9 Common Garbage Disposal Problems to Watch For


A garbage disposal is a great thing to have. You can brush leftover food off the plate and down the drain without worrying about your sink getting clogged. There are multiple components to garbage disposals, making it easy for things to go wrong. Some common problems can make your garbage disposal ineffective. These common disposal problems create an inconvenience for you and can potentially cause expensive pipe damage.

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How Do You Know if Your Garbage Disposal is Bad?

Here are some telltale signs that your garbage disposal has a problem:

1. A Jammed Garbage Disposal

Jammed garbage disposals will make a humming sound and cause water and liquids to either back up into the sink or drain slowly from the sink. A jammed garbage disposal is the result of something preventing the garbage disposal blades from turning.

The most common culprits that jam garbage disposals are:

  • Fruit pits
  • Eggshells
  • Stringy vegetables
  • Fats and oils
  • Bones
  • Non-food items

Other things that can clog garbage disposal include not flushing the drain with water and trying to flush too much food waste down at one time. The garbage disposal blades can also be ineffective when they aren’t cleaned on a regular basis.

2. A “Dead” Garbage Disposal

If you turn on your garbage disposal and it’s “dead,” the silence can indicate a couple of different problems. A plug in the disposal could be loose or the button on its reset may have popped out. Perhaps the electrical switch to the disposal needs to be replaced. The circuit breaker to the disposal or the motor may have overloaded or may need to be reset. It’s even possible that the motor is dead. If it is an electrical issue, you should call your local electrician.

3. A Leaking Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals can leak from the top, side, and bottom and into the dishwasher, the rest of the plumbing system or the drainpipe.

Garbage disposal seals can sometimes leak, in which case, it is very easy to fix. Disposal leaks usually mean an O-ring needs replacing or some parts need tightening. It all depends on where the leak is coming from. If the leak is from the sink flange or somewhere else, you may need a more costly and complicated leak repair. Sometimes, replacing the unit makes more sense.

  • A worn-out O-ring, gasket, or flange
  • Lost putty sealing around the disposal
  • Improper connections with the dishwasher or drain pipe

4. A Non-Draining Garbage Disposal

With a properly working garbage disposal, the blades quickly break up food waste and liquids quickly go down the drain. If you notice water and food backing up into the sink, it can mean that the blades are dull or there is a clog further down in the pipe.

5. A Humming Garbage Disposal

When your garbage disposal hums and doesn’t do anything else, the disposal is either jammed or the disposal is too underpowered to break down food waste fast enough. Sometimes humming garbage disposals can also be caused by a poor electrical connection.

6. A Smelly Garbage Disposal

Over time, food particles will accumulate in your garbage disposal and emit pungent, unpleasant smells. These odors don’t indicate anything wrong with your disposal, just that it needs a good cleaning. Use baking soda and vinegar inside of the disposal to clear up the smells. If they persist, you may have to take apart the disposal.

7. A Garbage Disposal That Drains Into the Dishwasher

If your garbage disposal is connected to your dishwasher, there may be a chance that water and food waste may leak into the it. When this type of leakage happens, an incorrectly installed dishwasher line is to blame.

8. A Smoking Garbage Disposal

Smoke coming from a garbage disposal is not a good sign. A smoking garbage disposal is a sign that the garbage disposal motor is failing. It can also mean there is a short circuit to the garbage disposal.

9. A Noisy Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal that makes unusual sounds is often one that has a problem. The most common sound is that of grinding metal. This grinding sound is the result of rubbing something stuck in the blades, a missing part of the garbage disposal, or a part of the garbage disposal that has been misplaced.

If you notice any of the above problems with your garbage disposal, it is recommended that you contact your local plumber for a diagnosis.

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