If you're like many people beginning now through Christmas, your kitchen, sink and garbage disposal are going to get a workout with all the holiday cooking and baking. But if you want to avoid having to play plumber or call one on Thanksgiving or Christmas, read on.

From PEMCO Insurance and food safety experts, here a list of six surprising foods you should NEVER run down your disposal. We were rather surprised because most of these we just grind away. Here's the no no's:

  • Eggshells.  Yes, the disposal grinds them into a dust-like material the minute they hit the blades. But the problem is, they become so fine and gritty they can create the base of a clog in the sink trap. They're great for attracting grease (see below) and other foods.
  • Heavy Starches...rice, potato skins or rinds, or flour. They're very heavy and unless you really 'blast' them with water as they're being ground, they will stick to the inside of your pipes--if you can get them out of the disposal.
  • Fibrous Foods (celery, corn husks, asparagus). Because they're so stringy, they don't get chopped and ground like most foods. They can actually wrap around the blades of the disposal, creating more clogs.
  • Grease. It does go down very easy, but almost immediately begins to cool. Like your arteries, the grease clings to the side walls of pipes and inside the disposal. Unless you run near boiling water behind it with maybe a touch of soap, it quickly can narrow your pipes. Some plumbers say NO grease is good for any disposal
  • Meat.  Raw or even cooked, meat becomes stringy, and creates blocking issues. Tiny amounts of cooked meat will go down, but only small leftover pieces, such as from a used dinner plate.

And one more to add, skin from sweet potatoes or yams. One Thanksgiving, we jammed the skins of about 25 potatoes down the disposal, only to find it backed up badly. We had to scoop out as much as we could, then run a mixture of vinegar and baking soda through it 3-4 times to clear it.  Pile them in a plastic bag in the sink and just toss in the dumpster.