Grey garbage disposal unit beneath white sink and white cabinetry.

Detecting Garbage Disposal Issues

Garbage disposals are a convenient and efficient way to manage food waste in our homes. Over the last few decades, they have become very common but have not necessarily advanced in design and core function. The “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” concept applies in the function and design…but not entirely without headaches.
Like any other appliance, they can develop problems and malfunctions over time. Detecting and addressing these issues early on is important to prevent further damage to your disposal and avoid costly repairs.

Signs of Garbage Disposal Issues

There are several indications that your garbage disposal is not functioning correctly. Here are some of the most common signs you may already be seeing and what to watch for:

1. Strange Noises:

If your garbage disposal is making unusual grinding, whirring, or clanging sounds, it could indicate that something is stuck or damaged.

2. Slow Draining:

If the water takes a long time to drain from your sink, it could mean that your garbage disposal is clogged or not working correctly.

3. Foul Odors:

If there is a persistent odor coming from your sink, it could be a sign of rotting food stuck in your disposal.

4. Leaks:

If you notice water leaking from your garbage disposal or pipes, it could be due to damaged or cracked components.

5. Frequent Resets:

If you have to reset your garbage disposal frequently, it could mean that the motor is overheating or the wiring is faulty.

Steps to Identify Garbage Disposal Issues

Once you notice any of the above signs, you are most likely ready to take action on your own or ask for help. You can start by taking the following steps to help identify the cause of the problem. Creating a quick checklist such as the following can really help:

1. Turn off Power:

Before you start troubleshooting, make sure to turn off the power supply to your garbage disposal. You can do this by unplugging the unit or turning off the circuit breaker. Also, check underneath the disposal beneath your sink for a safety button that may aid in locking the disposal for extra protection.

2. Inspect the Blades:

Check if there is anything stuck in the blades of your garbage disposal. Use a flashlight to examine the blades and remove any visible debris. Never place any object or hands in a disposal without being absolutely certain all power is off to the disposal unit.

3. Clear Clogs:

If your garbage disposal is clogged, use a plunger to try and clear the blockage. You can also use a drain snake or a bent wire hanger to clear out any food particles or debris that may be causing the clog. The handle of the plunger or a short broom handle may be used to move the blades back and forth to help unclog a minor clog.

4. Check Wiring:

If you suspect that there may be an electrical issue, check the wiring and connections to ensure they are secure and not damaged. Is the switch for the disposal damaged? Does the outlet or nearby outlets seem to be faulty?

5. Test Motor:

If the blades and wiring appear to be in good condition and you have given these tips a try, you can now test the motor. Once you feel certain and safe, turn the power back on and turn on the disposal. Listen for any strange sounds or vibrations that may indicate a motor problem. Usually, a humming sound indicates something is stuck or clogged or damaged within the motor.

When to Call a Plumber

While some minor garbage disposal issues can be fixed with a little DIY troubleshooting, there are situations where it is best to call a professional plumber.
So if you feel you have given the checklist a try and have no results, check out these situations to know when to make that plumbing call:

• Persistent clogs keep happening. If you are unable to clear a stubborn clog, it may be time to call in a plumber to use specialized tools to remove the blockage.

• Leaks have now become a repeating issue in your home. If you notice water leaking from your garbage disposal or pipes, it is crucial to call a plumber as soon as possible to prevent further damage and potential water damage to your home.

• Electrical issues have now appeared. If you suspect there is an electrical issue with your garbage disposal, it is best to leave it to a licensed professional to avoid the risk of electrocution.

• Motor problems are happening too often. If you hear unusual sounds or vibrations coming from your garbage disposal, it could indicate a motor problem. A licensed plumber can diagnose the issue and determine if the motor needs to be repaired or replaced.

• Many repeating issues. If you are experiencing frequent garbage disposal issues, it may be time to upgrade to a new unit. A professional plumber can help you choose a new model that fits your needs and install it safely and correctly.

We Are Here To Help

Garbage disposals are essential and they offer a convenient and efficient way to dispose of food scraps, reducing the amount of waste we send to landfills and reducing the risk of pests and bacteria in our homes.

However, it is important to take care of our garbage disposals to ensure they continue to function correctly and avoid costly repairs or replacements. Regular maintenance and reaching out to a plumbing professional when going through a maintenance checklist as we spoke of here will help keep your home or business running efficiently. Plumbing Doctor is here to help you do that and we encourage you to give us a call when you need us. We are here to help!