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Be Kind to Your Garbage Disposal (And It Will Be Kind to You)

A garbage disposal is one of the most convenient kitchen accessories you can have. However, what you can and can't put in a disposal can be a pretty hotly contested topic. If you like to play it safe, many experts advise you to toss the following items out with the trash: Fibrous fruits and vegetables such as asparagus, rhubarb, outer celery stalks, artichokes, flowers, etc.; potato peels; grease; egg shells; animal bones (even tiny ones); starchy items such as pasta and rice (they expand); fruit pits and seeds; corn husks; corn cobs; anything non-organic such as plastic, paper, etc.; hair; banana peels; teabags with strings; crustacean shells; nut shells; uncooked dough.

More disposal do's and don'ts

  • Do your research. Make sure you buy a unit that can process the types of waste you produce most often, in sufficient quantities, with adequate safety features for your household. Although some types of waste should never be put into any disposal, some models, such as the Insinkerator Evolution series, may be able to handle certain items that others can't.
  • Read the owner's manual. ;Learn its ways and respect its boundaries. Quality disposals will reward you with many years of trouble-free use.
  • Less is more. If you have doubts about whether a particular substance should go into the disposal, don't do it.
  • Take it slow. Feed the food waste slowly into the disposal in small chunks. Be sure to run plenty of cold water into the unit while you are processing, and keep the water running for about 15 seconds after the processing noise stops.
  • There goes the spoon. Unless you have a batch feed unit or safety cover, dropping a utensil or other small kitchen item into the disposal is unfortunately not uncommon. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for removal, both for safety's sake and to avoid damage to the unit or to valuable items such as silver flatware. Remember that hard food items such as peach pits can cause trouble too.
  • Clogs are no fun. Avoid sticky, clumpy matter such as coffee grinds, grease, and pasta. These substances frequently accumulate, causing clogs. Some clogs may be easy to clear, but others can require a costly visit from your plumber.
  • How about citrus? Not only are orange, lime and lemon peels on the approved list, many sources also advise this as a way to keep your unit smelling fresh. However, cut the citrus peels into small pieces and grind only a few at a time as they are fairly tough.
  • Living green. Instead of tossing fibrous vegetable matter and eggshells in the trash, start a backyard compost pile.
Learn more about how to choose your garbage disposal.