Garbage Disposal Basics

While the debate continues about the use of garbage disposals (also known as garbage disposer, food disposer, food waste disposer, food disposal, sink disposal, kitchen sink disposal, sink grinder or garburator) for disposing of organic waste, they are considered by most to be part of a green household. For most of us, using a disposal is also more convenient and sanitary than composting.

A properly sized disposal can handle most “normal” food waste if operated properly – but they're not magic. Try to avoid creating excess food waste if you can, and follow these simple disposal use guidelines:


Power First

Turn disposal power on before placing food waste into the unit.

Use Cold Water

Use cold water when grinding food waste. You can use hot water again once disposal power has been turned off.

Less is More

Grind a little at a time – don’t overfill. Always grind thoroughly, making sure to fully flush out the system.

Use Regularly

Operate your disposal with cold water every few days, whether grinding food or not. This will help keep the components clean and reduce the likelihood of rust.

Keep it Clean

Run your disposal with 2-3 ice cubes placed in it every few weeks (you can also freeze vinegar in ice cube trays). Don't forget to clean the stopper.

Avoid Chemicals

Avoid using harsh chemicals in your disposal. Grinding citrus peels such as lemons or oranges keeps things fresh, degreases naturally and cuts bacteria.

What Can I Put in My Disposal?

Many of the issues we'd like to help you avoid are less about the disposal itself and more about processes and your plumbing. The guidelines below apply mostly to residential disposal operation but there are some parallels to commercial applications too.

Safe Disposal Items

  • Breads, cooked vegetables, meats (no bones)
  • Small amount of foods from plate leftovers. In general, this is what residential garbarge disposals were designed for. Dinner leftovers from serving plates should be fine but larger food quantities from cooking pans should be discarded.
  • Eggs shells – if ground slowly under running water
  • Citrus, banana and apple peels – grind a small amount at a time and be sure to remove all produce stickers
  • Ice cubes, rock salt (often used for cleaning)


Items to Avoid

  • Grease, oil, greasy foods. Over time these can clog pipes.
  • Pasta, rice or oats. These foods can soak up water and expand in your pipes.
  • Limit or avoid fibrous vegetables such as artichoke, celery, rhubarb, lettuce, kale, cornhusks, onion skins, asparagus, and other stringy vegetables. These items may get wrapped around disposal components.
  • Limit or avoid potato skins. The real threat here is a potential starchy clog in drainage lines near the disposal.
  • Limit or avoid coffee grounds. A good idea is to throw the bulk of them into the trash.
  • Raw poultry, including chicken skin. It’s hard to grind and bacteria can result in odor.
  • Bones, fruit pits, stems, nut shells
  • Seafood shells, including mussels, clams, oysters, and lobster
  • Be sure you’re only grinding food waste. Don’t let household items like bags, towels, cigarette butts, plastic, broken glass, jewelry, wood, rocks, silverware, tin foil and other non-food items find their way into your disposal.