6 Items You Should Never Put in the Garbage Disposal

Keep your garbage disposal running well by never putting any of the following items down a garbage disposal.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #217
The Quick And Dirty

Never put these objects inside your garbage disposal:

  • Non-food items
  • Grease and oils
  • Starchy foods
  • Fruit pits
  • Fibrous and stringy foods
  • Bones


A few episodes back, I talked about 8 items you should never put in a dishwasher. The other day I got to thinking about our garbage disposal and mistakes we’ve made with it over the years. There are definitely items that should never be put in a garbage disposal. I haven’t heard many people talk about this, which means they are likely learning these lessons the hard way. Putting these items in a garbage disposal can cause dull blades, clogged drains, or even completely breaking the disposal for good.

Help keep your garbage disposal running well by never putting any of the following items down a garbage disposal.

See Also: 10 Tips That Will Change How You Clean Your Kitchen

1.) Non-food items

First and foremost, no non-food items should ever be put in a garbage disposal. It may be obvious that metal items like silverware should not go in the garbage disposal. If it’s not obvious, as soon as you have a spoon end up in the running blades, you’ll know that it’s not right. The garbage disposal is not a trash, and even things like plastic and paper can damage the blades. Any items that are not food should always go straight in to the trash.

2.) Grease and oils

The second item that shouldn’t go in the garbage disposal is grease. Animal fats, oils, and grease can coat the blades and cause them to become less effective. Grease can also accumulate in both the garbage disposal and the sink drains, which can lead to some nasty clogs. If you haven’t picked up on this one yet, putting grease and fats down the garbage disposal will eventually lead to a call to your friendly neighborhood plumber.

3.) Starchy foods

The next item on the list is one that I learned the hard way. We love to host Thanksgiving dinner, and one year I decided to toss my potato peels in to the garbage disposal. While it seemed that things were OK for a while, when we turned on the dishwasher to run before all our company arrived, we realized that the starchy peels had formed a thick paste and clogged the garbage disposal. Since the dishwasher drains through the same pipes, we ended up flooding our kitchen right as the first guests were arriving. It was an absolute disaster, and thankfully our friends were there to help catch the dirty water and my husband was handy enough to open the pipes and remove the clog.

Don’t make my mistake and never, ever put starchy items like potatoes, rice, and pasta down the garbage disposal. While they may seem soft enough to get chopped and washed away, it’s more likely that they will expand and bind together in the pipes. The thick paste the starchy items forms will cause a headache that is not worth the convenience of rinsing the items down the drain.

4.) Fruit pits

If you’ve ever put the next item on the list down your garbage disposal, it’s likely you immediately realized your mistake. Fruit pits, like the ones in peaches, apricots, and mangos, are too hard to be chopped up by the garbage disposal blades. If one should accidently fall into a running garbage disposal, you’ll hear a very loud knocking noise as the pit gets thrown around the disposal. Turn off the disposal immediately and unplug it or shut off the circuit to the disposal before attempting to fish out the pit. Using a flashlight, figure out where the pit is and use tongs to grab that pit out of the garbage disposal before turning it back on.

If you ever decide to reach in to the garbage disposal, make sure the switch is off and you have protective gloves on your hands, as even the non-spinning blades can cut your fingers.

5.) Fibrous and stringy foods

The next item on the list can be a real pain if you put it through your garbage disposal. Foods that have strings and fibers, like corn husks and celery, may seem like they are able to go through the disposal, but the fibers can wrap themselves around the blades—and getting them off can be next to impossible. Think of the last time you had a balloon string get wrapped around a ceiling or floor fan. Do you remember how hard it was to get the string unwound and removed from the fan? The same thing can happen if you put stringy or fibrous foods down the disposal. The only difference is that you’ll likely need to call a plumber to help you detangle the items from this motor and blades.

6.) Bones

The final item on the list of items to never put down the garbage disposal is bones. It is probably obvious that thick bones like ones from steak shouldn’t go in the garbage disposal, but even smaller and softer bones should only be put in the trash. While bones may eventually get ground in the garbage disposal, they will likely dull the blades in the process. Play it safe and keep all bones out of your garbage disposal.

Maintaining your garbage disposal

Even if you are only putting appropriate items in your garbage disposal, it will still need a little maintenance to keep it running well.

First, when you are running items through your garbage disposal, make sure you are only putting small amounts of food in at a time. Also, make sure you have water running to wash the food particles down the drain.

Next, you’ll need to do a little work to keep your garbage disposal blades sharp. You won’t be able to remove the blade mechanism to sharpen the blades, but luckily there’s a very easy way to do this. Simply take a handful or cupful of ice cubes and toss them down a running disposal. The ice will not only sharpen the blades, but they will also knock free any food gunk that may have accumulated in your garbage disposal.

If your garbage disposal starts to have a funky smell coming from it, you can pour a little white vinegar down the disposal while running it. Or, if you have fresh citrus in your kitchen, specifically lemons or limes, you can toss a chunk of citrus down the disposal while it’s running. Any of these options will help deodorize a stinky garbage disposal.

See Also: How to Clean with Baking Soda

If you want to sharpen and freshen your garbage disposal at the same time, use an ice cube tray to freeze white vinegar in to cubes that you can toss in the disposal. If you prefer the fruity smell over the scent of vinegar, you can instead cut up small chunks of citrus rinds and freeze them in tap water to create fruity ice cubes to toss in the disposal.

A garbage disposal can be a handy part of your kitchen, but only if you treat it right. Make sure you are maintaining your garbage disposal and not putting any items in it that can damage the mechanisms. Remember that garbage disposals are very sharp, so always use pliers, tongs, or long tweezers if you need to grab something that has fallen in to your garbage disposal. And if you do run in to trouble, call your trusted plumber or handy man to help you fix the problems to keep both your hands and your plumbing safe.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.