC, call a professional not a handyman ....It is the LAW. Only a licensed plumber can do plumbing work in NYC!

            2. NEVER:

              citrus skins
              banana peels
              garlic ends
              onion/leek ends
              carrot ends
              peach/apricot/prune pits
              small (or any) bones
              tea bags
              coffee filters
              paper towels
              paper napkins

              11 Replies
              1. re: hotoynoodle

                My husband owns a plumbing company and he always puts bits of citrus in our garbage disposal....he says that citrus won't harm the disposal and provides a fresh smell when ground up. He agrees with the rest of your list, though!

                1. re: Niki in Dayton

                  mine just don't get ground. motor is only medium sized. i heard that putting a tray of ice cubes down every so often helps clean it.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    A guy that once cleaned out our (clogged) disposal said the same thing, to run ice cubes every once in a while. Does anyone know what, besides citrus, to run down there to keep it fresh-smelling?

                    1. re: aurora50

                      put in a couple table spoons of baking soda then a 1/4 cup of white vinegar. fizzes like crazy, freshens it up nice.

                      that said, I don't put much down my garbage disposal because i was told the waste processing plants cannot really handle the sludge produced.

                      1. re: aurora50

                        You can buy little pellets called Plink at places like Linens & Things or Bed, Bath & Beyond. Run hot water into disposal, drop in a Plink, switch to cold water and grind for a few seconds. Nice orange or lemon citrus smell.


                        Funny review at the bottom as well. :-)

                  2. re: hotoynoodle


                    citrus skins
                    banana peels
                    garlic ends
                    onion/leek ends
                    carrot ends
                    peach/apricot/prune pits
                    small (or any) bones
                    tea bags
                    coffee filters
                    paper towels
                    paper napkins>>

                    I put almost all of those things in my disposer and have never had a problem. The exceptions are paper towels, paper napkins and tea bags -- with strings attached.

                    For the record, I don't put anything in it that is stringy like celery or artichokes. But after reading all the things people WON'T put down them, I wonder why anyone would bother to have one.

                    Now that I've just said I've never had a problem, I've probably jinxed the works and can expect my disposer to blow up within 24 hours. sigh.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      I can only speak for myself of course, but I primarily use the garbage disposal for protein stuff (meat, cheese). I compost most of the veggie waste as well as coffee grinds. I also sometimes run citrus through it, as it makes it smell better, and ice cubes to clean it. For some folks the answer might be "because it was there when we bought the house" but we consciously chose to have a garbage disposal....we just don't use it for much now that we're trying harder to be more ecologically friendly in our house. The best part....our garden did wonderfully this year with the rich compost!

                      1. re: Niki in Dayton

                        We live in a city and do not have space for a compost heap. If we did, I'm sure a lot of the vegetable waste would be in it instead of the disposer. Enjoy that garden.

                      2. re: chicgail

                        Citrus skins are really not a problem at all. But yes, most of your list is great.

                        Worst mistake I ever made: Raw fish guts. Didn't clog things, but MAN what a horrible smell, which lingered for days.

                      3. re: hotoynoodle

                        Damn, except for the last three, that's everything worth putting in there. Why even have one if you can't put vegetable trimmings in there?

                        1. re: bywatertim

                          I agree. When I redid my kitchen some years back I did not install one and just composted everything. But now I am in condo which has one which I do use a lot. No where to compost here. I use it mostly for leftover salad and pre salad making when I trim the veggies. If it can't go in the disposal then I bag it up in plastic bag and put out in the trasn. I am not sure about the avacado skins so I jusr put them in the plastic bag along with the seed. I have on occassion put pieces of lemons, limes, etc in it as it give a nice smell. But I cut them up into quarters.

                      4. NEVER ever put artichoke leaves in a disposal.

                        1. If it is not gonna leak through a paper bag, it doesn't need to go in there. Why would it.
                          Be careful about who you share your kitchen with.

                          1. There are two things you never put down a garbage disposal: your hand and food.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Bite Me

                              If you don't put food in a disposal then what do you use it for? It is meant for food items.

                            2. I'd like to add...caution with anything your cat might find tasty. If he smells it, curious cat = vet house call.

                              And whether or not you have a garbage disposal, it's just not a good idea to put lots of grease down your sink!

                              1. broccoli stalks. I speak from experience... even when you chop them up into smaller pieces, they're usually so thick and sturdy that they get stuck on the blades without being chopped up and disposed of.

                                1. Other than the obvious answer of you hands and paper I put almost everything in the disposal. My line in the sand is large fruit pits (peaches), steak and lamb steak bones. I was advised not to put "stringy" stuff in as well including asparagus, banana peels, etc. but these have sneaked in as well.

                                  But this depends on the size of the motor. Most contractors put small inefficinet units in their constructed homes to save money and the buyer is normally none the wiser. If you can not grind broccoli then you probably have a low-powered unit.

                                  1. I have heard egg shells and coffee grinds are problematic. I can guarantee you that the little spice balls in shrimp boil should not go down the disposal. Husband can't figure out that they are in a mesh bag for a reason. I could easily do without one. I figure why throw even more stuff into our water system.

                                    1. I've learned the hard way asparagus stems and shrimp shells (not quite sure what I was thinking there) are a big NO NO for the disposal.

                                      Aren't mother-in-laws great? <grimace>

                                      1. My mother-in-law doesn't put anything down the garbage disposal, seriously, nothing.
                                        So why did she have one put in when remodeling the kitchen in the new house??
                                        I used the one at her old house once when husband and were first married, everyone turned and starred at me. Umm, "what??" Why on earth wouldn't you use the garbage disposal for food scraps? (Not necessarily everything, that's a whole 'nother topic ... my cousin thinks we can run pistachio shells through it!)

                                        1. I put one of the plates off my cookie press down the garbage disposal once. Yes, it was an accident. It was still there when we moved out of that house. We could see it down there but couldn't get to it to get it out.

                                          When I was a kid I once put some green onion tops in our garbage disposal, and they promptly went down into the pipes and stopped up absolutely everything. Every time we used the washer for awhile water went all over the place. My dad got in there with a snake and found the green onion tops. You would not believe the grief I got!

                                          We don't have one now and I don't much care if I ever have one again. Leftovers go in the trash if they're not eaten within a reasonable amount of time (they usually are). Broccoli stalks, cabbage cores and the like get thrown out in the yard for the bunny rabbits.

                                          1. My parents are nuts. They put in nearly everything food-related save for grease!

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: Leonardo

                                              Mine did too, except for those onion tops. Where they live now they don't put anything in it. Stuff from their own garden goes in the compost pile. Everything else goes in the trash.

                                              But when I was growing up I thought the whole point of a garbage disposal was to dispatch potato peels and egg shells. But evidently those are no-nos. So what's the point? Seems to me the garbage disposal is one of the most useless kitchen appliances.

                                              1. re: revsharkie

                                                Disposals are only useless if you listen to the Cassandras telling you what not to put in them. I run pototo peels, egg shells, asparagus, orange peels, broccoli, you name it. My disposals (yes two...if you have two sinks you need two disposals) have been installed for 9 years. The only time I have ever stopped them up was when I foolishly waited to run the disposal until I had the prep sink FULL of various stuff. I just overwhelmed it with quantity.

                                                In any event, anything that doesn't want to go down (like a peach pit or a lime half) will just rattle around until I take it out. NO PROBLEM.

                                                1. re: danna

                                                  I am wondering if the brand makes a difference. Renovating kitchen, about to buy one (my first). I am impressed with the in-sink-erator ads on line because they make it sound so great (the "excel") but my husband almost bought a Franke 3/4 HP at the plumbing shop today. I vowed to figure out if it was as good (strong and supposedly 60% quieter -- but quieter than what exactly, they don't say) as the in-sinkerator. I'm not sure if we're supposed to discuss brands on the boards -- I'm a new chowhounder. Any advice on a great disposal would be appreciated. I want to put in as much food scraps as I can and not worry about it. (We don't cook much meat so bones won't be much of an issue.) Thanks.

                                                  1. re: fishcake

                                                    I'm pretty sure that mine and my parents' are both in-sinkerators. I'll try to remember to look this evening and re-post if I am wrong. I'm not really sure why quiet matters much...you only run the thing for seconds at a time.

                                                  2. re: danna

                                                    I agree. I never had a problem with anything but artichoke leaves. But I decided not to have another one installed when I moved into this house ~8 years ago, and I haven't missed it a bit. I keep a lidded bucket under the sink for coffee grounds and anything else--fruit & veggie trimmings, citrus peel, egg shells-- that can go on the composter. The rest goes in the trash or--in the case of greasy/liquidy waste, the toilet.

                                                    I guess I was mostly tired of worrying about another beautiful old sterling teaspoon getting tossed into the wrong sink by a grandchild and ruined.

                                                    But I can see what a boon they are to apartment dwellers who don't have composters.

                                                    1. re: danna

                                                      Seriously. If you can't put onion, carrot, garlic ends, other vegetable waste in it what is the point in even having one? My mother refused to put ANYTHING in hers. I put plenty of stuff down mine, within reason.

                                                2. We never put anything down the garbage disposal. We are on a septic system but even if we were hooked up to a sewer we have a compost pile that everything, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc goes into, except meat scraps which go to the dogs.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: malibumike

                                                    For all you people who never put anything down the garbage disposal, why do you have one?

                                                    1. re: chicgail

                                                      It came with the house. :)

                                                      DH and I both grew up without a GD, so I guess we're unfamiliar with their capabilities. reading this thread, i'm tempted to toss a lot more down there!

                                                  2. Does your MIL have a garbage disposal at home? I have an extremely powerful garbage disposal (I think it is powered by a small car engine - jk). I can put many of the things that other posters have warned not to like citrus peels, onion tops and broccoli stems but even I can not put banana peels in the garbage disposal.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: bonmann

                                                      Yes she does....and as a follow up to my original post....She just called my husband to complain that HER home disposal was clogged. She put a whole raw, rotten fish she never cooked down and it clogged it up. Now she has a sink full of nasy rotting fish water and doesn't know what to do. I just smiled to myself :)

                                                      1. re: JennyHunter

                                                        Too bad she doesn't get the irony and even more sadly would probably still stand behind her decision to put the banana peel into the disposal.

                                                    2. I once clogged my drain with potato peels, and one other time with apple peels. Those were both years ago... by some strange coincidence, I have decided that apple desserts and mashed potatoes both taste better with the skins on, and have had no problems since.

                                                      Otherwise I put pretty much everything down mine, incl. coffee filters, tea bags (minus the staples), broccoli stems... the only no-no's I can think of are peach/plum/avocado pits, paper towels and bones.

                                                      I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, so I will: the secret is to run a lot of water down the drain with, AND AFTER, the ground-up sludge. I think that's what keeps the pipes from clogging.

                                                      1. I can't believe all this advice. I must have an extra good disposal- I put banana peels, citrus peels (just ground up 8 lemons) a whole chicken carcass, celery, broccolli anything Except coffee grounds, artichoke leaves, corn cobs and raw rice. Why have a garbage disposal if you can;t puyt garbage in it. I have had mine 15 years and no problems. Run lots of cold water during the process.

                                                        1. I'm with you emily. EVERYTHING (but grease) goes down. Never had a problem (except one time, with an incredible amount of grease--don't know what I was thinking). Tea bags, small bones, peels, even, ahem, coffee grounds. If not, why have it?

                                                          1. We can't have a garbage disposal because we have septic. And I really don't have a problem with just scraping the dishes into the garbage (although we are planning a compost pile so a lot of it will end up there anyway...).

                                                            But it's funny, because a friend of ours was absolutely shocked when she heard that we did not, could not and had never had a garbage disposal. She already thought of us as living in the sticks. (which we don't) - I could just hear her mentally making that adjustment to "okaaay, now they must be living in a third world country."

                                                            18 Replies
                                                            1. re: flourgirl

                                                              I have good news for you. Whoever told you that you couldn't have a disposal because you are on septic is seriously mistaken. I have a septic tank, my parents have a septic tank, we both have disposals and have for many years. Some idiot told my husband that tale when we bought our first house in the sticks. I suffered w/out a disposal for years (even though I already knew my parents' worked fine). When we built our new house...further in the sticks...our plumber said not only could we HAVE a disposal, but the food was actually GOOD for it, the decomposing veggies would help to "digest" the other waste. Enjoy!

                                                              1. re: danna

                                                                We have been told repeatedly by both our county health department and sewerage authority that garbage disposals put a huge burden on septic systems and not to use one. As it can cost up to $50,000 to replace a septic system in my area, I do not care to test that theory. (By the way, it is the bacteria in the system that digest waste, not the decomposing veggies. So adding more waste to the system can, indeed, overwhelm the system.)

                                                                1. re: flourgirl

                                                                  Well I can certainly understand why that price would make you reluctant to try it. My parents installed their 1st disposal in 1972. They had the septic tank replaced sometime in the late 90's. They thought 25 years was pretty good, but I'm sure if it had cost $50k, they would have been upset.

                                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                                    If you have a septic and disposal you need to clean once a year, without a disposal, you probably need every other year. My septic cleaner tells me that toilet paper is a bigger issue in mine than food. And I put almost everything in the disposal.

                                                                    The other item he mentioned is the use of anti-bacterial soaps. Since the sepric thrives on bacteria, the introduction of ant-bacterial soap is causing problems with the septics.

                                                                    I am wondering if anyone else has heard this about the soaps.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      I think that's the least of our problems with antibacterial soaps. They - along with the appalling over-use of antibiotics in food and medicine today - are causing resistant strains of bacteria. I don't allow the stuff in my house and have pitched a fit to get it banned at my office. Don't get me started on people taking antibiotics for colds....this is my number one soapbox.(sorry)

                                                                      But yeah, I have heard that you need to be careful with any strong cleaning products that can kill off the bacteria in the septic tank. We are sparing in our use of bleach in the laundry for this reason.

                                                                      1. re: danna

                                                                        Yep, we don't use a lot of bleach either. No laundry softeners, and we're also careful with the amount of detergent that we use.

                                                                        And I agree with you about the overuse of anti-bacterial anything. It's a terrible idea, and one of my main rants as well. I only keep the one bottle of antibacterial soap for cleaning cuts and scrapes and stuff like that.

                                                                      2. re: jfood

                                                                        Our septic guy said that laundry softener inhibits the bacteria, too. He said it's best not to use that, bleach, or anything antibacterial for the system.

                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          Yes I have heard the same thing about the anti-bacterial soaps and we don't use much of it. Just hand soap in one bathroom.

                                                                          But as far as the disposal goes, it's not worth it to me to pay the cost of pumping once a year (which is now up to around $250 - $300) just for the convienence of a garbage disposal. I still say that I just don't get the difference between scraping plates into the garbage or the sink. Scraping is scraping.

                                                                          1. re: flourgirl

                                                                            Let me add one more variable. I am not sure how often you have garbage pick-up, but we only have once a week. When I bone my chickens and then leave in the garbage for an average of 3.5 days, it makes for a mighty interesting smell in the garage.

                                                                            Correct that scraping is scraping but the disposal allows for a much cleaner smell around the garbage cans.

                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                              Good point. I have garbage pick up zero times per week. Sticks, you know.

                                                                              flourgirl: I want you to be happy. I will refrain from describing any further the joy of garbage disposal ownership !

                                                                              1. re: danna

                                                                                Okay, I concede the garage garbage smell, we also only have garbage pickup once a week. Especially a problem in the summer. But the fact remains that we can't risk impairing an aging (40 year old) septic system even because of garage odor.

                                                                                As a matter of fact, because of all the issues related to having septic, we would never buy another house with septic again unless it was a brand new state of the art system. It is a very big weight around our necks that the cost of replacing a failed system has become so ridiculous.

                                                                                And thanks danna, i appreciate it! :) (and wow, you must REALLY be in the sticks.)

                                                                                1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                  But you need to clean it every other year in any event so you are not willing to spend $150 extra a year to give you peace of mind on a potential $50K nightmare? Give this one a good think.

                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                    You do not need to pump systems every other year - assuming that your tank is large enough for the amount of people living in the home. A conservative number is every three years. We pump every three years and have never had a problem with our system and, according to the various vendors we've used, everything seems to be in working order.

                                                                                    In addition, this is also what we have been instructed to do by our county BOH who happen to be under a great deal of pressure because of aging systems in the area, and have a lot at stake to keep the ones that aren't failing from doing so.

                                                                                    Trust me, I am very well informed on this issue, and have already given it a "good think".

                                                                              2. re: jfood

                                                                                jfood, I use the Glad Odor Shield bags in my kitchen trash bin (garbage pickup once a week, and only have 1 bag of garbage a week, as it's just me, so the same bag is there all week) and it REALLY makes a difference on the smell - or lack thereof.

                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                  Thanks LW. The Glad Odor Shield do not fit our compactor. So I continue to throw wet down the sink and dry inthe compactor and clean the septic annually.

                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                    Ahhh - compactor. Didn't think of that, obviously. Have never had one - just the regular tall kitchen trash can.

                                                                              3. re: flourgirl

                                                                                Where I live I have a problem with black bears. I can not have a composter because the bears will rip it to pieces as they have done twice already. We have to keep our garbage in the garage until garbage day as the bears will tear apart our garbage. The garbage disposoal cuts down on my garbage. With recycling and using the disposar I have nowhere as much as before. The city does not take as much as my money as we also had to pay for each bag of garbage that we had to put out so I am saving over a hundred dollars a year as I was being charged over 2 dollars a bag.

                                                                              4. re: jfood

                                                                                You are right about the septic system filling quicker, but I suspect the factor is less than 2. I base that on my vegetable compost heap. A years worth of skins, trimmings and scraps dries and decomposes to about 4 cubic feet. And I (and probably most chowpersons) use a lot of fresh veg.

                                                                                If 'you' have the land for a septic system you probably have the space for a compost heat.

                                                                                I just use mine for plate rinsing prior to the dishwasher.

                                                                        2. Wow! I am amazed by what gets ground up in garbage disposals all over!
                                                                          I never had a garbage disposal while growing up. My friends all had them, and I can remember staring wide-eyed with envy and amazement while all the dinner scraps were sucked up and ground up in that amazing hole in the sink.
                                                                          Now that I have one, I find I do not rely on it, and rarely do I put anything in it beyond what is rinsed off the dinner plates (which isn't much! We like to eat!)

                                                                          I would never think to put banana peels, broccoli peels, chicken carcasses, celery, coffee grounds in there. Never! We often wonder where all the garbage comes from for just two people...well, we cook a lot! Maybe we should divert the trash to the disposal... After all, it just gets ground up and goes down that hole in the sink and then it's out of sight, out of mind, right?

                                                                          I must admit, after reading this thread I sent some lime slices down there and the smell was lovely!

                                                                          Wow. Do I need to get a life or what :)

                                                                          1. We compost everything on that not-in-the-disposal list except for citrus peels and small chicken bones. The former take forever to decompose. The latter would probably have every raccoon in the neighborhood sniffing around our compost bin. We use the disposal for most plate scrapings -- and other light vegetable waste when there's too much snow to make it fun to tromp out to the compost bin.

                                                                            1. I never put leftover pasta or potato peelings in the disposal. I put down about 6 ice cubes once a week.

                                                                              1. It's easier to say what I won't put down it and one never should unless they want to replace it.

                                                                                Shells from mollusks, crusteans (e.g. clams, oysters, crab, shrimp, lobster)
                                                                                Artichoke leaves
                                                                                potato peelings (the starch can clog your sink if you don't grind immediately with lots of water)
                                                                                Fruit pits

                                                                                I always put citrus peel down. It freshens the smell.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: lisaf

                                                                                  a while ago my plumber friend told me to put lemon throught the disposal to make is smell better. I love the results and do it quite often.
                                                                                  My bf runs Ice through every once in a while to sharpen the blades (? I don't know if it works or not)

                                                                                  I don't put bones, banana peels, or anything hard and/or really fiborus through. Once, my bf put raw chicken skin down the disposal. The skin didn't grind up before going down the drain and ended up clogging our pipes. It was pretty gross we had to open up the pipes under the sink and pull the nasty chicken skin out. Neither one of us will ever make that mistake again!

                                                                                2. We put very little down our disposal, we try to remove any leftover food from the plates, & we also throw out any of the scraps from doing the prep work as well. We only really put eggshells, and the occasional lemon through the disposal. However the occasional foodstuffs some times sneak by us and go down the drain.

                                                                                  My wife did accidentally run a shot glass through the disposal, and the Insinkerator disposal we have ground it up, & stopped working. I had to get a handy man out to get it working again. I was not about to stick my hand in there, and either get cut by the glass, or have it start up on me because it was jammed or something.

                                                                                  1. Hi all. Handyman again. Sounds like most of you agree with me about not putting alot down your disposal. And to all of you that insist............It just takes the bill of one plumber to make you a convert. At least I would think. So if your bread dough, potato peels, and starchy things are gonna go down the magic hole, think twice before you do it. And for those of you that don't, great. I love making money on the repair of your system. Use your system for gunky waste rinsed off plates, everything else in the trash. Otherwise, I will have my hand in your pocket eventually.

                                                                                    For the record, I took out long stringy vegetable stems today. Looked kinda like spinach stems/green onions/unknown object. It wasn't stuck in the garbage disposal. No, it was stuck in the drain as it exited the disposal.

                                                                                    Yes, citrus is a long used freshener. I have also seen some small capsules sold by hardware stores for the same purpose. Never used them or talked to anyone who did. Am I the only one who never smelled a bad smelling garbage disposal? Lots of bad smelling houses/apartments with said garbage disposals in them, but................ Again, use lots of water to flush the waste away. The "p-trap" or "J-bend" (same thing) under the sink is supposed to stop those odors from eminating from your pipes.

                                                                                    And for the record, the "blades" in your disposal are not blades. You might think of them as hammers. There are no sharp edges on then. Think of them as two or so hammers banging against the food at incredible speed, shattering it into tiny pieces. Kinda how junkyard recyclers process all those old cars or metal. Put them in a hammer mill that strikes at high speed/impact until everything in it's path is shattered into manageable chunks. Hence, the firmer the debris in the disposal, the easier it is to break it apart. That is why stringy things don't get chopped up. They kinda ooze thru the holes, clogging things up.

                                                                                    And to prove my point about ice down the disposal to sharpen the blades, have you ever heard of anyone sharpening a hammer??????????????????

                                                                                    BTW, grease is bad. Not on your disposal. Just in clogging up the pipes as it hardens.

                                                                                    Sorry to be so snide. I just love this subject. Have a clog free day!

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Handyman


                                                                                      Before you leave. Is there a difference in your opinion depending on the horsepower of the disposal. If the machine is spinning faster and is stronger, does the water plus stuff leave the machine faster and is less likely to cause clogs.

                                                                                      I would never put grease in any outbound pipe, but was wondering if a bigger is better theory holds true in your experience.

                                                                                      1. re: Handyman

                                                                                        I have used those little lemon-scented pellets (my mom bought them for me, long story). They're ok. We've had a lot of Key limes around recently, and after squeezing them I throw the halves (they are small of course) down the disposal and it freshens things up fine.

                                                                                        1. re: Handyman

                                                                                          yeah i made the mistake of putting starch in the garbage disposal.. boo me.. man i made the plumber MAD as hell.. to my defense, i was a new college kid who didn't know better.. anyway, the plumber guy yelled at me and to this day, i NEVER EVER put starchy products in the garbage disposal... hahahah i do like to put citrus peel in tehre though... in fact i did that last night =)

                                                                                          kinda my pet peeve when folks don't turn on the garbage disposal with the cold water running... i don't know why...

                                                                                          oh and yes you shouldn't put hand in there, but once i was irritated (yes in college again) because a teaspoon had inadvertantly fallen in the garbage disposal and my roommate refused to just take it out because she said it was the "garbage disposal" and it was dirty. i remember being incredulous and just taking the teaspoon out. sheesh...

                                                                                        2. Well, my disposal does smell kind of stale all the time, but in my defense, I am renting an at least 40 year old apartment, have been there a little over a year. God knows how many people have been through our place and how they handled the disposal.

                                                                                          1. I've lived in two cities that banned them entirely, New York and Toronto (since lifted), and others that encouraged, or even mandated the things. I bought my first one at a Sears store in suburban Toronto, and they refused to make a service call to fix it when they learned I lived downtown.

                                                                                            My first unit came with instructions to grind things such as beef rib bones to keep the mechanism in good shape. I quickly learned that trying to grind rib bone meant a service call. Many different foods caused it to jam.

                                                                                            In my current unit, which is much more powerful and has an auto reverse, I can't grind artichoke leaves, avocado pits, coffee filters or tea bags, absorbent pads from supermarket meat packages, large meat bones, or healthy leaves pruned from most house and garden plants. Shellfish shells usually grind, but occasionally jam. Other things mentioned all seem OK. Asparagus, banana peels, broccoli, chicken bones, leeks, hard fruit pits, potato, rice, apples, etc, etc, all go down the drain without causing any problems. It won't grind, say, plastic wrap or a fork, but I didn't INTEND to attempt those tasks ;-).

                                                                                            Citrus leavings are the best deodorizer ever and have never caused any trouble.

                                                                                            1. Handyman again........

                                                                                              The horsepower of the unit will give the blades much more power to crush things such as bones. But the part you all seem to be missing is that this debris clogs THE PIPES. One big problem is at the baffle inside the drain pipe directly under the sink, to slow down the joining of the water from two sinks as they merge together in the pipes, but this is only if you have a double sink. If you look at a cross section of the pipe, you will see the pipe is split in half inside, making the opening 3/4" high instead of 1 1/2". Now you put the potato peels, bones, etc. in there in great amounts, and you really gum things up. Same applies for a single sink, but you get the idea. So, in answer to your question, it is not the horsepower or the garbage disposal per se, but the mess you cause in your drain as the debris exits. And sometimes it jams the disposal. And then add coffee filters, tea bags, etc. (I must admit that these are all new ideas to me) and you have increased the problem potential. Yikes. I'm glad it is not my home that my wife is doing this at.

                                                                                              1. My roommate left a bowl of yellowy liquid out on the counter, in one of my cereal bowls. She wasn't home, so I called her to ask what it was. She said, "Oops. I forgot to throw out the CHICKEN GREASE." Gross! I've never disposed of it before, and she told me to throw it in a bag and then into the trash...I didn't want to deal with it leaking and all, so I just poured it down the disposal. The disposal still works, but I won't be thinking of my cereal bowl the same again.

                                                                                                1. I just read this topic last week and knew what I not suppose to put in , but I did it anyway, it cost me $60 to fix it today

                                                                                                  1. Here's the simple rule: If you can't eat it and digest it yourself, then it shouldn't go in the disposal!

                                                                                                    1. Since garbage disposals are forbidden in my condo building but I luckily inherited an illegal one, I am fearful of causing problems with it and having to get it removed, possibly at gunpoint. Therefore I don't put down onion skins, shrimp shells, banana skins, grapefruit rinds, or any kind of bones including chicken and fish. In fact, if the debris can easily be picked up in my hand for transfer to the garbage bag (potato peelings, carrot scrapings etc) I don't put it down. But it is convenient for liquidy garbage like coffee grounds. I run a lot of water into it and sometimes put down some baking soda and vinegar as I read somewhere that when they effervesce (sp?) that lifts grease & crap off the sides of the pipes.

                                                                                                      1. I just bought a new house and it has a garbage disposal, my first one ever. So my question is, really what's the benefit of having one? I've gone my whole life without one, and I for the life of me just don't see a REASON that I need to use it, especially with the possibility of it clogging. Obviously most on here use their disposal, so what are the advantages of using the disposal versus throwing it in the garbage?

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Rick

                                                                                                          I suppose, if you're used to putting all solid waste in a trash can and taking it out daily (or more often), a garbage disposal doesn't make much sense. I think, though, that people who've had garbage disposals (and trash compactors too) find that they don't need to empty the trash nearly as often if they use the devices. From just the volume standpoint you have less trash to dispose of. But some people are more sensitive to odors than others, and some just can't stand the idea of trash in the kitchen. Whatever works for you. My Mom used to clean her house the day before her cleaning crew came....... she was a very neat person, so I never ever really understood that except in psychological terms.

                                                                                                          1. re: Rick

                                                                                                            When you have a disposal, you can take the dirty pot, throw it in the sink, run water, let it soak a couple of minutes (or hours depending). Then you can dump/scrape the water and the loosened food into the sink. Without it you would be scraping like crazy into the trash, possibly repeatedly.

                                                                                                            The greatest thing about the disposal is that it allows a set-up like mine: butcher block counter, undermounted sink. I chop, I scrape into the sink, I run the disposal. No separate cutting boards, no crap around a sink mount, no carrying waste to the trash can and dropping/dripping on the floor.

                                                                                                            Also, say you have a used plate w/ only salad dressing and a couple of lettuce leaves. You just rinse, and stick in the dishwasher. You have elimnated the step of walking over to the trash can and scraping those leaves out.

                                                                                                            1. re: Rick

                                                                                                              It depends on your set up in the kitchen. If your trash can is far from the sink it saves the steps.

                                                                                                              I have 2 disposals and a trash compactor located right next to my main sink. For me I can either scrape into the compactor and the put the dish in the sink for pre-DW or do it all in one swoop into the sink. Not a huge biggie.

                                                                                                              But the HUGE advantages are 2:

                                                                                                              1 - Smell. My garbarge cans are in the garage and the garage is not on grade with the kitchen. I carry the garbage down the stairs through the basement and into the garage. Likewise I only have once a week pick up. So if I placed the disposal material into the garage the smell can get pretty bad after a week. Think one week old chicken bones.
                                                                                                              2 - Mess. Unless you are very luck, garbage bags break. If mine break, it's a pretty easy clean up, not tomatoes and potatoes and junk all over the floor.

                                                                                                              And as Danna points out it is a very easy process to clean up after a meal. Grab a plate, run it with the leftovers into the sink, flip a switch and bingo, its gone.

                                                                                                            2. I's gone....just like that. No collecting and putting somewhere else, no smell. The sink, after cutting and preparing, is clean in a flash. I've always had one, use it tons, (except for grease), and it's fine.

                                                                                                              1. I must admit I put absolutely everything down mine without hesitation. So far, no problems, knock on wood.

                                                                                                                1. Jenny: young lady If I could reach you I would give you a great big hug for posting
                                                                                                                  this thread.look how many people have answered you. and I know there is alot of
                                                                                                                  people that are going to laugh at alot of answers here but they are going to learn
                                                                                                                  from this e-mail. you could probably write a book on it. thanks again for this e-mail.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: bigjimbray

                                                                                                                    Nothin' these days. One of the worst things to do for waste water systems. I now have a budding worm composter (no the thing doesn't smell bad) for plant based kitchen waste as well as egg shells, coffee grinds and tea bags. I've been told worms avoid composting citrus. Even newspaper and egg cartons go into the worm composter. Hair also but I find that a bit too gross:)

                                                                                                                    So I will have nice compost for my garden, liquid fertilizer as well. My town does three can recycling (one for "solid waste", recyclables and garden clippings). The only food waste that go in the garbage now are bones, cow milk based waste.

                                                                                                                    Garbage disposal is very happy not being used...

                                                                                                                    1. re: drmimi

                                                                                                                      Very true. A friend is an environmental engineer who works with storm and waste water systems. Her firm mostly does storm water vaults and septic systems though they've had a few contracts for municipal and industrial sewage treatment plants.

                                                                                                                      According to her the two biggest factors in water treatment are total water volume and the percentage of disolved organics. Breweries are the worst offenders, but restaurants, bakeries, and certain types of food processing all have high organic loads as well. While residential garbage disposals aren't a huge concern in the grand scheme of things she reccomends against them for anyone on a septic system. She says you should try to put as little as possible down one connected to a municipal sewer in order to ease the load on the treatment plant.

                                                                                                                  2. You're not crazy!

                                                                                                                    I stopped putting anything down the disposal. It's easier just having a bowl next to the cutting board in which to put onion and garlic skins, celery discards, other fibrous vegetable discards, excess meat fat, et cetera. Then discarding these things in the trash.

                                                                                                                    It's much cheaper than calling the plumber!

                                                                                                                    1. I once lived in an apartment and got the disposal stopped up with some fibrous vegetable parts. The landlord used a wrench on the bottom of the disposal to get the disposal turning, THEN - here is the good part - he grabbed a BEER BOTTLE, smashed it in the sink, and ran the whole bottle down the disposal. Took several minutes to chew it all up, and talk about LOUD. But believe me, all the vegetable fibers were GONE when the bottle finished going through!

                                                                                                                      1. Wow! Very interesting! I put almost EVERYTHING in ours. It is very powerful, but I guess that doesn't mean everything. The things I don't put: large bones like drumstick bones; ice, chicken fat or other fat that is in large chunks, tea bags, paper products (OK, that never occurred to me). That's probably it. I put watermelon rinds, broccoli stems, chicken backs, definitely all food scraps.

                                                                                                                        1. does anyone else flush some things down the toilet? i'll send old soups or sauces down the toilet, so as not to stink up my kitchen drains. nothing too chunky or solid though. is this a stupid idea?

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: britterbeezer

                                                                                                                            I absolutely do that! DH thought I was crazy the first time, but it's much more efficient that putting it down the sink.

                                                                                                                          2. I'm never putting anything down the garbage disposal ever again. I put a tiny piece of cooked chicken down the garbage disposal and turned it on. 2 days later I noticed flies in the house, I had no clue where they were coming from. The next day I noticed whenever I turned on the sink they would buzz around me. There were no dishes in the sink, the food was all put away... so I thought maybe they are coming from inside the sink, which to me sounded like a crazy idea. I spraid lysol down the sink and all of the sudden black worms crawled out and flies flew out. I ran out of the house and almost threw up. After a few minutes I went back in, grabbed raids and started spraying it down the sink. I let burning hott water run down it and turned on the garbage disposal. Its been two days since I've done it, and I still see those flies. I think they went from the sink and laid their eggs somewhere else in the house. I'm calling an exterminator tomorrow. The garbage disposal is about 5 years old and barely was used. My parents and their friends acted like everyone knew not to put food down the garbage disposal. They thought I put fruit down the garbage disposal, I thought I would sound even more stupid if I said it was a piece of chicken. Has this happened to anyone?!?

                                                                                                                            1. i grew up in a house that had a septic tank so my parents always said not to put large chunks of anything down there. so when i was helping my boyfriend in college clean up after dinner at his parents house i was shocked to see him emptying plates full of chicken bones down his disposal. when i said something he was like "it's a GARBAGE disposal. it's made to get rid of your garbage."

                                                                                                                              so, why is it called a garbage disposal anyway if you really can't put garbage in there?

                                                                                                                              1. I worked in a kitchen at a summer camp for 3 years. They had septic systems, and put 3 or more coffee cans full of all kids of food waste down the disposal after every meal (18 meals a week for 8 weeks over the summer). We didn't put grease from cooking down, but almost any other food product. We tried to keep bones out, but since the kids scraped their own plates into the coffee cans, invariably some snuck through. After running all the food through, if there was anything rattling around down there (besides silverware) we'd just dump some ice down; the ice traps the food (bones, banana peels, fruit pits, etc) against the 'blades' (I know, they're really hammers, but some things, like banana peels, get cut rather than broken) causing them to be ground up enough to go down the drain.

                                                                                                                                In 3 summers, we only plugged the drain once, because we decided to see how fast we could get all 3 coffee cans of junk to go down, so we dumped all three cans in, and then started the disposal (Hey, we were just kids!) Needless to say, the drain was unhappy, and promptly plugged, and then blew apart at the compression fittings, spraying lovely ground up leftovers all over the bottom of the sink, dishwaher, wall, floor, my legs, etc. I then became the plumber and cleaned everything out and put it back together; donned my janitor hat and cleaned the kitchen; went back to washing dishes (2 hours later!), and then went and took a shower.

                                                                                                                                I've found that a powerful disposal will grind most anything, except stones and silverware, enough to get it into the drain. It is the responsibility of the disposal operator to make sure what the disposal puts into the drain goes all the way down the drain. What's that? How do you do that? you ask. Well, as others have pointed out, LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER! If it is smaller than the diameter of your narrowest pipes, it will happily go down if there is enough water carrying it. Someone mentioned cold water, but didn't say why, so I will. Cold water solidifies grease, which causes it to float down your pipes rather harmlessly. If you use hot water, grease will melt in the disposal, and then when it reaches a cooler part of you waste plumbing, it will grab hold of the side and hang on. Also cold water causes many things to harden, which although it sounds like nonsense, helps the disposal; since the disposal would rather break things than cut then, harder things are better because they are more brittle and break rather than flexing and bouncing around down there.

                                                                                                                                Happy grinding!

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: rent_a_husband

                                                                                                                                  It is still not recommended to use a garbage disposal if you have a septic sytem. The one for a summer camp probably also had a great deal more capacity thane the average system built for a home.

                                                                                                                                  But here in NJ, septic systems can easily run over $30,000 to replace. The message is that it is not wise to put any more into the system than is absolutely necessary - and garbage is not necessary.

                                                                                                                                2. if it fits in the hole and spins then it goes in.

                                                                                                                                  i will, occasionally, run a couple of trays of ice cubes down the disposal, especially if i've been putting fibrous or leafy things in there.

                                                                                                                                  i will also run the disposal when i drin my pasta water to disolve any grease/gunk.

                                                                                                                                  i've been doing this for years and never had a problem, as the rule in my Hut is 'No Garbage In The Trash.'

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                                                                                                    Clearly, experiences and situations differ. The answer to this depends a lot on your situation. If you are connected to a municipal system and don't really worry about where the stuff is going (it's somebody else's problem!), AND you have a powerful (e.g. 1 horsepower disposer) AND adequate piping, then you can put just about anything through there, although if you do fibrous stuff like onion skins in quantity it's always a good idea to go slowly. If you are weak in any of those criteria, best to be careful, especially if you have a septic tank--there the problem is not your disposer per se, but what the tank can handle and especially not taking a chance on eventually plugging up your drainfield, which would involve big big bucks to fix (as an aside, for the same reason be careful what toilet paper you use. Quilted Northern, which is NSF rated, is my choice--Target carries the same paper under their house name).

                                                                                                                                    IMO, never put grease down your pipes no matter what. If something greasy goes down, I think an immediate and long flush with hot water is a good idea. Lots cheaper and easier than calling the plumber.

                                                                                                                                    I have heard it said that some occasional chicken bones are good to grind up because the bits of bone help scour the pipes out. Whether this is true I don't know.

                                                                                                                                    I grew up in a small town in Southern Indiana that became famous in the late 1940's for "outlawing garbage." Basically everybody in town got a disposal, and the city stopped picking up garbage, and would not take your trash if there was garbage in there. They built a new sewage treatment plant to handle the load. Worked great, and it did show that you can in fact grind up and flush down just about everything if the system is set up to handle it.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: johnb

                                                                                                                                      no septic tank.
                                                                                                                                      i'm in a 110 unit highrise.

                                                                                                                                  2. I put essentially everything down mine- bones, shrimp tails, coffee filters, celery, citrus peels, pits etc. I have a large one, it is 1 3/4 hp and think it may be a commerial one. previoulsy, I had a small one that would barely grind anything,

                                                                                                                                    1. Forgive me for not reading all the posts. If I'm being repetitive, I apologize.

                                                                                                                                      We recently re-did our church kitchen. This is not a mega-church, for most coffee hours looking at 40 or 50 people. This is not a heavy duty commercial kitchen, more like a residential kitchen on steroids. Two stoves, a 36 inch refigerator, a 36 inch freezer, two sinks, stainless counters, etc. None of it is commercial quality or even high end (wolf/subzero) residential. We did get some "better" garbage disposals.

                                                                                                                                      The other day while we were cleaning up, I was amazed at how many people have no idea how to use a garbage disposal, and what they would and wouldn't put down it. What surprised me most was how people used it. Most common was to force as much food scrap down the drain as possible, turn on the switch, then turn it off and turn the hot water on full blast. This was followed by an exclamation along the lines of "see why we don't have one at home, these things never work."

                                                                                                                                      One i managed to actually get water flowing thru the pipes again, they were clearly amazed that these things actually can work. A few of them actually began to understand the process.... turn on the water.... turn on the blades... feed the scraps down at a reasonable rate... listen to the noise the machine is making.... oh, that sounds like flatware.... what an education for all of us.

                                                                                                                                      1. Put her up at a hotel. A house guest who does not respect your boundaries should be kept away.

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. My garbage disposal must have a huge magnet in it. If I drop a screw, ring pull or other metallic object it will defy the normal laws of gravity and head straight for the mouth of the monster. Usually I am lucky and notice - but not always. It has a specific affinity for espresso spoons.

                                                                                                                                          This is one time my SO comes up trumps. I am unable to get my hand inside the hole, whereas for her it is easy. We now have a little rule. If she sees a wooden spoon sticking out of the garburator she knows there is something to retrieve.

                                                                                                                                          Last time I renovated I put in a ceramic sink with the old garburator. It is far, far quieter than in a stainless sink, so quiet in fact that you can forget it is on until you notice that odd hum.

                                                                                                                                          1. Interesting reading. I just cooked some pork chops and wondered if I could throw the bones in the disposal, so I Googled it and got this site. After reading all the posts, I threw them in, turned on the cold water, and away they went . . . down the drain. The biggest bone put up a little fight, but the 1 horsepower Insinkerator won the war. After that, I removed the plastic trap under the sink to see what got left behind and it was perfectly clean. I'm impressed, but it occurred to me while doing this, that I really should get a hobby.

                                                                                                                                            1. In a recent kitchen cabinet purge, I found a container of dried onions and another of garlic powder. Since I've never found a good use for either, I put them down the disposal. They were quickly gone but not forgotten. Peee-Yuuu, what a stink they left behind. Some combination of lemons, baking soda, vinegar, hot water and ice cubes finally got rid of the smell. I won't be buying either of these items again myself but perhaps I can spare someone else a bad case of disposal halitosis.

                                                                                                                                              1. Any of our food scraps that aren't too soupy go in the compost bin, so very little goes down the disposal.

                                                                                                                                                1. umm......puting your hand down the disposal dosnt sound like a good idea.

                                                                                                                                                  1. Use tongs to fish things out of the garbage disposal. We have tongs with the grab end only 1/2" wide. Those tongs are worthless for anything else other than getting stuff out of the disposal.

                                                                                                                                                    1. I have never had any problem putting anything short of ham bones down the garbage disposal. On the other hand I bought good disposals.

                                                                                                                                                      Now the disposal in my son's rented apartment is a different beast altogether. It clogged the other day on potato peels. The handyman informed me that you can't put potato peels down the garbage disposal, to which I responded, maybe you can't put potato peels down THIS garbage disposal, but it's the first one I've run across in 45 years that can't handle potato peels.

                                                                                                                                                      I told my son what he'd said when he came home, and his response was pretty much the same as mine.

                                                                                                                                                      A good garbage disposal handles most of the list of things people seem to think you shouldn't put down the garbage disposal. The only thing I've never tried to run down my garbage disposal are the paper products. I frankly don't understand why you'd want to run paper towels down the garbage disposal. But all those food items - up to and including small bones - have easily been handled by any garbage disposal save this current one that I've ever used. I don't usually put bones or pits down the disposal simply because they make so much noise, but have on occasion and have never had a problem.

                                                                                                                                                      1. Banana peels, never! No crab shells, either! Pits from olives or larger go in the trash. Most chicken residue in the trash, although I don't worry about a few of the smallest bones.

                                                                                                                                                        It depends on the plumbing between the disposal and the sewer. I live on the fourth floor, so have a long run of smaller drainpipe before getting to the larger pipes. Soft waste like lettuce which will easily go through the disposal can clog the pipe below if too much is sent through. Having had that happen once, I am now conservative about what I put through the disposal, and how much. And I run more water through to flush it out.

                                                                                                                                                        1. I think you should give your MIL a nice glass of her favorite beverage and send her to spend quality time with your DH/grandkids/dog/cat... :)

                                                                                                                                                          1. we've all been there JennyHunter, with family members that occasionally visit and mess up the kitchen or pans or disposal. my mom and her husband were notorious for clogging either the toilet or breaking the disposal. he would flush an apple down the toilet when finished with it. mom would peel a hundred potatoes and even though I said to use a colander and toss in garbage bin, she'd use GD and I'd pay the plumber bill. 

                                                                                                                                                            Heres what I don't put (it's a shorter list)
                                                                                                                                                            potato peels
                                                                                                                                                            onion skins 
                                                                                                                                                            banana peels
                                                                                                                                                            carrots scrapings 
                                                                                                                                                            egg shells 
                                                                                                                                                            coffee grounds 
                                                                                                                                                            liquid grease like bacon fat
                                                                                                                                                            shortening liquid/solid

                                                                                                                                                            1. There have already been so many posts here ... but I have to add my opinion because this is a real pet peeve of mine.

                                                                                                                                                              A disposal is a TOOL, just like any other tool. In my opinion if people knew how to use it correctly there would be much better management of trash, something that's particularly important when you're in an urban area or an apartment building.

                                                                                                                                                              Take the time to read the instruction manual that comes with most disposals. Because it's a tool it can grind up almost anything, but fibrous stuff will not wash down well and will clog. The biggest offender of this I can think of is artichokes, but people have also mentioned potato skins, onion skins, etc.

                                                                                                                                                              I seem to recall grinding up shell fish isn't a good idea either I think for the same reason, and it's too hard to grind.

                                                                                                                                                              But you absolutely can grind up bones and in my opinion this is the correct way to dispose of them. If you've ever lived out in the country disposals are seen as tools to keep raccoons and the like from going through your trash and making a mess looking for bones and food.

                                                                                                                                                              Personally, I don't grind up big bones because I don't like the noise and I think to do this efficiently you probably need a high-end disposal with high Horse Power.

                                                                                                                                                              But chicken bones are very very soft and easy to grind up. The KEY is to not overwhelm the disposal (as others have mentioned here) and the mistake most often made is to not let the water run long enough afterwards because the ground up stuff has to not only clear your kitchen pipes but it needs to clear the property pipes and make it to the central line, especially if you're in an apartment.

                                                                                                                                                              So if you've done a lot of grinding after a meal, including small bones, I'd let the water run at least a couple minutes, maybe longer. This way you are also assured that you haven't clogged anything up.

                                                                                                                                                              There's no problem putting most things down the disposal so long as you do it in small batches with water running. Again, read the manual. Putting a lemon in the disposal as others have said is a good way to clean it. If it's a whole lemon it will bounce around too long, so cut it at least in half.

                                                                                                                                                              Sprinkle some Comet (or similar cleaner) on ice and put it down the disposal as well is another cleaning tip.

                                                                                                                                                              I am pro disposal! It's a great tool if used right and if more people used it right the dumpsters of this world would attract a lot less flies!

                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: phmayor

                                                                                                                                                                You are correct on all points...

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: phmayor

                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for the input. I tried a lime cut in half since I love the aroma but it didn't do anything so I am avoiding citrus from now on. I am one of many people who have purchased a property that already has a disposal. So no care and use booklet and that is why I have asked certain questions.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: azDesertGal

                                                                                                                                                                    If you can find the make/model # of the disposal you have installed in your kitchen, you *might* be able to find the manual online.

                                                                                                                                                                    As for citrus - I usually cut the lemon or lime halves (after zesting and juicing) in half again and toss each quarter into the disposal. Run LOTS of cold water before turning the unit on, and then after flipping the switch off, continue to run lots of cold water. Citrus is one of the easiest things to grind. If yours isn't doing so, it might need to be replaced.

                                                                                                                                                                2. I believe they are for garbage that would make your garbage can smell if it had to sit for awhile. I don't put meat in there though, I freeze it then put it in trash as close to collection time as possible. It makes no sense to be afraid of it. The main problem is not running enough water when u grind food. Hey eat the potato skins w/ur potatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. So I watch what I put down the disposal--not much. But my husband just got angry because I put rotten watermelon pieces down. About 2 cups worth. Tell me I am not crazy!! He says it is what made the clothes washer over flow!!! I would like an answer just to show him. Pleeeese!!!

                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lilredandmrhood

                                                                                                                                                                      How small were the pieces of rind and how much did you try and dispose of? Most plumbers and appliance places tell you the hard rinds of watermelons are not disposal material.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lilredandmrhood

                                                                                                                                                                        You might want to get your pipes looked at if indeed the washer overflowed because of a backup in your kitchen pipe.

                                                                                                                                                                        Recently, we had our sewer line "roto rooter'd" because it backed up. A toilet flush could have spelled disaster.

                                                                                                                                                                        I am very careful about what I put down my disposal now. Peels of all kinds go right in the trash. No more peeling potatoes over the sink.

                                                                                                                                                                        I refuse to get a Rachel Ray rip-off garbage bowl, though.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. My disposal only really gets food scraps left on dishes and pans after scraping them into the can I keep for food and the prep scraps I don't feel like picking out of the sink. Anything really stinky goes directly outside into the food/yard waste bin.

                                                                                                                                                                        The house I grew up in was on a septic system and we had a compost heap so not much went down the disposal other than what came off pans and dishes when they were washed/rinsed.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. 7 years and this thread has been going strong. I find it quite comical.

                                                                                                                                                                          I can't believe that people still use garbage disposals. What is wrong with disposing of food in a bin? Judging by some of the replies that some poeple have put in here regarding what not to throw in it I think not using one is the best bet.

                                                                                                                                                                          To the OP: I do hope that by now you have found the courage to tell your mother in law where to go.

                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: iliria

                                                                                                                                                                            Being careful about what you put down the GD in no way means that they aren't incredibly useful and convenient.
                                                                                                                                                                            I'd never part with mine and would never choose not having one over having one.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: iliria

                                                                                                                                                                              I suppose lots of people in California are trying to figure how to use the disposal without running the extra water.

                                                                                                                                                                              Either that, or there's a great demand for plumbers to unclog drains.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: iliria

                                                                                                                                                                                There are lots of these zombie threads. I only have one because it came with the unit. If designing my own kitchen I'd probably get one just because it makes dealing with food scraps easier.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Not counting a few objects that accidentally made their way into disposal, have a few things that don't play well with disposal. Haven't had any serious problems with a lot of things "they" say not to put in disposal... veggie peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc... just make sure to run plenty of water while grinding stuff into oblivion. Artichoke leaves/trimmings are a NO NO... whether raw of cooked. Regular potato skins don't seem to be a problem, but sweet potato skins are apparently stringy and can totally clog things up.

                                                                                                                                                                                Until a few years ago, always had 1-2 BIG dogs... my 4 legged disposals for all kinda of stuff. Cores of lettuce/cabbage, ends of carrots/celery, cores of tomatoes, less than perfect lettuce leaves... dogs gobbled it all up.

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                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kseiverd

                                                                                                                                                                                  Interesting, I've never used my disposal much and I ended up removing the it after a recent kitchen reno. I was just wondering if that was a mistake because recent warm weather gave me a smelly trashcan. However, reading this thread leads me to believe that most of what I toss out would still need to be tossed out. So what exactly is the benefit of using the garbage disposal?

                                                                                                                                                                                  I just ordered a small kitchen composter to toss out veggie peels, skins, etc. and perhaps this is the way to go?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kobuta

                                                                                                                                                                                    Don't know about the composter, but my method is to trash things that don't quickly get rotten/smelly (most vegetable peelings, cooked chicken bones, etc) and run things that will soon smell through the disposer. I have a septic tank so try to avoid putting anything down there that I can trash.