What Can’t Go Down a Garbage Disposal? 16 Items to Keep Out

Posted by Eric Nowak on Dec 18, 2018 9:25:00 AM

Eric Nowak


silver clean sink
Have you ever seen what went down the drain come back up-or possibly worse, get stuck? It’s not the most appetizing picture-or smell.

A friend shared with me a heartwarming story of a recent family gathering. They showed up at the host’s home baring bottles of wine, artichoke dip, and the obligatory assorted veggie tray. With bright grins they rang the doorbell ready to make merry with their loved ones. The door opened, and they were met with a mom and dad with heavy bags under their eyes-exhausted, but happy to see them.

“What happened?” my friend asked. His mother looked at his father and said two words “garbage disposal.”

The night before the parents had been happily preparing the feast for the next day when a geyser of potato peels exploded from their kitchen sink. While peeling away, my friend’s dad decided to shove all the peels down the garbage disposal. Amidst the starchy sludge that now graced the kitchen, he tried using a 25 foot drain snake to unblock it, but to no avail.

Calling several local plumbing companies at 9:30PM on the eve of a holiday (to which I reminded them, I work for a fantastic plumbing company and am, myself, a plumber) and eventually got a service tech to come out between the window of 12:30AM – 3:00AM. An industrial auger, no sleep, and $400 later, the blockage was gone and they got back to worrying about basting and who would get the wishbone.

These types of emergencies are easily avoided by knowing that just because something can fit down the drain, doesn’t mean it should go there. Below is a list of “Don’ts” for your garbage disposal.

coffee grains with white scoop

What Can’t Go Down a Garbage Disposal?

  • Nuts
  • Bones
  • Seafood Shells
  • Grease
  • Pits (peach, plumb, avocado, etc.)
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Bleach or Drain Cleaner
  • Starchy Foods (rice, potato peels, pasta)
  • Oatmeal
  • Eggshells
  • Banana Peels
  • Celery Stalks
  • Onion Skins
  • Pumpkin Innards
  • Paint
  • Corn Husks
  • Your Fingers! (Turn off the disposal and use tongs to retrieve items like silverware or jewelry)

Looking for more? For installing a new garbage disposal, we recommend hiring a professional (book an appointment with us!), but for those who are DIY inclined, here is a great guide from Benjamin Franklin Plumbing on how to install a new one.

Bonus Tips:

  • You have a garbage can for a reason. Put any food waste in there and only bits and pieces from rinsing should go down the disposal
  • Save this article for future “I told you so” moments