The Garbage Disposal in Your Kitchen Sink is Wrongly Named.

“I have no idea why my kitchen plumbing blew up,” moaned a member of my extended family (who shall remain nameless) in apparent bewilderment. “The plumber is pushing a camera down through the pipes to try and find out. Water went everywhere. All of the flooring throughout the house will have to be replaced. Such a freakish mystery!”

Perhaps… although just the previous week I’d watched her stuff half of a too-dry-to-eat lasagne straight from the lasagne dish down her running garbage disposal, not paying much attention to its pathetic mechanical protests.

A kitchen sink water spout pouring steaming hot water.
Photo by Imani on Unsplash

The month prior, I bore witness to her casually dumping the peelings of a five-pound bag of potatoes into the roaring microabyss. Every time we’d ever attended a holiday dinner in her home, we’d been instructed to drop anything remaining on our plates after dinner directly into the sink.

What, then, was the garbage can for, you might wonder? Well, that was there for all of the empty Diet Coke cans. The recycling bin? Newspapers were dropped in there, and All Was Right with the World.

Until the pipes beneath the kitchen exploded, that is.

Fortunately, several weeks and thousands of insurance dollars later, the home was put back in order.

For reasons unrelated to the events described above, Thanksgiving was hosted in my home the following year.

A photograph shot from above a table decorated with autumn leaves. A pair of hands is shown slicing into a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. A different person’s hand holds a glass of mulled wine. A braided bread loaf sits in the corner of the frame.
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

“Let’s scrape our plates into the trash can, and not down the sink, OK?” I suggested gently. She looked at me as if I’d a vulgar organ growing off my chin.

Reluctantly, she agreed, though sounding somewhat wounded.

“Look, I just don’t think it’s a good idea to put a lot of food down the garbage disposal, you know? Small bits are fine.”

A good day was had by all, with no casualties, plumbing or human.

A few months later, (again, for unrelated reasons,) she lived with us for a while. I came downstairs one morning to observe her going at my kitchen sink with a toilet plunger. Without prompting, she quickly confessed that she’d dumped another load of potato peels, this time into my disposal, completely clogging it.

I felt as though I’d caught a child with their hand in the cookie jar.

Because I love her, I was totally breezy about it. I shrugged it off as no big deal, (it wasn’t,) and let her and the toilet plunger deal with it. I sensed that this was the reaction she’d hoped for. I later scrubbed my sink with bleach-infused cleansing powder.

I didn’t yell at her, or say “I told you so.”

So far, my kitchen pipes are still holding strong. (*Knock on wood.)

Photo by Franco Antonio Giovanella on Unsplash

Why am I writing this piece?

Is it a PSA for all who take the name “garbage disposal” too literally?


More likely, though, it’s because as fall approaches, I’m eagerly anticipating Thanksgiving. Like my father before me, it’s my favorite holiday. Thinking about Thanksgiving got me thinking about all the preparation, planning, and cleanup surrounding the day that is supposed to be about pure pleasure and relaxation. Which got me thinking about the ways in which different people deal with leftover food.

In spite of the slightly snarky tone of this article, I do very much enjoy spending time with all of my family members. Even those who insist on using garbage disposals in a way that will never make sense to me.

To my mind, the “garbage disposal” is really supposed to function as a “crumb disposal” — meant to assist in clearing out those last pesky little food particles that cling to properly scraped dishes.

I don’t understand why some people (ahem! my extended family members) want to fight me on this. Even if I’m wrong, how great a sacrifice is it to walk a few extra feet to the kitchen trash can?

Is it really that satisfying to watch turkey bones, globs of fat, Jell-O, pie crusts, wine, and Diet Coke swirl together in a bath of steaming hot water toward a 1/2 horsepower event horizon like some grody, existential soup?

What do you think?

Are you team trash can, or team In-Sinkerator?




Won’t let anxiety & depression get the best of me. Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher, left-leaning mom. Seeking hopeful feelings. Fancy myself deep.

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Lumina Loveday

Lumina Loveday

Won’t let anxiety & depression get the best of me. Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher, left-leaning mom. Seeking hopeful feelings. Fancy myself deep.

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