Garbage disposals not only eliminate the need to pass by the trash on your way to the sink, making cleanup effortless, but it also reduces waste, allowing you to go through fewer bags than you normally would. It also prevents clogs in your pipes by grinding up softer particles that would otherwise create backflow and pooling around the drain. 

Regrettably, improper treatment and natural wear bring garbage disposals to a grinding halt, creating chaos in the kitchen. The best way to understand if you have garbage disposal issues specifically rather than a problem elsewhere in your plumbing is to look out for these seven common signs. If one or more are present, contact Works Plumbing, Pacifica’s trusted plumbing repair in California, for five-star relief.

1. Jamming and Clogs

Your garbage disposal’s sole job is to pulverize food scraps into smaller bits that can easily flow through the pipes, but that doesn’t mean you should take advantage of it by shoving just about everything into it. Larger, more unbreakable items like avocado pits, seafood shells, and sizeable fruit seeds lodge themselves into the pipes or stick between the disposal blades, causing flow restrictions.

Water pooling around the drain when you run your faucet or backups forcing wastewater to resurface also occur when you dispose of the following:

  • Fats, oils, grease, and starch, which exist in anything from meat and vegetables to butter and salad dressing, are thicker in consistency. Because of this, they easily accumulate in the pipes and on the blades, not only creating clogs but also corroding your plumbing system. 
  • Excessive food with little or no water to carry the particles produces an improper flow that’ll keep bits in your sink, disposal, and pipes.
  • Inedible items, from bones and eggshells to accidentally dropped jewelry, won’t break down; they’ll instead damage or jam your disposal blades. 

If jamming occurs, turn off your garbage disposal from the circuit breaker box for safety before removing the sink strainer if you have one and slipping your gloved hand into the pipe. Feel for the clog and pull up excess particles. Prevent future clogs by ensuring the above items never reach your garbage disposal. 

2. Slow Drainage and Pooling 

If you reach into your drain pipe only to find there isn’t a clog, you have another disposal problem altogether. Like kitchen knives and scissors, disposal blades become dull after regular use over the years, but fibrous, unbreakable, and greasy matter wear their edges prematurely. 

When this occurs, the blades cannot break down food waste, first taking more than a few seconds to clear the drain and eventually contributing to backups and pooling water. However, you won’t feel the clog if it’s further past the garbage disposal. When the blades rotate, they make room for particles to slip past, unlike with a jam, so call a professional to snake the drain and sharpen the blades for you.

To prevent garbage disposal issues like these from occurring before they flood your sink basin and possibly your kitchen, sharpen the blades yourself by sending the right material down your drain. Without water, use rock salt, ice cubes, or a coarse cleanser product specific for garbage disposal cleaning to sharpen the blades with their gritty surfaces. Once done, run it with water to clean it. 

3. Strange Noises

Like other units and appliances in your home, there are noises your garbage disposal should and should not make. When functioning, a light grinding sound is understandable as particles pass through, but it shouldn’t be louder than a blender. However, if that grinding sound escalates, the blades are rubbing against lodged items or a loose or missing part in your disposal unit is preventing waste breakdown. 

Similarly, jammed blades cause humming, but if you reach in to clear your drains only to find yourself coming up empty-handed, turn to your electrical wiring. A poor connection, tripped GFI or GFCI outlet, or malfunctioning garbage disposal limits power to your system, allowing the motor to run but keeping the blades from spinning. 

Try hitting the reset button on the unit or flipping the circuit breaker off and on before trying the disposal again. If these don’t help, call an expert to inspect the system. 

4. Showing No Signs of Functioning

Although obnoxious or unusual noises are cause for alarm, hearing no noise at all is just as threatening. Complete silence after flipping the switch on means the motor isn’t functioning. 

Check the plug to ensure it’s tightly secured into the outlet. If readjusting it doesn’t work, hit the reset button on the garbage disposal and the red reset button on the connected outlet. Since the current that flows into these components stems from your breaker that evenly distributes electricity through your home, flip the fuse off and on as your last resort for fixing the issue before picking up the phone. Check your breaker box to see if you have a blown fuse. 

While you can fix an overloaded motor with a reset, a dying or dead motor needs replacing just as a failing electrical switch needs repairing. It’s also possible your garbage disposal has reached the end of its 10-year lifespan, and you’ll have to start considering new installation products to keep your kitchen flowing. 

5. Garbage-Like Smell

Audible tell-tales of garbage disposal issues usually come before odorous ones, but when they arrive, passing by your sink will make you believe you need to take out the trash. This more abrasive symptom can derive from a weakened disposal that doesn’t grind food properly, leaving larger bits in the pipes to grow bacteria and become foul-smelling. 

It could also mean food residue has coated the disposal trap or waste line, causing a clog that needs remedying. But more often than not, a smell doesn’t always point to a necessary repair. Without regular bi-weekly cleanings, food scraps line the drain pipe and begin to emit an odor, even if they are clear of clogs. 

Fortunately, during your DIY cleanings, scrubbing isn’t necessary. Simply take an acidic product like a lime or lemon wedge and grind it into the disposal for half a minute with the cold water running. Then, pour a half cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar into the pipe and wait five to ten minutes before running the unit with cold, not hot water, since heat causes fats and oils to stick to the blades. 

Any remaining smells afterward suggest stuck-on grime that needs a more intricate cleaning from a professional, so call to have them disassembled and scrub all unit parts. 

6. Leaky Fixtures

Like your pipes, faucets, and other parts of your plumbing, garbage disposals have waterproof seals that prevent water from flowing through the fixture, which could rust it and cause leaks. Leaks from the top of your garbage disposal point to a poor or broken seal from deteriorated putty, a snapped O-ring, or a loose flange. It could also mean you have a cracked or worn rubber gasket.

Water dripping from the sides of your garbage disposal should turn your attention toward the supply line rather than the disposal itself. A loose connection will have water slipping out as it passes through the pipes, so tighten the clamps and screws on the drain line connections. Afterward, run the water to examine if the problem persists, in which case you should call an expert to take a look.

As with a top leak, a damaged seal causes water to drip from the bottom of your disposal but don’t automatically assume this is the case. A leaking insinkerator, the key element in liquefying food so it easily passes into the sewage lines, will need a full replacement. A leak from the disposal’s shell indicates you need a new system to alleviate these garbage disposal issues. 

7. Dirty Water Draining into Your Dishwasher 

If you have a dishwasher, its drainpipe most likely connects to the garbage disposal, so food leftovers from either appliance efficiently move into the same line. However, the hose clamp that attaches them may leak, causing liquified food from the drain to back up into the dishwasher, leaving your dishes dirty and the unit smelling foul. 

This concern has a simple fix since you only have to tighten the hose to keep this from happening. If backflow still occurs, replace the hose with a new part or call a technician to install it correctly.

For 24/7 Plumbing That Works!

Whether working with a dangerous garbage disposal makes you nervous, or you don’t know how to get to or fix the unit with DIY methods, contact a professional immediately for assistance.

Our BBB-accredited plumbing team will never leave you stranded with 24/7 garbage disposal and plumbing services available in Pacifica, CA, and the surrounding areas. Each of our licensed and contracted technicians performs personalized services according to your garbage disposal issues alongside the unit size, make, and model, guaranteeing a job well done every time. 

Contact Works Plumbing in Pacifica, CA, at (650) 414-3511 to schedule services today!

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