Garbage Disposals, The Big No-No’s

Since The Early 1900s… The garbage disposal has been a helpful tool for homeowners. Before its invention, people had to remove food chunks by hand to prevent blockages in their sinks. This common kitchen mainstay was invented by John Hammes to pulverize food waste and prevent food chunks from clogging your pipes. 

With that being said, garbage disposals are not a substitute for your garbage. Though this invention has helped homeowners in a myriad of ways, there are numerous things you should not put into your garbage disposal. 

How does a Garbage Disposal Work?

There is a common misconception that many people have when it comes to garbage disposals; they imagine this device is full of spinning blades that cut the food into tiny pieces. But contrary to what most believe, there are no blades in a garbage disposal system. 

Instead, devices called “impellers” spin in an internal chamber, and centrifugal force is used to crush the food against the device’s walls. After this process, the food is effectively liquified and can easily pass down the drain. 

What Not to Put Down the Drain

If you want to avoid a costly garbage disposal repair or replacement, it’s essential to know what you shouldn’t put down the drain and why. Here are nine examples of items that shouldn’t go into your garbage disposal according to most plumbing professionals:


Coffee grounds are tiny particles that are known to clump together when they get wet. Because coffee ground particles are already relatively small, garbage disposals won’t be able to pulverize these clumps down to a more manageable size for your pipes. 

After you wash the coffee grounds down the drain, they will re-solidify in your pipes and cause significant blockages.


Pasta is one food that should never be put down the drain because it will continue to expand in water. As water continues to go down the drain, the pasta will keep absorbing and gathering into clogs. In addition, when pasta is pulverized, it becomes sticky, and it can get caught in the impellers and cause damage.


If you’ve had good Memphis barbeque, make sure to throw the bones in the trash instead of the garbage disposal! 

Your garbage disposal is not strong enough to break bones down into small enough pieces to safely pass through your pipes to a water treatment system. Bones and other solid objects caught in the impellers can cause you to need a garbage disposal repair.


Nuts can be broken down into small pieces, but they will likely be caught in the main garbage disposal unit rather than washed away. Then, as the grinder continues to pulverize food scraps, these pieces will continue to break down and eventually turn into nut butter. These are the perfect conditions to ruin your garbage disposal!


Your garbage disposal is only meant to help break down pieces of food left behind on plates. Even the most efficient garbage disposal cannot act as a regular garbage can. Don’t throw paper towels, plastic cutlery, large food scraps, food peels, or other similar items down your drain. 

Cleaning Chemicals

When your drain is clogged or your garbage disposal isn’t working correctly, the worst action you can take is to pour chemicals down the drain to dissolve the blockage. 

These chemicals work by dissolving anything in their path, including your pipes and your garbage disposal unit. Overuse of these chemicals can eventually lead to a malfunction with your appliance that will require plumbing professionals. 


No paint should go down your drain, but specifically, latex paint is the worst for your pipes. Latex paint can’t be washed away with steady water pressure, so once it gets to your drains, it will eventually harden. If you pour a lot of paint down your drains, it can eventually create a blockage that will necessitate a garbage disposal repair. 

Metal Objects

If you’ve dropped a metal object down the drain, it was probably a mistake. Regardless, don’t purposely put a metal knife or a spoon into your garbage disposal. 

Over time, this will wear down the impeller in your appliance and cause it to run less efficiently. If you’ve dropped a metal instrument into the drain and the garbage disposal isn’t running, call in plumbing professionals to deal with it.

Your Hands

It should go without saying, but you should never put your hands or any other body parts into a garbage disposal. Despite the fact that garbage disposals don’t have blades, the impellers can still operate fast enough to cause harm. You may not lose a finger, but you’ll have an impressive bruise!

Call Nance Services!

If you’re in the Memphis area and you need plumbing professionals to help out with a garbage disposal repair, reach out to Nance Services. 

With over 75 years of collective experience in the business, we’re the ideal choice for your plumbing needs. We’re prepared 24/7 year-round to address your emergency plumbing problems, whether you need a repair or a full replacement. Contact us today to get an appointment scheduled.  

Nance Services is a full-service HVAC & Plumbing Company based in Memphis, TN. Follow our blog for valuable homeowner tips, and updates from your favorite team of plumbing and HVAC professionals.