A garbage disposal is one of many modern conveniences found in homes that can be overlooked and taken for granted. Only when it malfunctions or leaks do we realize the value of its working condition. A leaking garbage disposal can quickly turn into a sticky and stinky situation. A malfunctioning garbage disposal can be a frustrating repair considering all the moving parts and hazards involved. Lucky for you, Mr. Rooter Plumbing has put together the following guide on how to identify and fix common garbage disposal issues - and how to prevent them.
Signs of a Leak
A leaking garbage disposal should be easy to notice:
- An overwhelming rotten smell will come from the cabinet under the sink where the garbage disposal is found.
- There will be a dripping sound from underneath the sink during and after running the garbage disposal.
- The cabinet will likely be soggy and damp - if the leak is severe, the water will overflow and flood out from the area.
Locating the Leak
IMPORTANT: UNPLUG THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL UNIT BEFORE WORKING ON IT; THE UNIT SHOULD BE POWERED OFF. TRY TO AVOID PLACING YOUR HANDS NEAR THE BLADES; USE A TOOL TO WEDGE OUT ANY ITEMS IF NECESSARY.
Once you have turned off the power to the garbage disposal unit, remove everything from the cabinet under the sink and place a bucket under the unit to catch the leaking water during this repair. Plug your sink drain with a seal and fill your sink with a few cups of water. Once you've observed any leaks, or lack of leaks, then remove the seal from the sink drain and look for any other leaks as the water runs down from the sink through the system.
Diagnosing the Leak
These are the five most common locations of a leak in your garbage disposal unit:
- Seals and Pipes
- Dishwasher Connection
- Bottom of the Disposal Body
GASKET: The gasket is the rim at the top of the disposal which mounts the rubber seal to the flange. This gasket may have been loosely installed or may have dried and cracked with disuse. Try removing and re-installing the gasket making sure it fully seals. Replacement gaskets can be found at your local hardware store.
FLANGE: The sink flange is the top portion of the garbage disposal unit which connects the sink, drain, and garbage disposal. First try tightening the mounting bolts. If the leak persists, then the issue might be with the plumber's putty - try loosening the mounting bolts and forcing some extra putty between the pipe and the flange then retighten the mounting bolts to secure the putty in place. If this does not work, then try removing the sink flange altogether and apply the putty before replacing it.
SEALS AND PIPES: Seals and pipes can move around with use especially if your disposal unit aggressively jolts around often. These seals and pipes will leak if loosened. You will need to reattach and reseal these pipes, but we recommend you have a professional deal with such situations. Give Mr. Rooters Plumbing a call to have an licensed and expert plumber help.
DISHWASHER CONNECTION: Similar to the seals and pipes, the dishwasher connection may loosen and result in food scraps and debris to spill over into your cabinet. Try tightening the hose clamp. If tightening does not work then you may have to replace the hose.
DISPOSAL BODY: The disposal body is a complex piece with many small moving parts. If the leak is coming from the bottom of the unit, then there may be no point in repairing it. Instead, you should replace the unit altogether.
To prevent leaks in the future, we recommend being gentle with your garbage disposal unit. Avoid putting hard foods such as bones, peels, and stray utensils in your unit. The garbage disposal should only be used for soft foods. Further, remember to frequently run water through your drain the expel any grease and fats that may be blocking the path.