How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?
For such simple machinery, garbage disposals are one of the most revolutionary kitchen appliances ever invented. It makes life a lot easier when washing dirty dishes and cleaning up after meal preparation. So how does a garbage disposal work and how is it supposed to be used? Let’s first answer a fundamental question:
What Is a Garbage Disposal?
A garbage disposal is an appliance found under the kitchen sink, connected to the drain. It cuts food waste into bits and pieces (smaller than 2 mm) so that they can safely and effectively pass through the plumbing system.
One environmental benefit is that reducing the size of the pieces of food waste allows for quicker biodegradation. Also, many city water systems have established wastewater treatment plants that reuse wasted food by turning it into fertilizer or using it as an energy source.
The inventor of the garbage disposal was a man by the name of John W. Hammes, in 1927. He was able to patent his InSinkErator (a brand that still dominates the market) by 1935 and went to market in 1940.
General Electric has attempted to dispute his claim and insists their business invented it in 1935. Hammes still holds the first patent.
Read more about the history of this invention: Garbage Disposal | Wikipedia
How Does the Disposal Work?
Powered by electricity, the disposal uses a small motor (typically 1 hp or less) to rotate a blade that quickly chops anything you put into the disposal’s grinding chamber.
This part of the process can be deduced just by operating a garbage disposal, but there is more to it than that. There is also an impeller and plate system that pushes the chopped particles down the drain.
The drain from the dishwasher also runs to the garbage disposal. That means those bits of food waste get the grinding they need before passing through the plumbing, too.
Note: one misconception is that all disposals have blades. Contrary to popular belief, the spinning mechanism on most garbage disposals today does not use a blade. It uses two lugs mounted on a steel plate (they spin in unison).
For the sake of facilitating understanding in conversation, we still refer to it as a blade because that’s what everybody calls it.
How to Use a Garbage Disposal
All models vary slightly, but typically a user initiates the chopping by flipping a switch next to the sink, above the counter. There is a reset button on the grinding chamber (beneath the sink), and also a stopper switch. Tips for getting the most out of your garbage disposal:
- Before turning on the disposal, run cool/room temperature water.
- If possible, before allowing food into the grinding chamber, turn the disposal on.
- Gradually feed food waste into the disposal.
- Allow the water to run for a few seconds after turning off the disposal.
Choose a Trusted Brand
If you are looking for a great garbage disposal, try the 1-HP Moen GXL1000C GX.
If you take care of your appliances, they’ll take care of you, and that’s especially true of quality garbage disposals. In addition to InSinkErator, we also carry Waste King disposals and parts. You can’t lose with either option.
We also offer an excellent selection of replacement garbage disposal parts. Contact is you have any questions about anything related to this article’s topic.
Garbage Disposal Not Working
The garbage disposal not working properly can interfere with regular kitchen cleaning and upkeep. A broken disposal presents in several ways: You hear the disposal humming but not working, you see water leaking under the unit or filling up the sink, or you flip the switch, and the disposal does not turn on.
Sometimes, the easiest way to fix a garbage disposal is to push the reset button on the bottom of the disposal and try it again. But if that doesn’t work, the top reasons for garbage disposal failures are:
- Electrical system issues
- A jam in the grinding mechanism
- Faulty seals in the mounting, hoses, or pipe connections
- Clogs in the drain pipe
The most common garbage disposal problems have solutions, are easy to diagnose, and are almost always easy to fix. Read on to see how to get your garbage disposal to work again.
Types of Garbage Disposals
There are several types of garbage disposals, including batch feed and continuous. Batch feed needs to have the cover placed over the drain opening to activate the disposal. Continuous utilizes a switch to turn the unit on and off. An air switch model also uses air to activate the disposal.
What all these models have in common is that the power feeding the disposal should come from an outlet under the sink. It also helps to learn more about the various parts or anatomy of a garbage disposal.
The blades inside a garbage disposal are rather dull grinders, not razor-sharp sabers. However, you can get painfully injured if you don’t practice basic safety measures. At no point should you ever reach your hand into the garbage disposal.
Even if there is an obstruction in the disposal, reaching your hand into this machine is a bad idea. Instead, unplug the disposal or turn off the associated breaker to cut power to the unit, then use a set of tongs or long pliers to remove the obstruction.
If the disposal will not turn on when you flip the switch and you do not hear the humming sound of the motor, it indicates there is an electrical problem that is preventing the appliance from getting current. To identify the problem and fix it, begin with the most likely problem (and easiest solution) and proceed to the more complicated.
The simplest solution is often overlooked. Before worrying about the wiring, check to make sure that the disposal is actually plugged in. If the unit is not connected to the outlet, then it won’t respond when the switch is flipped.
1-Check the outlet and power cord to ensure they are properly connected.
2-Test the garbage disposal.
Check for Power
If the garbage disposal is plugged in, then the issue may be due to a tripped circuit breaker. Note that in some cases, an electrical short in the disposal can cause the circuit breaker to trip, so if this is a recurring problem, then there may be a more complicated issue with the actual garbage disposal that needs to be fixed by a professional electrician.
If the circuit breaker is still on, then there may be an issue with the wiring. You can check the outlet with a voltage tester to ensure that power is flowing to the unit. In some cases, a simple loose connection may be the cause of the problem, and the remedy is as easy as tightening the wire connections.
1-Check the breaker panel and flip the circuit back on if it has tripped.21-If the breaker has not tripped, use a voltage tester to determine if power is flowing to the garbage disposal.
2-If power is not flowing to the disposal, turn the circuit breaker off and remove the faceplate from the disposal switch.
3-Inspect the wiring, tightening or securing any loose connections.
4-Turn the power back on and test the disposal.
Push the Reset Button
Another issue that could be causing the garbage disposal to malfunction is the built-in circuit breaker. Garbage disposals rely on a built-in circuit breaker to prevent damage to the unit in the case of an electrical short or surge.
If the internal circuit breaker trips, simply pushing the reset button on the bottom of the unit can restore power to the disposal.
1-Locate the reset button on the bottom of the disposal.
2-Press the reset button to reset the internal circuit breaker.
4-Test the disposal to ensure this fixed the issue.
Fix Flywheel and Impeller Jams
1-Turn off power to the garbage disposal using the switch and the circuit breaker.
2-Insert an offset wrench or hex wrench into the flywheel hole in the bottom of the unit and use the wrench to turn the flywheel clockwise in order to dislodge any obstructions.
3-If you do not have a suitable wrench or the obstruction is sitting higher in the disposal, then you can use a set of pliers or even tongs to grab the obstruction and pull it out of the disposal.
4-After removing the obstruction, restore power to the disposal, then push the reset button on the unit to reset the internal circuit breaker.
5-Run some tap water into the disposal and quickly flip the switch on and off for a short burst. Turn on and off again quickly. This should spin the flywheel and cause any dislodged debris to be washed down the drain.