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How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last: Appliance Repair 101

how long do garbage disposals last

Garbage disposals are the backbone of your kitchen. These electric powerhouses shred away food waste within a matter of seconds, making clean up a much easier-to-complete task. But if these machines are so important, why do many of us go blank when someone asks “how long do garbage disposals last?” And what should we do if we wake up one morning to find puddles of water under the sink? Or perhaps even worse, what if our garbage disposal was not working with no noise at all indicating that you flipped the switch to the “On” position?

While garbage disposals are part of our daily routine, their operation remains foreign to many of us. This not only makes garbage disposal troubleshooting difficult, but also can make it harder to know how to properly care for and maintain this important kitchen appliance.

If you came to this post to find out how long disposals last, we’ll address that first: usually, between 3 and 5 years. If you were trying to better understand the average service life of garbage disposals because you are wondering if a problem you are experiencing is just a minor issue or a sign it’s time think about a replacement, you also came to the right place.

Keep reading to learn more about how this key piece of your kitchen functions, common garbage disposal problems and fixes and when it’s time to throw in the towel and start the search for a new appliance.

garbage disposal leaking

Why Is My Garbage Disposal Leaking?

Most homeowners would understandably be concerned if they discovered water collecting under the kitchen sink. While it’s never a good sign to spot puddles, large or small, under your sink, it also doesn’t always mean you need to start searching the web for a new model immediately. The best way to find the root of the problem is to understand why it might be happening. Let’s run through four of the main causes of disposal leaks.

Worn Seal

If your disposal is releasing water from the bottom of the unit, the system’s internal seals have most likely worn out. While you could just replace these parts, your best course of action is generally to purchase an entirely new unit and either install it yourself or have an experienced plumber do the hard work for you.

Sink Flange

Water dripping from the top is a lot more harmless than trickling from the bottom, as it doesn’t require you to go out and shop for a new kitchen appliance immediately. It does, however, mean your disposal’s sink flange is no longer able to make a seal tight enough to prevent liquids from seeping through.

To fix this problem, head to your nearest home improvement store for a tub of plumber’s putty. Then, remove the garbage disposal and re-seal the sink flank with the plumber’s putty.

Loose Drain Line Connections Or Worn Gaskets

Garbage disposal leaks from the side mean there’s something up with your drain lines. Most garbage disposals are connected to two drain lines. The smaller drain line connects the dishwasher drain pipe to the garbage disposal’s dishwasher inlet; the larger drain connects the unit to the sewer.

You can troubleshoot this issue by tightening the drain line connections and replacing worn gaskets.

Loose Screws

Your dishwasher hose is responsible for draining dirty water up and out of the dishwasher. If you notice a leak from your dishwasher hose’s, try tightening the screws wrapped around the metal clamp that connects the dishwasher hose to the garbage disposal’s inlet.

garbage disposal not working no noise

Garbage Disposal Not Working: No Noise Coming When You Turn It On

After turning a garbage disposal on, we expect to hear that familiar harsh, gritty sound of the motor crushing our discarded waste into a million different liquified pieces. So we know there’s something wrong with our kitchen appliance if we flip the switch and receive nothing but eerie silence. But what does this mean? It could be a sign that your garbage disposal is experiencing an electrical problem that’s preventing it from doing its job. To attempt to solve this mystery, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure your garbage disposal is plugged in. You can laugh at how painfully obvious this suggestion is, but we all make mistakes, and maybe one of them is forgetting to plug a very important appliance into a nearby outlet.
  2. Press the reset button. You can find this small red button on the bottom of your unit.
  3. Checking your service panel to see if the circuit breaker has tripped. If the circuit your garbage disposal is on overloads, power to all the electrical items associated with that circuit will be disrupted. If you see the breaker in the “off” position, simply turn the breaker back on.
  4. Make sure your switch is on. The switch that powers your unit could have accidentally gotten turned off. Look on the wall or under the sink to make sure your switch is in the “on” position.
  5. Call in the pros. If the disposal still doesn’t power on and the motor makes no noise, you may have an electrical problem that an electrician needs to address or your unit may be beyond repair and will need to be replaced.

garbage disposal troubleshooting

How You Can Become Better At Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting

In a perfect world, our garbage disposals would never need repairs. Unfortunately, all garbage disposals will one day break down, leaving us wishing we had been able to spot possible signs of trouble sooner.

One of the biggest garbage disposal maintenance dos and don’ts is what can and can’t go down your sink. Here’s a list of the items that you should not send down your appliance:

  • Grease/oil
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Pasta
  • Medicine
  • Potato peels
  • Seafood shells
  • Paints

Knowing the most common disposal problems and how to fix them (and when to call in a pro) can save you a lot of time and worry. Read more about a few of them below.

Garbage Disposal Drains Slowly

Most of us have had to deal at one time or another with a clogged sink or drain. When garbage disposals are slowly draining, you probably have some type of obstruction. You can often resolve the problem by disassembling the drain tap or discharge pipe to remove any food or waste clogging the pipes.

Garbage Disposal Not Grinding

If you hear the sounds of your motor powering up to activate your garbage disposal, but the food you’re sending down the drain is not getting sliced into bits and pieces, the likely issue is that your disposal is humming but not grinding, meaning one of the impellers is probably stuck.

While putting your hand down the drain to remove whatever is jamming your impeller may be your first instinct, resist the urge to handle the problem in this manner. Instead, turn off the circuit breaker associated with the unit and remove the bottom housing to dislodge the blockage from beneath. If you’re not sure how to remove the bottom housing unit, call up a plumber for professional help.

when to replace a garbage disposal

Throwing In The Towel: When To Replace A Garbage Disposal

Say you’ve had a garbage disposal for 10 years or so, but it’s got a leak that won’t stop or it keeps making a strange noise. These types of problems are a sign it’s probably time to invest in a new appliance.

Other warning signs your garbage disposal has made it to the end of its service life include frequent clogging, food taking too long to grind and a constant need to reset the unit.

Frequent Clogging

If your garbage disposal is regularly clogging, it could mean the system’s blades are getting dull. Once the blades can’t properly slice and break down food, large particles will either clog the disposal itself or build a clog further down in the sink’s drain pipes.

Frequent clogging could also mean your garbage disposal is too small to service your needs properly. A garbage disposal’s size is determined by its horsepower, meaning an appliance with higher horsepower can break down more food in one sitting, while units with lower horsepower are better equipped for slicing through smaller quantities.

Selecting the right horsepower for your kitchen depends on the number of people in your household. Use the chart below as a reference for sizing your kitchen’s next unit:

  • 1-2 person household = 1/3 or 1/2 HP motor
  • 3-6 person household = 1/2 to 3/4 HP motor
  • 5-8 person household = 1 HP motor
  • 8 or more person household= 1 to 2 HP motor

Food Takes Too Long To Grind

If you’re sending the same amount of food down your garbage disposal, but your system is taking longer than usual to grind your waste, then you have a problem. Take a look at your unit’s blades, as they could be getting dull. Your disposal’s motor may have also become so weak it can no longer handle the workload it was designed to manage.

Constant Need to Reset Appliance

A garbage disposal’s reset button is responsible for restoring the electrical power after the disposal’s motor overloads and trips the circuit breaker. The more often you find yourself having to rely on this button, the weaker your motor is getting. At some point, the motor will need to be replaced, which means it’s time to replace the entire unit.

Garbage Disposal Maintenance

Say you’ve got a brand new garbage disposal installed and now you want to know how you can properly care for this kitchen appliance so that it lasts forever. Well, maybe not forever, because even the most expensive disposals have an expiration date, but at least long enough to feel as though you got a return on what you paid for.

The best way to care for your disposal is to monitor what you’re putting discarding down the drain. Garbage disposals are not an actual trash can. This means animal bones, grease, fat, oil or anything made from glass, plastic or metal should be kept far away from your disposal’s blades.

Bulkly loads of food scraps should be broken into smaller bits before inserting inside of a disposal to prevent clogging or slowing the system. By the same token, it’s a good idea to run cold water through your disposal to prevent any grease or oils that end up in your drain from solidifying and clogging your unit.

Finally, at least once a month, drop a handful of ice cubes into your disposal to both help sharpen the appliance’s blades and whisk away at any food debris that might have accumulated along the walls of your disposal. If there’s a foul smell growing from your garbage disposal, you can try putting orange or lemon peels down your disposal to freshening things up.

ABC Can Fix Or Replace Your Garbage Disposal

Is your garbage disposal humming? It is clogged? Troubleshooting and repairing every garbage disposal problem on our own can be time-consuming, difficult and stressful. If you’re concerned about exactly how to perform a repair or have questions about your disposal, a professional plumbing company can provide you with guidance. ABC Home & Commercial Services has been helping Texas homeowners with pesky plumbing problems for decades. Our skilled technicians are supervised by a licensed Master Plumber and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you identify problems and perform any needed installations. It’s our priority to handle your problem quickly so that you can get back to using your disposal as soon as possible.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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