The garbage disposal is one of the most convenient advances of modern plumbing. When used correctly, your garbage disposal can make your cooking process and your kitchen plumbing more efficient.
However, because garbage disposals process many kinds of food waste, they can break or wear down over time. When this type of damage occurs, a plumber can make the necessary repairs or recommend a replacement model.
So how do you know it’s time to call a plumber about your garbage disposal? Look for the following eight signs.
1. Excessive Age
Garbage disposals don’t last forever. In fact, most garbage disposals require replacement well before any of the pipes or drains they connect to do. On average, garbage disposals last between 8 and 15 years.
If you have an owner’s manual for your disposal or know the model and can find a manual online, you can determine exactly how long your disposal is expected to last. If you don’t know the age of your disposal or don’t know its expected lifespan, you may want to have a plumber assess the unit for efficiency.
Excessive age often contributes to the other problems on this list, so it’s important to replace your unit promptly when it wears out.
2. Ineffective Grinding
You probably reach into your disposal periodically to check for flatware and other non-waste items. One thing you shouldn’t feel when checking the disposal by hand is waste items that have not been removed.
If you suspect that your disposal isn’t grinding waste completely, check the inside of the disposal after running the unit and the water for approximately 30 seconds. This issue could occur due to dull blades, which your plumber may be able to replace.
3. Leaking Under the Sink
As your garbage disposal ages, routinely check for any leaks under your sink. You may notice active dripping or a puddle. Often, disposals leak only while the water is on or while the unit is running. So if you notice collected water under the sink, check to see whether the disposal starts dripping under specific conditions.
Generally, disposal leaks indicate a hose or seal problem. In most cases, a plumber must then remove the unit and replace it to resolve the issue.
4. Noise Without Power
When you switch on the disposal, you expect a specific reaction. If your unit reacts differently to the flip of a switch than usual, this change virtually always indicates the need for repair.
One of the possible changes is a humming noise but no blade movement when you turn the unit on. In the best-case scenario, this inactivity may mean that food or an object has jammed the system.
In most cases, noises without power means that there’s a problem with the flywheel that you’ll need a professional plumber to fix.
5. Persistent Odors
Because your disposal processes primarily food waste, the sink can begin to smell if the disposal becomes obstructed or if the unit is not kept clean. If you notice an unpleasant odor coming from the drain and your disposal, thoroughly clean the sink and unit, including the rubber cover around the hole.
Do not use drain-cleaning products that have harsh chemicals that may corrode the disposal blades or mechanism. Instead, use natural cleansers and odor removers like baking soda.
If the odor persists, have the unit inspected by a professional. You may have stubborn food residue causing the smell, or the garbage disposal may have a water issue that’s encouraging mold growth.
6. Slow Draining
If your disposal starts to drain more slowly, you could have one of a number of problems. In many cases, the problem actually lies within the drain line rather than inside the garbage disposal.
You will likely need the help of a plumbing professional to find the obstruction that’s blocking the pipes. Again, do not use a bottled drain cleaner, since these solvents can harm your garbage disposal and pipework.
If you flip the power switch and your garbage disposal does not turn on, you may have an electrical issue rather than a plumbing problem. Have your unit assessed by a plumber. A plumber may be able to reconnect the system and restart your unit.
If the electrical problem is out of the scope of a plumber’s expertise, he or she will recommend an electrician to evaluate the power in your kitchen. Do not attempt to work on an electrical problem in your garbage disposal on your own; improper technique could lead to electrocution.
8. Unusual Noise
If the noise of your garbage disposal changes either while the unit is running or between uses, turn off the power immediately. Check for any inappropriate items in the drain, including large chunks of food and silverware.
If the disposal is clear but the noise continues, call in a plumber to assess the blades and motor.
If you notice any combination of the warning signs listed above, consult a reputable plumber about your garbage disposal issues.