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What Not to Put Down Your Garbage Disposal

Turkey, ham, stewed apples, cranberry sauce and dressing—what’s not to love about Thanksgiving? Unfortunately, while most of us enjoy stuffing ourselves with stuffing on Thanksgiving day, cleaning up after dinner for your entire family (and extended family, and everyone’s plus-one) can be a nightmare. It’s no wonder that most plumbers report that they get the most housecalls the day after Thanksgiving!

This year, take pity on your poor plumbing with this guide for what not to put down your garbage disposal.

The Not Okay Items

  • Grease, fats, oils of any kind. Fatty and oily products stick to the sides of your pipes for weeks, even years, eventually resulting in a seriously damaging clog.
  • Coffee grounds and other grainy things. Grainy, lightweight particles have a tendency to stick around in the disposal and generate a stubborn slurry that not only stinks, but can harm your disposal.
  • Fibrous veggies. Carrots, corn, asparagus, celery—all are likely to wind around the disposal blades and lead to overheating and breaking.
  • Turkey bones, ham bones. The disposal blades aren’t sturdy enough to handle harder material like bone. Treat your pet to some Thanksgiving goodies instead! (as long as the bones aren’t too soft to shard)
  • Pastas and rice. Pasta, rice, and similar carbohydrates will continue to expand and can stick in pipes, leading to a similar issue to the greases and oils.
  • Skins and peels. Potato and other veggie peels, as well as animal skin, isn’t likely to process correctly, instead they’ll wrap themselves up in the blades.

The Things that are Just Fine

  • Simple food scraps. Your cranberry sauce, leftover pie (if there is such a thing), and mashed taters are all good to go.
  • Breads and biscuits. These don’t share the same problems as pasta, since breads are far softer. Just avoid heavy grain wheats.
  • Processed foods. Nearly all canned goods are safe for disposal use, provided they don’t contain any of the above no go items.
  • Soft fruits and vegetables. Banana (no peels!), mango, citrus fruits, peas—all of this sort of thing is safe enough.

Quick Disposal Tips

  • Flush items down with plenty of cold or warm water to facilitate safe and proper drainage.
  • Avoid overloading the disposal. It can only handle so much at a time, so take frequent breaks if you’re trying to process the leftovers of the whole family.
  • Continue to run the disposal for a few seconds after each use to ensure complete processing.
  • If there are large chunks of food material present chop them up first to make grinding easier and less likely to fail.
  • If your disposal is stinking up the place try flushing a mild bleach solution (1 part bleach, 2 parts water) or a halved lemon into the disposal and run it for a few moments. Should scrub away the odor in no time.

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