Garbage disposals can be a very useful kitchen appliance, not to mention beneficial to the environment, if used properly and maintained appropriately. Having just had a clogged disposal at my son's house during a family Valentine's Day dinner, I found myself educating my child and his wife on how to properly operate the appliance and teaching what you can and shouldn't throw into your disposal.
I believe you only have to have a clogged disposal once during a holiday event to begin permanently thinking about what you're throwing down your drain!
In the case of my son's clog, the culprit was potato peels. Doing a little research, I was very surprised at what is commonly and frequently put into disposals. I eventually came up with this list of what NEVER to put in your disposal:
- artichoke leaves
- banana skins
- chicken bones (bones of any kind)
- coffee filters
- cooked rice
- egg shells (never!)
- grease of any type
- green onion tops
- onion skins
- potato peels
- shrimp shells
- tea bags
A common comment in reading other blogs was, "I've thrown everything into my disposal for years and never had a problem." I look at that statement skeptically. They may have never had a problem yet, but I believe one is lurking just out of sight, not to mention the downstream affect.
The items in the list above combine to damage the appliance (example bones), plug the drain piping (example peels), and load up the local waste water utility. New York City banned garbage disposals during the mid-90's because of the difficulty of properly treating the water. Even though this ban was eventually rescinded, it is still widely accepted among municipalities nationwide the energy and water usage required to process food scraps is substantial.
While there is a valid opposing point of view regarding food scraps sent to the landfill creating methane gas, considered to be a greenhouse gas, the larger argument says food waste is something of which we should all be cognizant and take appropriate steps to dispose of properly.
What can you do? Only allow down the drain what is being washed off the plate. Use cold water before, during, and after the disposal process. Scraps should be introduced into the system slowly and sparingly. Once a week, fill your disposer with ice cubes, then run with water. Once a month, place two tablespoons of baking soda, followed by 1/2 cup of white vinegar into the disposal. Rinse with cold water after a couple of minutes. Never buy a disposal that's less than 1/2 horsepower (HP); 3/4 HP would be better. Lastly, consider a compost bin.
And please, never put coffee filters or tea bags down your disposal.
Thanks for listening. Here's to trouble free family holiday dinners in the kitchen!