Have you ever opened the cabinets under the sink to remove the trash or a handful of cleaning products, only to find everything soaked and soggy? Have you ever installed – or even had professionally installed – a brand new, state-of-the-art garbage disposal, only to have it flood your kitchen floor the next day? If so, you have a major plumbing: a leaking garbage disposal leaking from.
In our modern world of convenience and light-speed schedules, the garbage disposal has become an indispensable, time-saving comfort. We use them so often; they go overlooked and under-appreciated. But when something goes wrong, we notice. The smell, sound, or deluge of a faulty garbage disposal can really stink – literally.
A malfunctioning garbage disposal can be a stubborn repair. Lots of moving parts that are not readily accessible or visible mean maintenance and fixes require extra time and instruction. We’ll walk you through how to spot and how to fix garbage disposal issues – and how to prevent them from happening in the future.
5 Steps for Finding the Garbage Disposal Leak
This is the easiest part of the task, and can usually be performed in five steps.
- Unplug your disposal. Look for any moisture around the socket itself – standing water or even just dampness. If you see this, it’s best to shut the breaker for the disposal off entirely.
- Remove everything from underneath the sink. You’re going to want space to work, as well as a place for a bucket or tray to catch the water (or contaminants) inside the disposal during the repair.
- Stop or plug your sink drain with a tight seal.
- Fill your sink up with a few cups of water. You don’t need too much. If you want, you can introduce food coloring into the water to help you identify the leak.
- Look for the leak. Check underneath the sink while it’s plugged. If it’s still dry, remove the sink stop and look for the leak at the dishwasher hose, the drain, the bottom of the disposal unit, or the water supply lines running from your wall.
Fixing The Leak
After performing the above investigation, you’ll have found the leak in one of five places: (1) the sink flange, (2) the drain, (3) the dishwasher hose, or (4) the bottom of the disposal.
- If the leak occurred under the sink and at the top of the disposal before you unplugged the sink drain, your leak is in the sink flange. This indicates that an improper seal exists between the unit and the sink, which can occur from corrosion or the disposal being bumped hard and out of place. This fix requires you to move the disposal altogether. Then apply a generous amount of plumber’s putty to the flange. Finally, replace the disposal and retighten the flange.
- If the leak occurred in either of the two connections (smaller = dishwasher, larger = sewer) exiting the side of your disposal unit, it’s a pretty straightforward fix. Loosen the metal clamps on these hoses and make sure the rubber gaskets inside are not falling apart. If needed, replace these gaskets. Reattach the hoses and re-clamp the connections with new metal clamps.
- We won’t sugar-coat it. This one is the doozy. If the leak is located at the bottom of the unit that means at least one internal seal has slipped, chipped, or flat-out deteriorated. The catch is, there are lots of these seals inside the disposal, and if one has failed it means the others are on their way. You can replace these seals with expensive, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts – or you can just get a new garbage disposal.
Preventing the Leak
One of the best ways you can help you garbage disposal function properly is to only put soft foods down the drain. Bones, potato peels, and the stray utensil can damage the motor or even shift seals or bolts out of place as the disposal can jerk or move violently when trying to compensate for these hard materials.
Another disposal rule of thumb should be to run frequently cold water through the drain. Grease and fats can expand and then congeal in the drain hose to the sewer, leading to blockage and leaks.
And finally, schedule a time or remember to perform a simple check for leaks. Take a dry paper towel and feel the areas where a leaking garbage disposal can lose water. If you catch a leak when it’s just a drop, it might save you from a lot of work later down the road.