How do I know if my garbage disposal is bad?

Top view of a sink drain with a garbage disposal.

Dealing With a Faulty Garbage Disposal

 One of the worst things that can happen in a kitchen is the garbage disposal breaking down. This is one well-used appliance, and we don’t think about garbage disposal repairs often – not until we need them! But if you’ve found yourself in need of garbage disposal repair in Hendersonville, Mills River and Asheville, NC, the team at All About Plumbing & Septic can be there to help. Just call 828-778-2425 to get the services you need.

How long does a typical garbage disposal last?

A quality garbage disposal that has been maintained can last up to 10 years in most cases. But if that’s the case, you ask, why does your garbage disposal keep clogging? No matter how careful you are about what goes into the garbage disposal, they can be finicky instruments and can seem to clog for no reason. But there are things you can do that will minimize clogging and prevent having to call for garbage disposal repair. Some of the problems that can lead to a garbage disposal clog include the following: 

  • A foreign object that’s fallen into the garbage disposal
  • Pushing too much rubbish into the garbage disposal too quickly
  • Not running enough water while the food is processing 

Is my garbage disposal broken?

Luckily, with many issues concerning your garbage disposal, repairs can be taken care of on your own and you can avoid calling the plumber. You’ll at the very least be able to diagnose the problem by paying attention to the following things: 

  • Won’t Turn On

It can be frustrating when the garbage disposal won’t turn on at all. Typically this is a power issue, so press the reset, which is usually located on the bottom of the unit under the sink. This is a built-in safety feature for use when the garbage disposal is jammed, or if the unit overheats. Next, make sure it is plugged in under the sink. After that, check the circuit breaker. If none of these things gets it going, it’s likely time to start shopping for a new unit. 

  • There is Power – But It’s Not Turning

If the garbage disposal is getting power but not turning on, or if you’re hearing odd sounds, you probably have a jammed garbage disposal. Unplug the unit from the power source and insert a hex wrench into the small opening at the bottom of the unit. Jiggle it back and forth and the flywheel should loosen and start to turn. Finally, plug the unit back in and try again. You may need to repeat these steps one or two more times.  

  • Not Draining

If the garbage disposal isn’t draining, you probably have a clog in the drainpipe keeping it the sewer line block. This isn’t a garbage disposal repair, but a clogged drain. First, try using a basic household plunger to loosen the clog. This may take two or three attempts if the clog is larger in size. 

If you don’t have any luck, take the drain apart at the P-trap and clear both ends of the drainpipe out. There could be a dishrag stopped up… or anything that might have made its way in! If all else fails, try using a plumber’s snake. These tools can get further down into the drain line and can often pull out things you had no idea were in there. 

  • Leaking Garbage Disposals

There are four places where you will typically notice a garbage disposal leak: the dishwasher hose, drainpipe, sink flange, or the bottom of the unit. The flange, hose, and drainpipe are fairly easy garbage disposal repairs that most homeowners can take care of themselves. But if it is the bottom of the unit that’s leaking, it is probably wearing out and you likely need to replace the entire unit. 

What should not be put into a garbage disposal?

There are 14 things that should never be put into this dependable yet vulnerable kitchen appliance: 

  • Paint – As more homeowners become DIYers, plumbers are getting more garbage disposal repair calls only to find units full of latex or oil paint that’s been poured straight into the drain and hardened. 
  • Coffee Grounds – Coffee grounds may reduce odors, but they can also create bigger problems the further down the drain they go. 
  • Pasta – Pasta expands when wet – need we say more? 
  • Bones – Garbage disposals can grind up food, but they aren’t designed to grind up bones or other extremely hard items.
  • Oatmeal – Oatmeal is like pasta – it swells when wet. 
  • Nuts – When nuts are ground up, they become a paste – think about peanut butter. 
  • Onion Skins – Chopped or diced onions won’t be a problem, but the thin membrane that makes up the outermost layer of the onion isn’t going to get ground up, but wrap itself around the blades instead.  
  • Egg Shells – Just don’t. They aren’t good on the blade, contrary to popular rumors.
  • Potato Peels – Potato peels can slip past the disposal and clog the drain. 
  • Pits – Peach pits or any other type of pit should not be put into the garbage disposal. If you can’t cut it with a knife, the garbage disposal blades can’t cut it up either. 
  • Cleaning Chemicals – Just avoid harsh chemicals.  
  • Corn Husks – Corn husks will wrap themselves around the blades, just like potato peels.
  • Shells – Seafood shells should never be placed in a garbage disposal. 

When should your garbage disposal be replaced?

If you’re not sure whether a garbage disposal repair or replacement is in order, consider this – how many times have you had it repaired in the past year? If the answer is more than once, it is probably time to replace the unit. If the garbage disposal is 10 years old or older, it should be replaced because the parts are likely not still available and if they are, it will cost as much to repair the garbage disposal as simply installing a new unit. 

Apple being peeled into a sink garbage disposal

In Closing 

If you’re not a DIY homeowner and need a garbage disposal repair, who should you call for garbage disposal repair? Your local plumber or electrician can get the job done for you in most cases. On rare occasions, such as if the drain is blocked and you call an electrician at first, they may need to bring in a plumber.

This is why it’s often good to start with a plumber. There are small electrical things they can usually handle. And if you need garbage disposal repair in Hendersonville, Mills River and Asheville, NC, you can count on the All About Plumbing & Septic team to take care of you after you make a simple call to 828-778-2425.