The garbage disposal unit is designed for grinding up small pieces of food waste to allow the water to wash them away. The food pieces are ground rather than cut because the impellers are not sharp blades but rather grind the food pieces against the outer wall of the grinding chamber.
The list of items that can be safely disposed of in your Garbage Disposal seems to be governed by different manufacturers, but it also depends on the power of your motor. If you have a one-horsepower engine, bones and fruit pips won’t be a problem.
But can you put potato peels in a garbage disposal?
Potato peels shouldn’t be put in a garbage disposal. They should be put in a trash can or composted.
But why not? What is the problem with adding potato peels to the disposal?
The problem with adding potato skins to the garbage disposal
Potato skins contain a lot of starch, and this presents a problem when the skins find their way into the garbage disposal.
There is a common misconception that there are sharp blades in Garbage Disposals. The reality is that the food waste is ground into tiny pieces rather than cut, so your potato peal is transformed into a blob of starch by the mechanism inside the Garbage Disposal.
Wastewater is free-flowing rather than under pressure, so there is not enough force for the water to clear the pipe of the starch build-up. Over time the starch build-up will reduce the outflow until the drain is completely blocked.
What to do if Potato Skins have blocked your Garbage Disposal.
The first thing to do is to switch off your Garbage disposal. Try to look down the throat of the Garbage Disposal to see if any potato peels are visible. A flashlight is helpful to see if there are any peels. If you do see some peels, get them out with tongs.
Even if the Garbage Disposal has been switched off, it is never a good idea to put your hand down toward the mechanism. What the machine does to food waste, it can also do to your fingers, so it is no place to be poking around with your hands and fingers.
Depending on what you have put down the Garbage Disposal, there may be pieces of broken bones or other sharp objects to do nasty things to your hands, so keep them out of there.
Once you have cleared the offending potato skins from the mechanism, try to switch the motor on again. If the motor fails to switch on, you will need to reset the motor by depressing the little red or black reset button on the motor.
This should get your motor running again, and a good dose of cold water down the Garbage Disposal should clear away any remaining debris.
If the drain is still blocked, then I’m afraid you will need to get in under the sink and open up the pipe, but before you do, let’s try one last trick. Get a plunger and fill the drain with water, plus an inch or two in the sink.
Now place the plunger over the drain hole, forcefully push it down, and then pick it up. This should send a shot of water down the pipe and hopefully clear the pipe. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to reach for the plumbing tools.
A small caution about how much force you use on the plunger. Be mindful not to damage the sink by applying too much pressure.
How to Unclog the U Bend
Under the sink, between the Garbage Disposal and the wall, you will find a ‘u’ shaped pipe, which in proper plumbing terms is called a ‘P’ trap. The name indicates what it does, so you must remove the ‘P’ trap and clean it out.
The process isn’t complicated, but you must prepare to avoid flooding the cupboard. If water is in the sink, it’s best to get as much out as possible and then fit the drain plug.
You will need a bucket as you get under the sink because there will be water in the waste pipe, and when you remove the ‘P’ bracket, it will spill out. The caps at either end of the bracket need to be unscrewed, and then carefully tip the contents of the bracket into the bucket.
You should be able to find the reason for the blockage in the ‘P’ trap, and it is quite a simple process to get it cleaned out.
Once you are sure that all the debris has been removed from the waste pipe, reconnect the ‘P’ Bracket and run some cold water through the system to check that all is well.
An Alternative Method to clear Blockages
One of the most popular methods is to use a mixture of Baking Soda and Vinegar. The process is simple: Pour a cup of baking soda down the disposal and then follow that with vinegar.
Allow the mixture to fizz its way through the grease and food waste for about twenty minutes, and then flush out the unit with hot water.
Ways to prevent your Garbage Disposal Unit from Malfunctioning.
Following the manufacturer’s instructions is always a good way to avoid trouble. Keeping away from disposing of items listed as not suitable for your Garbage Disposal Unit will also save you from having to deal with blocked pipes.
Use a sink strainer to prevent food waste from entering the Garbage Disposal Unit.
When you dispose of food waste in the Garbage Disposal, make sure that there are no pieces bigger than a square inch. It is also good practice to feed food waste slowly into the unit. This takes a little longer but is shorter than unblocking pipes.
After disposing of food waste, always rinse cold water through the unit and perhaps a little soap of citrus peel to keep odors away.
Allowing your Garbage Disposal unit to be unused for lengthy periods will cause rust to build up inside the mechanism, and eventually, the unit will seize. To avoid this, rinse the unit regularly with a thirty-second cold water flush.
Alternative ways to deal with potato peels
Why not start a little organic gardening and create a Composting System? There are many kits available to help you make compost. Have a look at this little YouTube lesson on making compost;
Composting your kitchen scraps will save wear and tear on your Garbage Disposal unit and provide a rich source of nutrients for your pot plants or herb garden.
Garbage Disposal units are an efficient way to eliminate food waste. There are countless suggestions about what you can dispose of through the unit, but a common warning is that potato skins are definitely not what should go down your sink.
There will always be suggestions that ‘of course, I always toss my eggshells in the composter’ or a list of other items that the manufacturers caution about not being suitable for the Garbage Disposal Unit. Yes, it may be true that some units can handle eggshells or fruit pips, but you will save yourself a lot of trouble if you stick to the manufacturer’s guidance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can be used to dissolve the starch build-up in the Garbage Disposal Unit?
One of the most efficient methods is to make a solution of baking soda, vinegar, and salt. The ratio is 1 cup of baking soda, ¾ cup of vinegar, and 1 cup of salt. Pour the mixture down the drain and follow with six cups of boiling water.
This will create a fizzing mixture that should be poured down the drain, and in an hour or so, the starch should be dissolved.
What can potato skins be used for?
Potatoes have a fair amount of Oxalic Acid in them. So, if you soak potato peels in just enough water to cover them for two or three hours and then mix the water with a little baking soda to make a paste, it will remove annoying rusty stains from knives.
How do you free a Compost Disposal Unit that has jammed?
If you switch on your Garbage Disposal Unit and it doesn’t function, but you hear a faint hum, chances are the impellers have jammed. To free them, you will need to fit a ¼ inch hex-head wrench into the socket under the unit and turn it either way to release the impellers.
Once the impellers are free, it is a good idea to rotate them a couple of turns to ensure everything is correct.
If you want to read further, here is a list of other things you shouldn’t put in a garbage disposal.