If you love to cook in your San Jose home, you know the garbage disposal is essential for easy cleanup. Throwing uneaten food in your trash can create lingering odors that persist for days. Food waste also may attract mice and other pests. A garbage disposal can prevent these problems. When you have a garbage disposal, you can dispose of food waste easily and hygienically. Unfortunately, some foods can clog, jam, or break the parts inside your disposal. Before you cook your next meal, learn more about what you can put down the garbage disposal.

How Your Garbage Disposal Works

Before you learn what you can put down your garbage disposal, you should familiarize yourself with how a garbage disposal operates. Your garbage disposal includes these major parts.

  • Housing or hopper chamber
  • Motor
  • Upper and lower grinding chambers
  • Impeller plate and shredding ring
  • Dishwasher inlet
  • Sink flange
  • Reset button

When you put food in your garbage disposal, the food enters the upper chamber. Flipping the switch near your sink turns on the garbage disposal’s motor. Between the upper and lower chambers is the shredder ring and flywheel. When you put larger food items in your garbage disposal, the flywheel stops the food from moving to the lower chamber. The shredder wheel uses sharp grooves to break down large pieces of food.

Attached to the flywheel is the impeller. Many people assume that the impeller contains sharp blades that chop up the food. These blades are not sharp. Instead, they push the food against the sides of the shredding ring, which grinds up the food. After the shredding rings grind up the food, the particles enter the lower chamber. These particles exit the garbage disposal through the waste line.

The Safe Zone: Foods That Are Okay for Your Disposal

Some people assume that their garbage disposal can handle any food or liquid. Unfortunately, putting the wrong item down your garbage disposal can cause a clog or worse. Some foods are safe for your garbage disposal, while other foods are only safe in small quantities.

Fruits: Safe or Not?

Orange, lemon, and lime peels or slices are safe for your garbage disposal. These fruits can eliminate foul odors and leave behind a citrus smell. You also can put apple slices – minus the seeds and core – into your garbage disposal. Tomatoes are another safe food that won’t harm your disposal. While some garbage disposal models can handle avocado pieces, the hard pit inside the fruit may pose a problem. To be safe, throw the avocado in the trash.

Avoid putting whole fruits in your garbage disposal. The core, pits, seeds, and fibers in the fruit can jam or break the impeller. Fruit seeds are especially damaging to a garbage disposal. Even small seeds from fruits like kiwis can damage your disposal or pipes. Small seeds can pass the impeller blades, but the seeds may damage your pipes. Large seeds, pits, or stones from fruits like mangoes can damage the blades or shut down your disposal completely.

Some people think that a soft fruit like a banana is safe for a garbage disposal. You should not put bananas or other fibrous fruits in your garbage disposal. Bananas contain tough fibers that may not break down in the garbage disposal. The fibers can wrap around the impeller blades and jam the disposal. Banana peels also contain these fibers that can jam the impeller. The soft banana may create a paste that clogs the disposal, too. Avoid putting other fibrous fruits, like pineapples, mangoes, and papayas, in your garbage disposal.

Bread and Grains

Some breads and grains may be safe for your garbage disposal in small quantities. One slice of bread torn into chunks may pass safely through your garbage disposal. You also can dispose of a small amount of cereal as long as you pour it slowly while the water is running. A few grains of instant, white, or brown rice can also pass safely through your disposal. Avoid putting large amounts of bread, rice, or pasta down your garbage disposal, though. These items expand when they come into contact with water. They may form a paste that clogs your disposal or pipes.

Milk and Other Dairy Products

Some dairy products are safe for your garbage disposal. Plain yogurt free of fruit chunks, nuts, and granola should pass safely through the disposal. Milk, goat’s milk, almond milk, and buttermilk are all safe for your garbage disposal and pipes. Oat milk is also safe as long as it doesn’t contain bits of oats. Coconut milk is usually safe as long as it doesn’t have coconut fibers. Spoiled milk may be safe for your disposal and plumbing, but the smell it leaves behind means you’re better off disposing of the milk in the trash properly.

Other dairy products may pass easily through your garbage disposal but will cause problems in your home’s plumbing system. Sour cream contains oil that can harden into clogs in your pipes. Ice cream that doesn’t contain cookies or other chunks can make it through the garbage disposal. However, if you have a septic tank, the microbes inside ice cream can harm the good bacteria in your septic system. To be safe, dispose of ice cream in the trash.

Cooked Beef, Chicken, and Turkey

You should take precautions whenever you prepare or dispose of meat. Cooked beef, chicken, turkey, and pork can go down your garbage disposal. Before you dispose of these meats in the disposal, remove any bones, chunks, or large pieces of fat. Fat can stick to the blades and form clogs, while bones can break or jam the blades. Due to the presence of small bones and skin, never put fish – cooked or raw – in your garbage disposal. Fish skin and bones can damage or jam the blades.

Due to the potential of spreading bacteria, you should never put raw or spoiled meat in your garbage disposal. Raw chicken especially poses a threat of spreading salmonella. Raw beef can wrap around the disposal’s blades and cause a jam. Spoiled meat can leave behind foul smells that are hard to eliminate.


You can dispose of cooked eggs in the garbage disposal as long as you remove the shell. Cooked egg yolks and whites are soft enough to pass through the blades. Some people believe that the calcium in eggshells will clean the garbage disposal blades. However, eggshells can cause problems when the eggshell’s membrane sticks to the impeller’s blades.

Your San Jose Plumbing Experts

If your garbage disposal quits working, our team at Ribbs Premier Services Plumbing – Rooter is here to help. We can repair or replace your garbage disposal. You can also count on us to provide a full range of plumbing and sewer services. Our services include leak detection, clog removal, and trenchless sewer services.

Contact our team at Ribbs Premier Services Plumbing – Rooter for all your plumbing needs.

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