Can You Put Chicken Bones In a Garbage Disposal?

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Kitchen garbage disposals are convenient appliances that make cleaning up after meals a breeze. They grind up food scraps into tiny pieces that can wash down the drain easily.

However, not all food waste is safe to put in the garbage disposal. Chicken bones are one type of food scrap that should never go down the drain.

Putting bones in the garbage disposal can lead to clogged drains, jammed blades, and even broken motors.

Understanding what you should and shouldn’t put in the disposal will help you use this appliance safely and prevent costly repairs. This guide covers everything you need to know about disposing of chicken bones and other foods properly.

Why You Shouldn’t Put Chicken Bones in the Garbage Disposal

Chicken bones are dense and fibrous, making them very difficult for garbage disposals to grind up. The bones can get lodged in the shredder ring or drainage pipes, leading to clogged drains.

Trying to force bones through the disposal by running lots of water can also back up the plumbing.

In addition to clogs, chicken bones can dull, bend, or even break garbage disposal blades. The bones contain calcium and minerals that are very hard on metal surfaces. Broken blades are expensive to replace and require a repair visit from a plumber.

Chicken bones that make it down the drainpipe and into the sewer system can cause even more problems. They can accumulate with other debris and grease, causing hazardous sewer clogs.

Sewer backups and overflows of wastewater into homes are unpleasant, unhealthy, and costly to fix.

Other Foods You Should Avoid Putting in the Garbage Disposal

Chicken bones aren’t the only food waste that should stay out of the garbage disposal. Here are some other items to avoid:

  • Fruit pits and seeds: like bones, pits and seeds are very hard and can damage blades. Cherry, olive, and avocado pits are common culprits.
  • Corn husks: fibrous husks can easily get tangled in the shredder ring and lead to jams.
  • Grease and oil: Grease will coat and clog drain pipes. It can also hamper the grinding operation.
  • Expandable foods: starchy foods like pasta, rice, and potatoes expand when wet. They can clog drains.
  • Eggshells: The thin membrane on eggshells can wrap around the shredder ring and cause backups.
  • Coffee grounds: used dry grounds can accumulate in pipes. They also release oils that coat drains.
  • Onion skins: Tough onion skins won’t break down well in the disposal. They can clog over time.
  • Celery: Celery’s stringy fibers can tangle and jam the shredder mechanism.
  • Artichokes: The tough leaves and hairy choke of artichokes can quickly clog drains.

Safe Foods to Put Down the Garbage Disposal

While certain foods clearly don’t belong in the disposal, many food scraps are perfectly fine to grind up. Here are some safe foods that will keep your disposal running smoothly:

  • Fruit and vegetable peels: Peels from lemons, limes, oranges, and bananas are low-risk.
  • Soft fruits and vegetables: foods like tomatoes and peeled peaches can be processed easily.
  • Cooked meat scraps: ground cooked meat is safe for disposal in small amounts.
  • Baked goods: small particles of bread, cookies, and other baked goods are okay.
  • Herbs and spices: ground- Ground up rosemary, thyme, and cinnamon won’t harm the disposal.
  • Coffee grounds with water: used wet grounds are safe. Rinse them down with lots of water.
  • Eggshells with shells: small eggshell pieces mixed with eggshells act as an abrasive cleaner.
  • Citrus rinds—orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit rinds—clean the disposal naturally.

The key is grinding these foods in small amounts and flushing them with plenty of cold water. This keeps the shredder assembly from jamming. Avoid large chunks of dense fibers like broccoli stalks.

Tips for Safe Chicken Bone Disposal

Since chicken bones should never go in the garbage disposal, you need another way to get rid of them. Here are some safe chicken bone disposal methods:

  • Place bones in the trash. Wrap bones in plastic and toss them in your regular household trash. This is the easiest method.
  • Bury bones. For those with yards, bury bones at least 12 inches deep. Mark the burial spot to avoid digging there again.
  • Compost bones: Use a specific type of composter designed for bones, meat, and fatty foods. Don’t put bones in a regular compost pile.
  • Contact your waste provider. Some offer special curbside collection for food waste like bones. Check with your city or waste company.
  • Donate bones: Local farms, zoos, or wildlife centers may accept donated bones for animals. Call ahead to find out about specific policies.

Never flush chicken bones down the toilet, either. This can lead to clogged plumbing, just like putting them in the disposal. Following these safe disposal methods reduces the risk of damage and plumbing emergencies.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chicken Bones in Garbage Disposals

Many people have additional questions about the dos and don’ts of putting chicken bones down their kitchen sink drains. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Can I grind up chicken bones if I remove the meat first?

No, you should not put bare chicken bones down the disposal, even if you remove all the meat first. The bones still pose a risk of jamming and damaging the unit.

What about very small chicken wing bones?

Small bones like wing bones or rib bones can still get lodged in drain pipes or jam the shredder mechanism. Do not put any chicken bones in the disposal, regardless of size.

Is it okay if I crush the bones first?

Crushing chicken bones into smaller pieces before putting them in the disposal does not make them safe. The crushed fragments contain calcium and minerals that can still damage blades.

Can I put chicken bones in the disposal if I run lots of water?

Running large amounts of water does not make chicken bones safe for the garbage disposal. The bones can still wedge into the drain lines or shredder assembly. Use alternate disposal methods.

Will boiling the bones first soften them up for disposal?

Boiling chicken bones makes them rubbery but does not soften them enough for safe grinding in the garbage disposal. The bones maintain their shape and density.

What should I do if chicken bones go down by accident?

Turn off the disposal immediately if you accidentally run chicken bones through it. Try removing large pieces carefully with tongs. Then run ice cubes and citrus fruit rinds to help clean the blades. You may need to call a plumber if drain clogs persist.

The Bottom Line

Garbage disposals provide a useful service in the kitchen when maintained and used properly. Chicken bones should never go down the drain.

Their size, shape, and composition can damage blades, clog pipes, and cause messy backups. Stick to soft foods that grind easily, and be vigilant about keeping bones out of the disposal.

Following these important safety precautions will keep your appliance running smoothly for years.


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