February 19, 2019
By Mark Paup

Why We Wish They Weren’t Called “Garbage Disposals”

Updated January 19, 2024

The garbage disposal is such a common part of modern kitchen plumbing that few people can imagine life without one. And they probably can’t imagine calling a garbage disposal anything else. But ask almost any plumber, and you’ll hear complaints about the name of this piece of kitchen plumbing. We agree we don’t like the name “garbage disposal” at all because it causes too many misunderstandings among homeowners that can lead to damage to the plumbing system.

What’s wrong with the name “garbage disposal”?

The word “garbage” is what’s wrong. We can’t stress this enough: the disposal in a kitchen sink is not designed for actual garbage! We’re using “garbage” in the sense of the kind of trash you normally put into a garbage can or other trash receptacles, which is then placed out on the sidewalk for removal. This includes:

  • Cigarette butts
  • Paper towels
  • Tissue paper
  • Paper of any kind
  • Bits of plastic pieces
  • Plastic bags
  • Twist ties
  • Lint you just picked up from the kitchen floor

A garbage disposal may seem like a great little magic act that transports away anything you put down it, but everything that goes into it ends up in the drains. Think about what items you want to send down the drains. If you don’t think a piece of waste belongs in the drains, then it doesn’t belong in the disposal either!

These items are not only bad for the drains, but they can also cause damage to the moving parts of the disposal. Disposal is designed to grind down organic material, and up against plastic and other hard objects, it can break. And there are plenty of organic materials that are too hard for disposal as well, such as meat bones and fruit pits. A good rule to remember: “If your teeth can’t chew it, the disposal can’t chew it either.”

Watch out for tricky objects that also should go in the trash

Fats, oils, and grease. These don’t seem like “trash,” do they? But they should also go into a waste receptacle, not the disposal. The danger here is that these cooking liquids turn into solids when they cool. This can jam disposal and will eventually clog the drainpipe.

What would be a better name than “garbage disposal”?

We can’t make the language change, so this is wishful thinking. Just calling it a “sink disposal” or “kitchen disposal” without the “garbage” part would be a major improvement. On the other hand, in Canada, these sink disposals are called “garburators.” That’s an interesting difference, and kind of a fun word—but it’s still putting “garbage” in there, at least partially.

If you need help with your garbage disposal in Altoona, IA—uh, we mean your kitchen sink disposal—just give our plumbers a call. No matter what you call it, we can fix it or have it replaced. We’ll handle any drain cleaning you may need as well because of fats, oils, grease, and anything else that may have gone down the disposal.

At Golden Rule, “We Obey the Rules to Live By!” Schedule service for your kitchen plumbing today.

Contact Us Today for Plumbing Service!

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