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Can You Put Drain Cleaner In a Garbage Disposal?

A stainless steel sink being filled with water

If you’re like most people, your garbage disposal sees a lot of action. Whether it’s used for food waste or dirty dishes, that little appliance can quickly become clogged if not properly maintained. Here’s what you need to know about using your garbage disposal, clearing clogs, and keeping it clean.

What Causes Garbage Disposal Clogs?

Someone uses a plunger in a sink
Master Plunger

There are a few common causes of garbage disposal clogs. Food waste is one of the most common culprits. If you have a lot of food waste in your kitchen, it’s important to dispose of it properly.

Anything fatty, oily, or greasy should not go down garbage disposals (or any drain for that matter). These items are one of the main causes of garbage disposal clogs, so play it safe and don’t add anything to your disposal that might cause a buildup. This includes peanut butter, heavy cream, and fatty meats.

Never pour oil or grease down your garbage disposal. This is a surefire way to cause a clog.

Other foods that should not go in your garbage disposal are starchy foods like rice and potatoes, coffee grounds, and eggshells. Fibrous vegetables and peels are also problematic. Avoid corn husks, banana peels, asparagus, and artichokes.

Can You Put Drain Cleaner in a Garbage Disposal?

A bottle of drain cleaner on a countertop
Green Gobbler

Except for rare, emergency circumstances, it’s best to avoid using a drain cleaner in your garbage disposal. Many drain cleaners contain chemicals that dissolve whatever is blocking your drain, and while they can be effective, the ingredients can also corrode your pipes and cause them to leak or break.

You’ll probably end up paying for expensive pipe repairs by trying to save money with this DIY option. These cleaners also emit vapors that can be harmful to your health.

If you absolutely need to use a drain cleaner, be sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid using too much or inhaling the vapors. You can also use a safer formula that will be more gentle on your pipes.

Green Gobbler Liquid Hair & Grease Clog Remover

A well-priced product that helps you clear away nasty drain blockages.

Alternative Cleaning Methods

Someone holds a packet of garbage disposal cleaner and a bottle of vinegar with cleaning tools on a table

If you just need to clean or freshen up your garbage disposal, you’ll find the method is simple. You can purchase garbage disposal cleaning solutions in most supermarkets, which come in powders or pods that are placed in your disposal to remove grime and odors.

Glisten Disposer Care Foaming Drain/Pipe Cleaner

Remove grime and odor quickly and safely.

You can also make your own cleaning solution at home by using a mixture of baking soda and vinegar.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

Stock up on the gold standard of baking soda.

Simply pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, then flush with plenty of hot water. This method is safe for both your disposal and the environment.

Lucy's Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar

Clean garbage disposals and other parts of your home.

Clearing a clog in your garbage disposal is a little trickier. Before attempting to clear it, be sure to turn off the disposal and unplug it if necessary. Next, use a plunger to try to dislodge the clog. If that doesn’t work, use a flashlight to see if you can identify the clog, and then use tongs, pliers, or another tool to remove the waste.

Master Plunger Mighty Tiny Plunger Designed for Bathroom/Kitchen Sinks

Agitate the most stubborn clogs with this simple tool.

If you still can’t remove the clog, it’s time to call a plumber. Accidentally damaging a drain pipe will cause you a lot of grief (and money) to repair, so you don’t want to take many risks when it comes to this part of your home. A professional can address the problem quickly and safely.

How to Prevent Clogs from Happening

A compost bin on a kitchen counter and a sink with running water

The best way to prevent clogs is to be proactive about what goes down your drain. Avoid putting grease, oil, and other items mentioned above in your garbage disposal. If you’re unsure whether or not you can toss something inside, play it safe and dispose of your waste another way.

If you have a lot of food waste, consider composting it instead. Composting takes a little preparation and know-how, but it’s very doable once you get the hang of things. Keep a compost bin by your sink for easy use. It may also be helpful to print out a list of compostable foods to keep nearby as a resource.

OXO Good Grips Easy-Clean Compost Bin

Composting is good for your garbage disposal and the environment.

You can also use a drain strainer to catch any food particles before they go into the garbage disposal.

3 Pieces Kitchen Sink Stopper Strainer Garbage Disposal Plug

Stop large foods from accidentally falling into your garbage disposal.

Running your disposal regularly (and for a long time) will also avoid any build-up that can lead to a clog. Finally, opt for cold water when running your garbage disposal. Most people use hot water when doing dishes because it dissolves grime and waste, but this is actually the opposite effect you want when using your disposal.

Most garbage disposals work by grinding up food against rotating plates before pushing it all down the drain. Warm water can cause food to stick to the sides of the disposal and make it harder to send that food down the drain. Cold water helps scraps to stay hard, making them easier to grind up in the device.

By taking care of your garbage disposal and being mindful of what you put down the drain, you can avoid clogs and keep your plumbing in good condition for years to come. If you do end up with a clog, try one of the methods described above to clear it.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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