Informational Guide

Coffee Grounds In The Garbage Disposal?

Considering putting coffee grounds in the garbage disposal. Learn if these common kitchen scraps are safe for putting down the drain.

by Ian Haynes

If you had to give your garbage disposal a nickname, maybe it would be "King of the Kitchen." That name is fitting since the garbage disposal is useful for so many things, and although many homeowners still do not have one installed, the disposal is an appliance that many would never want to go without.

After seeing your disposal in action, it’s easy to assume that it could handle just about anything you throw its way. While it can handle many different food items, like food scraps, cooked meat, small bones, and even fruit pits, there’s one that you should always avoid putting down the disposal: coffee grounds.

There’s a lot of debate on whether or not coffee grounds are a safe item for the disposal, so we’re here to set the record straight. As soon as you’re done with that morning French Press or Mr. Coffee pot, dump those grounds in the trash and not in the sink. Learn why here.

Contrary to common belief, your kitchen's garbage disposal is not a trash can. Treating it like one can get you - and your plumbing bills - in a lot of trouble.

Even though those coffee grounds might look completely harmless, especially compared to some other foods that this appliance can handle, they are not, and The Spruce explains why perfectly in its guide to what not to put in a garbage disposal:

According to multiple plumbers from across the country, coffee grounds are one of the worst culprits of clogged drains...Coffee grounds attract grease, build up and then create a sludge-like texture. The result is a clogged drain that smells like old coffee.”

While a few grounds probably won’t cause too many problems, repeatedly dumping your leftover Pike Place or Sumatran Blend can eventually cause build-up and clogging.

Many people will still argue the opposite, though, especially since coffee grounds smell nice and can mask the odors of unpleasant food items. But since they don’t decompose fast and they build up even faster, eventually coffee grounds will clog a garbage disposal, and you’ll be left calling your local plumber.

coffee ground

What to Do When Coffee Grounds Were Put In Garbage Disposal?

Of course, accidents happen, and sometimes we just get forgetful while moving between dishwashers, refrigerators, and the kitchen sink. In other words, it’s pretty much inevitable that coffee grounds will be dumped in the sink at one point or another.

You now know what kind of harm coffee grinds in garbage disposal machines can cause, but the good news is that all is not lost if grinds end up where they shouldn’t be. If this is your first offense, just stay calm. Chances are dumping one batch of grounds won’t cause any damage.

Never stick your hand down the disposal - that’s rule #1. It’s a good idea to run the kitchen faucet with hot water to try to push the grounds through to safety and prevent clogging. Unfortunately, the hot water won’t actually dissolve it (unless you’re drinking instant coffee), but it can help to loosen things up and push them through.

If you’re a multiple-time offender and reading this after dumping grounds religiously in the disposal, you might start to notice a few things that should not be happening, like:

  • Water backing up out of the sink drain
  • Water backing up out of the sink drain
  • Slow draining water in the sink
  • A gurgling noise coming from the drain
  • Rotting odor coming up from the drain
  • Food particles in the sink after the dishwasher has run

If you’ve reached this point, you might consider first trying a snake or a plunger for DIY unclogging. This doesn’t always do the trick, so if that’s the case, you’ll have to call a professional plumber to handle more severe clogs.

How Do You Best Dispose of Coffee Grounds?

There are many ways to get rid of those grounds, and some of them can actually turn into a fun hobby. Before just dumping your old grounds in the trash can, here are a few more ideas for getting rid of them safely:

  • Use them as a plant fertilizer for your indoor or outdoor garden.
  • Make an exfoliating face or body scrub with lavender, vanilla, or your favorite essential oils.
  • Make a hair mask or serum; the caffeine in coffee has been proven to promote hair growth.
  • Use it as an odor neutralizer; coffee grounds help to absorb and eliminate bad odors.
  • Keep insects and pests away by using your grounds as a natural repellent.
  • Add nitrogen to your compost pile by adding in your coffee grounds each day.
coffee powder

People also Ask (FAQs)

How do you get a bad smell out of garbage disposal?

Some people will tell you that coffee grounds down the garbage disposal will help, and it probably would, but that’s a sure-fire way to clog your drain. There are other less harmful ways to get rid of bad smells, like using peels from citrus fruit (lemon works great), flushing the disposal with baking soda and white vinegar, or using specialty products made for cleaning the disposal.

What can I clean my garbage disposal with?

We’ve already mentioned a few ways, like grinding up softened lemon peels. Another natural way of doing things is to use baking soda and vinegar. Before you begin, you should disconnect the power, then clean the splash guard and remove visible food scraps.

The final step is to pour in ½ cup baking soda, let it sit for about an hour, follow it up with a full cup of white vinegar, then flush it out with some hot water. There are a few more cleaning methods, but this is definitely one of the most popular among homeowners.

Can I put bleach in my garbage disposal?

Yes, it’s perfectly safe to use bleach to clean your garbage disposal. WikiHow says that “bleach is very effective at killing germs and will quickly freshen up your drain. However, you don't want to use too much of it as it can also harden any grease in your disposal unit, making it difficult to remove.”

To use bleach for cleaning, strongly dilute about a tablespoon of bleach with a gallon of water, slowly pour it in the disposal, let it sit for 1-2 minutes, then let the hot water run to flush it through.

What other common items should not be put in a garbage disposal?

Aside from coffee grounds, there are a few more things to avoid putting in the disposal, including:

Luckily, there are a lot of food items you can dispose of, even hard foods like peach pits and corn cobs.

Can you put coffee grounds down the sink?

This question is along the same lines as putting coffee grounds down the disposal. Whether you put grounds down the sink directly or run them through your high-end garbage disposal, you’re setting yourself up for a clog in the drain. 


Conclusion

Hopefully, we were able to clear up the coffee grounds-garbage disposal debate. Now you know that the answer to the age-old question, "Can you put coffee grounds down the garbage disposal?" To recap, the answer is no, and it's because those grounds will eventually build up and clog your drains.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to safely dispose of coffee grounds, like making fresh coffee-flavored body scrubs, using it as a plant fertilizer, or adding it to your compost. Or, you could simply dump it in the trash can, but where’s the fun in that?!

Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.

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