Will a garbage disposal clog your pipes?

repairs being done to a broken garbage disposal

Dealing With Clogs

The only thing that can be worse in a kitchen besides burnt popcorn or non-working garbage disposal is a clogged drain. And when you have two of the three at one time, it can be devastating. The burnt popcorn odor will evaporate eventually, but does the clogged drain mean you have plumbing issues, or do you need help such as garbage disposal repair?

Can I use the sink if the garbage disposal is broken?

To answer that, we should explain a little about how a garbage disposal works in conjunction with the sink drain. The dishwasher and disposal share the drain line. So, all the food debris you wash off the dishes into the garbage disposal is going into the same drain line the other side of the sink drains into. 

However, you can still use your kitchen sink, with some limitations. Broken garbage disposal will still allow greywater from the dishwasher to drain if the problem with the disposal is electrical or mechanical. However, if the garbage disposal is having problems with the drain, you should avoid using the sink until the garbage disposal repairs are completed. 

What would cause a garbage disposal to stop working?

Garbage disposals are as complex as it may seem, but there can be a number of reasons why it isn’t working. Some common garbage disposal problems are: 

1. A unit that doesn’t turn on, which could be a quick garbage disposal repair you can do yourself. Turn the unit off, then make sure the unit is plugged in, check the breaker, and then press the reset button. If all this is in proper working order and the unit still won’t turn on, call a professional for garbage disposal repair. 

2. If the unit is jammed, it will make a humming sound, but the blades won’t turn. This is another possible DIY garbage disposal repair you can try.  Turn the unit off at the switch and the breaker box, then while wearing work gloves, reach down the drain and see if you can free the blades of what is stopping them. It could be an item such as a dishrag, a small lid, or a utensil. It could also be clogged by any of the following being washed down the unit: 

  • Fats, grease, and cooking oil
  • Starchy and stringy vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Fruit pits and seeds
  • Large bones
  • Non-food materials 
  • Too much of anything

3. A slow draining garbage disposal could be because the blades aren’t breaking down the food as they should. This will take a professional garbage disposal repair service to inspect the unit. Depending on the age of the unit, it may need to be replaced. 

4. Foul odors coming from garbage disposal is usually food particles stuck to the blades. You can avoid this by grinding lemon or lime wedges with ice in the unit every so often.  For immediate help, pour half a cup of baking powder into the garbage disposal followed by half a cup of vinegar. Wait 10 minutes then pour boiling water into the unit. If these efforts don’t help the odor, there is something down the drain line and you’ll need a professional plumber to inspect this possibility. 

 5. Grinding noises like metal on metal coming from garbage disposal is loud and frightening! Usually, the problem is because something is stuck, causing the parts to move incorrectly. Turn the unit off and unplug it, then reach in there. If you don’t find anything, you’ll need a professional garbage disposal repair service. 

6. A leaking garbage disposal can be an easy garbage disposal repair. There isn’t much to know about how to repair a leaking garbage disposal, simply replace the O-ring and then tighten the parts. If the unit is leaking from the sink flange, this will need a professional garbage disposal repair service. 

Is my garbage disposal clogged or broken?

Clogged garbage will be extremely noisy but isn’t grinding the food you scraped into the unit. If the unit starts and stops, or doesn’t turn on at all, then it is probably burned out. If you don’t find obvious clogging problems, then the unit may need to be replaced.  Calling a professional to inspect the unit is recommended. 

How do you know if your garbage disposal motor is burnt out?

It isn’t uncommon for a garbage disposal to shut off when it is jammed, which happens when you’ve overloaded with food or a foreign object. This jamming reaction can cause the circuit breaker to trip and shut the unit off. This doesn’t mean the garbage disposal unit is burnt out though. To see if the unit is jammed, the following steps are how to repair a garbage disposal jam: 

  • There is a hex wrench on every garbage disposal, usually located on the bottom of the unit. Insert the wrench and move it back & forth. This will sometimes clear a jam. 
  • If that didn’t help it, on the bottom or side of the unit is a red breaker button. Push it repeatedly and see if the unit starts. 
  • If these two steps didn’t start the unit, check the breaker panel to confirm there is still power to the garbage disposal. If it has flipped, flip it back in position and then follow steps one and two again and try the unit. 

If none of these worked, it is time to replace the unit. You can have a professional garbage disposal repair inspection first, but if the motor is burnt out, it needs to be replaced.

close-up of a leaking garbage disposal under a sink

Grinding To A Close 

How do you fix a broken garbage disposal? We’ve reviewed several ways to do your own garbage disposal repairs. If these are unsuccessful, or you aren’t a DIY person, calling a professional is recommended.