Plumbing, Repairs

How to fix a garbage disposal clog or leak: step-by-step guide

how to fix a garbage disposal

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Outlines step-by-step how to fix a garbage disposal clog or leak, the safety precautions to take before to fix it, and how to prevent it happening again.

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Many of us can’t imagine a house without a garbage disposal. It is necessary to get rid of all the food that would otherwise have clogged your kitchen sink. A garbage disposal unit installed in a kitchen runs on electricity and chops the food into tiny pieces for easy flushing through the plumbing system. However, many of us also don’t realize the importance of garbage disposal until it’s clogged and the kitchen sink is overflowing with leftover food and dirt.

But there are some early signs. You walk past your sink and notice the smell and wonder, “Is my garbage disposal clogged ?” There are certain signs that when they occur tell you it could be a clogged garbage disposal.

A smell

The first sign is the smell. If you can smell the beginning of a foul smell, you know it must be coming from the clogged drain and that your garbage disposal may be clogged.

Water does not go down

If the water does not drain properly through the disposal systems and it takes a long time for water to come out, there is no doubt that your garbage disposal is clogged.

Leftovers rise to the top

If you grind up leftover food, you will find that the feed rises despite the grinding noise, you definitely have a clogged garbage deposit. The grinding and turning of the teeth means that there is no problem with your trash disposal, but rather that you have a clogged drain that doesn’t clear away the soil lining the way it should.

Gurgling noises

There may be gurgling noises coming from the drain pipe, which can be heard especially in the bathroom. If there is any noise, you must call a professional and have it checked immediately.

How to fix a garbage disposal that is clogged

The first thing to do in how to fix a garbage disposal is to turn off the power and unplug the power cord. Then remove the splash guard located at the opening of the device. 

Also flood the disposal with hot water several times — without food. This suction effect of the water loosens all stuck pieces of food and any fat that might be clogging it. 

You can then check what is blocking the drain. Never put your hand inside the device, even when it is unplugged, as the knives can cut you. Instead, opt for tongs that are long enough to reach the interfering object blocking the drainage system. 

If nothing is visible, run the water and fill the sink. Then use a plunger to suction and remove the blockage. 

After that, when the water runs out, run some cold water for about a minute to flush out the entire drainage system. 

How to prevent clogs in the system

You can prevent your garbage disposal from getting clogged by making sure you completely flood the device with water first. Then turn it on. 

This ensures that even the small foods are sucked in with the water and won’t stay on the disposal walls. 

If smell is a problem, use equal amounts of baking soda and vinegar. The baking soda will help clear the drain, while the vinegar will get rid of the odor. Once the bubbling starts, after you’ve poured the baking soda followed by the vinegar, rinse the drain with warm water.

How to fix a garbage disposal leak

1. Worn Out Gaskets

As the first step in how to fix a garbage disposal leak, you should consider checking its gasket that’s between the flange and rubber seal. If you discover any discharge, then you have a defective gasket.

If you have been using a gasket for many years, it will become weak, and then begin to drip water. Furthermore, if you rarely use your disposer, the gasket dries up and leaks in turn. An improperly sealed gasket faces the same problem as well.

How To Fix Garbage Disposal Leaking From Gasket

  • To stop such leakage, swap the existing gasket for a new one. You can find a new unit at your local store. When you get one, use the following steps to replace the leaky gasket.
  • Detach the drain and pull out the plug from the garbage disposal unit if your disposer connects with your dishwasher, take out the drain hose between them.
  • Firmly hold the sides of the mounting nut and rotate with clockwise movements. Since this action unlocks the disposer, the unit should fall downwards. Place the detached item in a position that reveals the rubber gasket.
  • Swab the existing gasket with the new one. Try to place the substitute on the exact spot as the old one and allow it pop on the lip. At this point, it’s vital that the gasket sits flat.
  • Return the garbage disposer to its original position on the sink. At this stage, try to confirm if the gasket seal properly before reinstalling the disposer.
  • Confirm the tightness on every mounting groove. Attach the drains and insert the plug to test for any leakages.

2. Leaky Sink Flange

how to fix a garbage disposal - Leaky Sink Flange

You can find this component at the highest point of the garbage disposal unit. At this location, the kitchen tool meets with the sink and drain. With the flange, you can avoid dirt blocking up your kitchen drain.

Do you have a garbage disposal leaking water from this spot? If yes, then you have a defective flange caused by either weak putty or loose mounting bolts.

If the problem comes from the putty, consider replacing it. Begin by unscrewing the bolt until you notice a gap. Place the putty between the pipe and flange and tighten the pins. But if you still have garbage disposal leaking from top, use these steps to solve the problem.

Steps To Fix Leaking Sink Flange

  • Remove the garbage disposal by removing the screws that attach the main drain pipe to the unit. Then take out the screws on the metal clamp that fixes the dishwasher hose to the disposal. Remove the free dishwasher hose and tubing from the unit.
  • Remove the mounting ring that holds the disposal to the mounting components under the sink. Detach the garbage disposal and place it on a neat surface.
  • Pull out a wrench and take out the bolts in the mounting assembly. Remove this component and place it beside the disposal unit.
  • Return to the top of the sink and raise the flange. Remove the existing putty at the top of the sink flange and clean with a damp cloth.
  • Collect a handful of putty and mold (with rolling movements) into a rope that fits the perimeter of the flange.
  • Wind the molded putty around the upper part of the flange. Take the flange to the sink drain and fix it in.
  • Replace the mounting ring and mounting assembly, remember to tighten the screws. Then reinstall the drainpipe, dishwasher hose, and disposal unit.

3. Loose Drain Lines

Since garbage disposal units can leak from the drain lines, check the spot at which the appliance meets the lines. Here, you will notice two lines; the thick is the sewer disposal line while the thin one comes as the dishwasher disposal line.

If you find any drips, grab a screwdriver and secure the clamp that holds the garbage disposal to the dishwasher. You should also tighten the screws on the dishwasher disposal line. Remember to replace the gaskets with a new one from any store in your location.

During the inspection of drain lines, check for wear and tear. With constant use, these parts can develop cracks that result in leakages. Change such fittings or contact a plumber to help with this task.

4. Loose Seals or Pipes

how to fix a garbage disposal - Loose Seals or Pipes

To find these parts, you will have to check under your sink. At this location, it’s normal for people to store various items. As a result, someone might hit the disposal pipes, especially when using the storage space.

If extra force meets the garbage disposal, it can push it from its original position. Moreover, you might have loose pipes and screws while the holding bolts will become free. In cases like this, look out for parts that stand out of place and tighten bolts at leaky spots. If the dripping continues, fix a new roll of putty sealing ring.

5. Dishwasher Connection

Garbage disposal leak could be from the dishwasher connection to the drainpipe. But why does a garbage disposer attach to the dishwasher? Well, the dishwasher dumps food waste into the unit, but leaks occurs due to cracked or loose hoses. You can solve this problem by securing or replacing the hose, thereby ending your “garbage disposal leaking into dishwasher” nightmare.

6. Split or Cracked Body

Split or Cracked Body

If you notice any discharge, particularly after changing a leaking gasketcheck the surface of the unit for large cracks. Provided you discover any, consider investing in a new garbage disposer.

Most times, cracks occur from knocks and bumps as people retrieve items near the unit. To avoid future damage, change the position of the electrical appliance.

7. Leaking Reset Button

If you have old garbage disposal leaking from the reset button, ignore any advice about fixing the item. Repairing this piece comes as a temporary solution resulting in wasted cash. Instead, visit your local store and buy a new one.

For new garbage disposers with faulty reset buttons, you can fix the reset button mainly as a warranty covers the product. The manufacturers of the unit might offer repair services. But if the unit has exceeded the warranty period, seek the services of a professional.

8. Loose or Damaged Discharge Pipe

If you have checked those parts mentioned above and you don’t know what to do if your garbage disposal is leaking from the bottom? Inspect the discharge pipe that’s fixed to the sink for wear and tear. You should also check if you have loose plumbing.

Solve this issue by screwing the flange while using a plumber’s wrench. If the water still leaves the disposer, change the seal that lies between the holding nut and discharge pipe.

gerhardt-richter Gerhardt Richter is a writer and a trainer at trade technical colleges, specializing in carpentry, plumbing, mechanics and construction.