Since the garbage disposal was invented in 1927, it has been a great tool in getting rid of unwanted bits of food, washing them down with water, and essentially, making less trash for you to deal with in the long run. In 1940, the In-Sink-Erator was commercially released and installed in thousands of kitchen sinks. About 50 years later, the garbage disposal had made its way into about half the homes in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands more around the world.

By definition, a tool is a device used to carry out a specific operation. In this case, the tool is the garbage disposal. What any craftsman will tell you, is that you must always keep your tools in tip-top shape. Because a disposal has such crucial working parts and deals with a lot more trash than you think, it’s imperative to make sure that it is a well-oiled machine. There are myths and theories about what may or may not be good for your disposal, some are true, some aren’t, and some leave critics on the fence.

Avoiding FOG (Fats, Oils, Grease)

To use a garbage disposal is a luxury that most, if not all, of us, take advantage of. And why not? It’s a great method for dealing with wet food, scraps, and the like. But if yours has gone out at some point, had to be replaced, or become clogged, you understand how valuable an in-sink garbage disposal is.

Though, there are a great many foods that the disposal eviscerates quickly and with little effort certain things should not go down there. However, though these items may seem like no problem for your disposal to tear through, fats, oils, and leftover grease can be a real menace over the long run to your disposal, or better yet, the pipes that it leads to.

Chopped up fat hardens when dried out and stick to the oils that can coat your pipes. Grease that has been liquefied only turns back into a solid once it has cooled and can clog up your pipes like bad cholesterol in your arteries. Fat that’s been cut from steak, chops, or chicken can go directly into the trash. Grease, such as bacon grease, and other fried greases can congeal and cause serious problems to your plumbing. Combine all three of these elements to make an especially clogged up drain and you’ll be regretting that you did.

What You Should Put in Your Disposal

garbage-disposalIce is your friend, remember this. Ice, in small enough quantities, will help improve the performance of your disposal. The frigid properties and stone-like structure of the cubes will help sharpen, and maybe even clean the blades of your garbage disposal a bit.

Another great tip is to use citrus. Old orange, lime, lemon, and grapefruit peels make for excellent blade cleaning and freshening the smell that may come from your garbage disposal. The natural oils help dissolve gunk that might be built up on your blades and the fresh citrus smell is almost certainly better than what your disposal smells like now.

You can always make a volcano using some vinegar and about a ¼ cup of baking soda. The acidity of the vinegar mixed with the cleaning power of baking soda produces a powerful, fizzy combo that is sure to help clean those blades and even the pipes that lead from your disposal.

Other Items to Not Put Down the Disposal

Now that we’ve gone over what you shouldn’t put in your disposal, and what you should put in to help clean it, there are a few more things that shouldn’t make their way down the garbage disposal.

One of the bigger, yet sneaky culprits is coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are misleading in that they’re small, but when they dry out, and sometimes when they’re wet, they still offer up a very hard meal for your disposal. Vegetables that are fibrous, like celery, are a horrible idea to try to grind up in your garbage disposal. These deceptively tough veggies can wreak certain havoc on the blades of your disposal due to their tensile strength and fibrous nature.

Keeping these things in mind when disposing of, or not disposing of food, can make your in-sink garbage disposal something that lasts for years and years and never gives you trouble.