You probably don’t know it yet, but you won’t like staying in your kitchen if it weren’t for your garbage disposal device. The garbage disposal is one of the most ignored fixtures in the home. But when it starts to leak from the bottom? Let’s just say that it doesn’t take long for people to finally give it the attention it deserves. After all, it is what keeps your kitchen smelling fresh. It helps you get rid of food waste. It helps keep harmful bacteria at bay. And so on.
On this page:
- How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?
- Steps to Finding the Source of the Garbage Disposal Leak
- What Causes a Garbage Disposal to Leak From The Bottom
- Garbage Disposal Leaking from the Top
- Garbage Disposal Leaking from the Side
- How To Use A Garbage Disposal Properly And Avoid Problems
- How To Use A Garbage Disposal Properly And Avoid Problems
How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?The garbage disposal device is that cylindrical device you see mounted below your kitchen sink. It’s composed mainly of the hopper chamber, which is divided into two parts: the upper chamber and the lower chamber. But first, the upper chamber. That hollow part is where the food waste is gathered before the flywheel and shredder ring below shreds it to smaller bits. The finer food particles then enter the lower hopper chamber, which is insulation lined and where the motor is located. Next, they pass through one segment of the lower chamber before exiting through the drain pipe and into the sewers. You’ll notice that there’s a power cord connecting the garbage disposal into a conventional wall or floor outlet. This is what powers your garbage disposal’s motor as well as the mechanisms that facilitate the proper disposal of food waste.
Steps to Finding the Source of the LeakIt really doesn’t take much to find out if it is leaking, at least in most instances. The most telling sign that there’s a leak is when you see signs of moisture inside the cabinets under the sink. So, make sure to take a closer look every time you take out the trash or pick up a handful of kitchen implements. If you notice that the interior of the cabinets is wet and soggy, chances are the moisture came from a leaking garbage disposal unit. Finding the source of the leak is where it becomes a little tricky. But knowing the four common places where the leaks come from helps. These four common places are:
- Sink flange
- Dishwasher hose
- Drain line
- Bottom of the garbage disposal
- Unplug your garbage disposal. Check the socket for any signs of moisture. If you see some, shut off the disposal’s breaker.
- Remove everything from under the sink and place a bucket or a big tray there in order to catch the leaking water during the repair.
- Plug up the sink drain with a tight seal.
- Pour water into the sink until it’s nearly half-filled. Add some food coloring (a few drops will do) into the water.
- Observe if there will be any leaks coming from the sink flange, the dishwater hose, the drain, or the garbage disposal’s bottom.
What Causes a Leak?You notice the leak dripping from the bottom of the garbage disposal, specifically the reset button. What now? Let me lay it to you straight: When the leak is coming from the bottom of your garbage disposal, the best course of action is to simply replace the device with a new one. Let me explain. When the leak is coming from the reset button, the most likely culprit is a broken internal seal. That seal is what protects your unit’s motor. Once it’s cracked, it can no longer perform its function. This causes the garbage disposal to break down over time, hence the drips coming from the bottom. In short, a leaking bottom is the result of normal wear and tear. It means that your garbage disposal is already reaching the end of its lifespan, if it hasn’t already. If you’re worried about your budget, don’t fret. A new garbage disposal unit will typically cost you between $100 to $300. An InSinkErator Badger 5 or a Kenmore 70321, for example, will only cost you slightly under $120 on Amazon (as of this writing). If you’re not comfortable doing the installation yourself, expect to spend at least another hundred dollars to pay a professional plumber to do it for you, although you can always request quotes free of charge. If you don’t want to spend money on a new garbage disposal device, or at least not just yet, you can unplug the garbage disposal, take it apart, mend the crack, and reconnect it. If done successfully, then you should be able to use the unit again. It bears noting that this is a temporary fix. At the end of the day, you’ll end up saving more if you just invest in a new unit.
Garbage Disposal Leaking from the TopIf the leak is coming from the top of your garbage disposal unit, the problem is probably caused by a damaged sink flange. The sink flange is the flat metal disk connecting your garbage disposal to your sink. This seal is often exposed to frequent fluctuations in water temperature, eventually causing it to break down or corrode. The good news? It doesn’t take much to repair a leaky sink flange. Here are the steps to do just that:
- Turn off the motor from your garbage disposal at the main circuit breaker.
- Unplug the garbage disposal and disconnect it from under your sink.
- Remove any residual putty from under the sink to give yourself more room to operate. Use a flashlight if you can’t see clearly under the sink.
- Loosen the drain pipe under the sink with a pipe wrench.
- Remove the nuts attached to the flange’s underside.
- Reseal the area using a flange. Make sure to tighten up the bottom screws.
- Reconnect your unit to the underside of the sink.
Garbage Disposal Leaking from the SideIs the leak coming from the side of your garbage disposal unit? Then chances are you’ve got a damaged drain pipe. It’s could be the line connecting the unit to the drain line or the one that connects it to the drain hose. In both instances, what you need to do is grab a screwdriver and tighten up the screws. If the reason for the leak is a damaged gasket, replace it with a new one. New gaskets are cheap and can easily be found at the nearest home improvement store or supply store in your area. It also bears checking if the drain lines simply succumbed to wear and tear. Remember, drain lines can get worn out over long use. In such cases, the best course of action is to replace the line with a new one.
How To Use A Garbage Disposal Properly And Avoid ProblemsA leaking garbage disposal unit is not only frustrating, but it can also drain a huge hole in your wallet. It goes without saying: you’d want to prevent your garbage disposal from leaking again. And you can. All you have to do is to use your garbage disposal the right way. Here are the precautions you must take to ensure that your garbage disposal lasts longer.
Use your garbage disposal regularlyA garbage disposal unit is like the human body. It needs regular physical activity to stay in shape. Long periods of inactivity can cause your garbage disposal, specifically its blades and motor, to freeze up, rust, or corrode. This causes the food to harden and get stuck, resulting in unpleasant odors. So use it on a regular basis. Turn it on every few days even if you don’t have a good reason to use it.
Use cold waterRepeat after me: Garbage disposal units and hot water don’t mix. This is because hot water tends to melt food, causing the resultant sludge to cling to the sides, which eventually results in clogs. Cold water, on the other hand, hardens the food, making it easy for the garbage disposal’s blades to cut them up into smaller bits, making them more palatable to your drain pipes.
Clean the disposal’s interior regularlyLet’s state the obvious: Cleaning the inside of your disposal unit is an excellent way to remove clogs, keeping your unit fresh and preventing wear and tear. To do this, scrub the inside of the unit with a bottle brush at least once a week.
Throw some citrus in there for good measureCitrus fruits can remove excess waste, cut up grease, and eliminate unpleasant odors. So do your garbage disposal a favor by throwing in small pieces of fresh orange, lemon, or limes in there.
Things You Shouldn’t Be Putting In A Garbage DisposalHere’s a list of things you shouldn’t be putting in a garbage disposal, along with brief explanations why.
- Grease or oil. They cause the food to harden, which results in a clogged garbage disposal.
- Starchy food such as pasta, rice, etc. Water causes starchy substances to expand, making them cling to the sides.
- Harsh chemicals. Strong chemicals like bleaching powder can cause galvanized steel to corrode.
- Glass, plastic, metal, paper, seeds, bones. This part should be obvious, but yes, these materials are too hard for your disposal’s blades to handle.
- Fibrous vegetables. Fibrous materials are very hard for a machine to break. So, think twice before you throw in that celery into your garbage disposal’s maw.