Potatoes are the most popular vegetable in America. Survey results confirm this, with consumers picking potatoes as their favorite at 26%, corn at 19%, and broccoli at 17%. Mashed, baked, baked twice, fried, sauteed, escalloped, and more, potatoes are the most common vegetable on almost everyone’s dinner plate.
Most preparations require they be peeled. But what do you do with the peelings? Do they go in the rubbish barrel? Do you add them to your compost bin? Do you feed them to animals?
There’s one thing you do not want to do with them, and that’s what we want to tell you today.
Let’s talk Potatoes For a Moment
You’re having mashed potatoes for dinner along with carrots for vegetables with that meatloaf or roast. The cutting board is beside the sink, and with peeler in hand, you start with the carrots and move on to the potatoes. Without thinking, you simply swipe the peelings into the sink and push them down the drain for the garbage disposal.
The carrot peelings are mostly okay, but the potato peelings will cause you problems. Why” The answer is simple – starch.
Potato skins are not especially tough and don’t contain a lot of fiber. But they do have a high amount of starch. You know when you peel and slice potatoes, and the slices stick together? And when you rinse them, the cold water turns a bit murky?
That’s starch. While considered a vegetable, potatoes are not considered one of the five vegetables per day required in our diets. Potatoes are classified as a vegetable but are nutritionally considered to be a starchy food.
Therein lies the problem with your potato peelings.
Can You Put Potato Peelings Down a Garbage Disposal?
That’s actually the wrong question. Of course, you can. But should you?
With their high starch content, they will clump, stick together as those slices do, and form a thick paste. In turn, that paste will gum up the disposal.
Even worse, the peels could pass through the disposal intact and collect in the drain trap or other plumbing. That tough clog might require a call to your plumber or a handy DIYer to grab their wrench and take piping apart to clear the mess out.
In short, your Insinkerator is not going to like your potato peels. That blockage will mean nothing goes down the drain, and nothing gets ground up in the disposal.
What Do You Do When This Happens?
Running hot water down the drain will not help. Turning the disposal off and sticking your hand down the drain is not going to prove successful in unclogging your drain of the potato peels, either.
But you may not need any tools or talent too. There are solutions to cleaning away the starch goop, and you’re likely to have them handy right in your kitchen. In fact, the answer actually is a very handy and inexpensive general cleaning agent for various purposes. In this case, it involves dissolving potato peels.
How to Dissolve Potato Peels
Baking soda and vinegar are a great combination for general cleaning. They are also a very specific solution (pun intended) for this potato peel gunk problem.
The ratio you want to work with in either case is the same: a quarter cup of baking soda to one cup of vinegar. The type of vinegar doesn’t matter. The cheapest vinegar is simple white vinegar, the same kind you use to clean out your coffee machine, and in the case of potato peelings, it will work just fine.
Drop a quarter cup of baking soda down your drain. Turn on the garbage disposal for just a couple of seconds, and then turn it off. Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes while you continue cleaning the kitchen.
Then, pour the vinegar down the drain. Let the two fizzle for a few minutes as they begin to break up the starches that have gummed up. With the starches break down, pour some boiling water down the drain to wash all the starch away and take it down the drain.
Other Solutions to Unclog Disposals of Potato Peelings
Carbonated beverages may not necessarily be good for you because of their high sugar content. But beverages like Coke and Pepsi are high in phosphoric acid. The acid in them can also help break down the starch collection from potato peelings, just as the acid in vinegar does.
While not as strong an acid as vinegar or carbonated beverages, lemons can also aid garbage disposal. We use an acidic between meal courses to cleanse the palate and prepare it for the next course. Lemon sorbet, for instance, is a good palate cleanser.
As a disposal cleanser, lemons work in the same way. A half of a lemon down the drain will act as that cleanser, too. Drop it down and turn the disposal to use as a drain cleaner. You’ll enjoy the added bonus of the fresh smell to your drain and your kitchen.
Other Things That Don’t Belong In Your Drain
While vegetable skins generally should not go down your drain and into your disposal, especially potato peelings, there is a rather long list of things you should not dispose of in this way. Add the peelings to your compost bin, or leave them out for animals to dine on.
Other foods not to send down the drain include:
- Coffee Grounds
- Egg Shells
- Fibrous or strong vegetables, let alone peelings
As you can see, most of those items are starchy and will clog for the same reason as potato peelings. So, think before you wipe off the cutting board and save yourself from the aggravation of clogged disposal or pipes.
Now, would someone pass the mashed potatoes, please 🙂
What should I do if my garbage disposal is clogged with something other than potato peels?
If your garbage disposal is clogged with something other than potato peels, there are a few steps you can take to try and unclog it. First, turn off the power to the disposal. Then, try using a plunger to dislodge the clog. If that doesn’t work, you can try using a plumbing snake to break up the clog. If these methods don’t work, it may be time to call in a professional plumber to help.
How can I prevent my garbage disposal from getting clogged in the first place?
Preventing a clogged garbage disposal is all about being careful about what you put down it. Avoid putting fibrous foods like celery and corn husks down the disposal, as well as hard foods like bones and fruit pits. Make sure to run plenty of water while using the disposal, and avoid pouring grease or oil down the drain.
Is it safe to put other types of food waste down the garbage disposal?
While potato peels are a common culprit of garbage disposal clogs, there are other types of food waste that can also cause problems. As a general rule, avoid putting fibrous or hard foods down the disposal, as well as foods that are high in fat or oil. Stick to softer foods like fruits and vegetables, and always run plenty of water while using the disposal.
What are some signs that my garbage disposal needs to be replaced?
If your garbage disposal is making strange noises, emitting foul odors, or simply not working as well as it used to, it may be time to replace it. Other signs that your disposal needs to be replaced include leaks or cracks in the unit or frequent clogs that can’t be cleared with simple DIY methods.
Can I use a plunger to unclog my garbage disposal?
Yes, a plunger can be an effective tool for unclogging a garbage disposal. Make sure to turn off the power to the disposal first, then place the plunger over the drain and give it a few firm pumps. This should help dislodge any clogs and get your disposal working again.