Garbage in, a hefty fee for plumbing out

Put the potato peels down and back away from the disposal.

It may be tempting to put all that discarded food waste down the drain and just flip the switch Thanksgiving Day, but local plumbers are cautioning post-meal cleanup crews not to. Use the garbage can or compost the waste instead.

"(Disposals) don't do much to chop any fruit and vegetable matter," said John Elliget, owner of All Flow Plumbing. "A garbage disposal's pretty much not for most vegetables."

That covers a lot of ground, but there are several Thanksgiving foods that are more problematic than others. Potato peels, onion skins, egg shells and celery should be avoided. Foods that expand when moistened, such as rice and noodles, should also be thrown in the garbage, as should turkey bones and skin.

Then there's all that liquid grease from the turkey. Don't pour that down the drain, either. It just hardens, clogs up the pipes and is very difficult to scoop out.

"It gets a big old grease clog down the drain," said Tammy Summers, Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain co-owner.

Experts said garbage disposals are for small bits of food only, and even then, those small bits should be fed into the running disposal blades gradually to prevent backup and clogs.

"It's not a trash can. It's not something that you can just cram," said Roury Summers, Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain co-owner.

Plumbers get a fair number of calls Thanksgiving Day and the day before, but the day after is typically the busiest day of the year for plumbers.

"Garbage disposal, garbage disposal, garbage disposal," said Steve Massa, Mr. Rooter Plumbing office manager.

Not all clogs come from food. The plumbers said they've found a number of unusual culprits, including coins, screws and contraceptives, but not all on Thanksgiving Day.

So today after you've peeled the potatoes, throw that big pile of peels in the garbage, not the sink. Or don't peel at all.

"The skin is the most nutritious part, so eat it," Elliget said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

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