It's pretty normal to just pour coffee grounds down the garbage disposal in your kitchen sink, but did you know it can cause clogged drain pipes and impact your garbage disposal?
That's right, unless you handle your coffee waste properly you can cause serious issues in your home which are time consuming and costly to fix.
Well don't worry, because in this guide we'll explain what coffee grounds can do to your garbage disposal, how to dispose of coffee grounds correctly, and what to do if they clog your sink.
What Coffee Grounds Can Do To Your Garbage Disposal
If you're a coffee drinker then chances are you've got a lot of used coffee grounds to get rid of every day. Unfortunately, when you put coffee grounds in your kitchen sink garbage disposal, you can clog it up.
There are many reasons why coffee grounds can clog up your disposal, but it's primarily because of the mechanisms in your garbage disposal and the qualities of your beans.
Coffee grounds are too small for the shredding equipment to work. Because of this, the coffee grounds clump and build up over time. This can eventually lead to backups in your toilet and shower.
When the garbage disposal and drain clogs you can mitigate the problem by flushing the disposal with water to wash away the built-up grounds and any food particles.
However, plumbers don’t recommend this as it does not guarantee that you’re getting rid of everything from the disposal or drainage system since finer grounds can get stuck into hard-to-reach places inside the disposal and sink, even if you use a lot of water.
While it’s possible to mitigate the situation, prolonged disposal of grounds can still end up clogging your sink, which can lead to expensive repairs.
That’s why it is best to avoid putting coffee grounds through your garbage disposal at all.
What Happens If Coffee Grounds Go Down Garbage Disposals?
There are three main issues which arise when you put coffee grounds in your garbage disposal:
The Garbage Disposal Blocks - Ground coffee beans are naturally good at clumping together, especially with water. When you combine the ground coffee with the sticky surface of the insides of your garbage disposal and pipes it creates a drain sludge. This drain sludge can clog up your garbage disposal so it doesn't work.
The Pipes Become Blocked - The ground coffee sludge mixture will also spread into your pipes and sink trap, and clog your drains. Ultimately, this will create a problem which can be expensive for a plumber to fix.
Wider Plumbing Issues - If your plumbing system is all connected then putting coffee grounds down your garbage disposal can cause more significant issues for your whole plumbing system. If the ground coffee makes it way through to your septic tank it can turn into solids.
This is terrible news as the solids will make it difficult to empty your tank, and they will grow larger in time until the tank has to be directly opened or, worse, replaced.
You can lessen this problem by having your septic tank emptied more often because that will help remove the coffee grounds before they can clump together and form larger solids. However, this is significant work and can cost a lot of money.
How To Remove Coffee Ground From Your Disposal
If you always put coffee grounds in your garbage disposal, it’s time to stop.
But stopping won’t remove the coffee ground residue that's already in your drain. Fortunately, some ways can help remove them from your disposal. Below are some of them:
Using A Plunger
While a plunger may not be the most effective method, most households already have this at home, so you might as well give it a try. Follow the steps below to unclog your drain using a plunger:
- 1Fill your kitchen sink with enough water to submerge the plunger’s rubber cup and completely cover it.
- 2Seal the other side of the drain using a rubber drain stop. If you don’t have one, you can use a small towel to cover the opening.
- 3Hold the grip of your plunger with both of your hands and place the cup straight at the top of the opening of your disposal. Next, push down and pull up the plunger as many times as you can (10 to 15 times) until the clog clears out.
Using A Drain Snake
If the good old plunger didn’t work, maybe it’s time for you to get a snake. No, we’re not saying the reptile but the drain snake you can buy at the nearest hardware.
A drain snake is a long piece of wire that you push down your sink and jiggle around to try and unclog the block.
Drain snakes are relatively cheap, but you need to prepare yourself to learn how to use them. So before you buy it, go ahead and watch some tutorial videos on YouTube so you can familiarize yourself with how it works before you try. Otherwise, you might break your drain and end up with more repairs than before.
Using Drain Unblockers
Another effective way to remove coffee grounds from your garbage disposal is by using over-the-counter drain unblockers like Drano. However, it comes with a cost.
Apart from the money buying it, Drano and other drain unblockers use powerful chemicals that may be harmful to the environment and can also be harmful to certain types of pipes.
So when you're buying drain unblockers, make sure you read the label as they come with warnings on where you can and can’t use them. Some don’t work on metal pipes, PVC pipes, and garbage disposals, so don’t skip this step.
While drain unblockers won’t completely dissolve coffee grounds, they can loosen up the other stuff around them, such as congealed grease or leftovers, which can help clear up your pipe.
Of course, this isn’t the best method, but it might just work and can be an affordable solution than calling a plumber.
Clearing The P-Trap
If the methods above don't unclog out your drain, you can try clearing the P-trap. Here’s how:
- 1Locate the U -shaped pipe under your sink. This pipe is usually called a P-trap. Once you’ve located the P-trap, palace a bucket under it to collect any water that might surge from the pipe.
- 2Remove the connections on both sides of the P-trap, and it is usually connected by screws. For metal pipes, you’ll need to use a pipe wrench to turn and twist the connecting nuts until they loosen. For plastic pipes, you can use your hand to loosen the connection by turning it in a counter-clockwise direction.
- 3Remove the P-trap by pulling it away from the joining pipe. But before doing so, make sure that the bucket is in the right place to collect all the content of the pipes, which might be smelly and dirty.
- 4Clear away the coffee obstruction in the trap by using a pointed tool such as a gloved hand or a screwdriver. Then, wash the P-trap with water to remove all the dirt. Check the other parts of the pipe to ensure that there are no other materials that will block the pipe.
- 5Reconnect the P-trap and lock it by turning the screws clockwise to tighten them. Once it's locked in place, turn on your garbage disposal and see if the jam has been cleared out.
Call a Plumber (Last Resort!)
If everything else fails, it’s time to call your plumber. They might be expensive, but they are equipped with skills, knowledge, and tools that not everyone has.
That's why when you've tried almost everything but still end up with a clogged sink, they're the only ones who can help you. But be ready to be told that coffee grounds shouldn't be thrown in your sink.
What Should You Do With Old Coffee Grounds?
Coffee grounds and hot water are not a good mix for your garbage disposal or drains, so what should you do with them?
Well, the best thing to do is put coffee grounds in your compost bin or trash can. This way they can either be safely removed from your home without causing any issues.
If you want to get creative you can use your coffee grounds as a face scrub, or even to melt ice (try it with your ice cube tray - it actually does work!).
However, if you just want a simple solution to avoid serious clogs in your disposal you should just dispose of coffee grounds in a trash can.
Other Popular Uses For Coffee Grounds
Now that we've established that coffee grounds shouldn’t be thrown in your garbage disposal, you might be wondering how you can dispose of them.
They can be used in a lot of ways so you can discard them safely, and here are some of the best ways to dispose of coffee grounds:
FAQs About Coffee Grounds & Garbage Disposals
Can vinegar help remove coffee grounds from garbage disposal?
While it can slow down the process of coffee beans clumping together, pouring a few drops of vinegar into your garbage disposal won’t remove coffee grounds.
What are some other DIY home remedies for unclogging coffee grinds?
You can try the methods mentioned above or create a DIY drain cleaner by mixing ½ cup of baking soda, 1 or 2 teaspoons white vinegar, ½ cup Epsom salt, and 1 cup used coffee grounds and pouring the mixture into the drain. While it can help, it’s not a solution to the problem. So do it at your own risk.
Can you put coffee grounds down a sink without a garbage disposal?
No, you can’t. While it may seem possible, it can clog up the pipes and create bigger problems. It is best to throw it in your garbage or try the other uses mentioned above.
Garbage disposals are amazing, but there are some things they can't handle. However you should avoid putting bones, nuts, egg shells, cigarette butts, and coffee grounds - or it can clog your drain.
Hopefully this guide has explained why coffee grounds are so harmful for your disposal, and given you some useful tips to help remove them quickly.