7 Signs a Garbage Disposal is Failing – When to Replace


If you notice the following, your garbage disposal is failing and will need to be replaced:

  • Persistent Clogs: If your garbage disposal frequently becomes clogged despite attempts to clear it, it may indicate internal issues with the blades or motor.
  • Unusual Noises: Grinding noises that are louder or different from the usual operation may signal damaged or worn-out components within the disposal.
  • Frequent Resets: If you find yourself needing to reset the disposal often by pressing the reset button on the unit or the circuit breaker, it suggests electrical problems or motor issues.
  • Leakage: Any signs of water or liquid leakage around the disposal unit or the sink flange may indicate seal or gasket problems that compromise its integrity.
  • Slow Grinding: A disposal that struggles to grind food waste efficiently or takes longer than usual may be experiencing motor or blade wear.
  • Foul Odors: Lingering unpleasant odors despite cleaning efforts may indicate food buildup within the disposal or a failing sealing mechanism.
  • Age: Garbage disposals have a lifespan of about 10-15 years. If your unit is nearing or past this age range and experiencing issues, it may be more cost-effective to replace it rather than repair it.
  • Frequent Repairs: If you find yourself frequently calling for repairs, the cumulative costs may justify investing in a new disposal that is more reliable and efficient.
  • Inefficient Grinding: When the disposal fails to effectively break down food waste, you may notice larger food particles escaping into the drain, potentially leading to blockages.
  • Excessive Vibration: Unusually strong vibrations or shaking during operation may indicate imbalanced or damaged components.

Garbage disposals cost between $50 and $200 depending on quality and size. The total cost including installation by a licensed plumber can however be as high as $500 depending on where you live.

Signs of a Failing Garbage Disposal

After the above introduction let us now look at the signs of a failing garbage disposal in more details. The following are the signs that your garbage disposal is failing and you need a replacement.

1. Unusual Noises

Garbage disposals are noisy appliances. The noise is however a distinct one, that of a running motor and blades grinding waste.

If you hear an unusual humming or grinding noises coming from from your garbage disposal, turn it off immediately and unplug it from the switch. Grab a flashlight and check if there is a foreign object inside the disposal like a spoon, knife or folk.

If you find one, grab it with a pair of tongs and pull it out. Plug in the disposal and turn it on. If you can’t hear the grinding sounds again, your problem is solved.

On the other hand, if there is nothing inside the unit but still the noises persists, you most likely need a replacement. You see, a garbage disposal has lots of moving parts. If 2 moving parts are in contact, it will result in unusual loud noises.

Note: If you can replace the garbage disposal on your own, buying a new one is a better alternative than calling in a plumber to troubleshoot an old one. Plumbers are not cheap and you may end up paying him and buying another unit altogether.

2. It is Leaking

A garbage disposal will leak from 4 different places:

  • The top
  • Dishwasher connection
  • Drain line connection
  • The bottom

When it is leaking from the dishwasher connection, you will only need to disconnect it and check if there is a clog. Connect it again and tighten the connection to stop the leak.

If the garbage disposal is leaking where it is connected to the drain line, you most likely have a worn out washer. Disconnect the drain line and replace the washer or put it back the other way round.

It will be a lot of work if the garbage disposal is leaking from the top. That means that the sink flange is not sealing tightly around the top of the garbage disposal.

In that case, you will need to remove the garbage disposal, apply plumber’s putty underneath the flange then install it once again. This is actually easier than it sounds.

If you see water leaking from the bottom of the of your garbage disposal, you will surely need to replace it. A garbage disposal leaking from the bottom is caused by worn out internal seals or cracks at the bottom of the disposal.

Although the internal seals can be replaced, I often find that a replacement is the best and long-term solution.

If you can’t see clearly the source of the leak, plug off the sink opening and fill it with water. Put some food color or dye in the water and then let it drain.

Check underneath the sink where you will see colored water leaking from. If it is from the bottom prepare to have it replaced.

3. Frequent Resets


Your garbage disposal has a reset button at the bottom or lower back side, also known as an overload protector button. It is designed to cut off power to the garbage disposal when it is clogged, overloaded, the motor overheats or other unsafe conditions.

If your garbage disposal keeps tripping requiring you to reset it even when it is not clogged, overloaded or run for a long time, its best days are well behind it.

4. Won’t Turn On

When your garbage disposal won’t turn on, it means that there is no power being delivered to the motor. This could be caused by either the garbage disposal itself or the electrical connections in your house.

Start by checking if the reset button has tripped. If so, push it in and check if that fixes the problem.

Next, check if there is power being delivered to the socket. Use a multimeter or connect another appliance to the outlet and check if there is power on the switch.

If there is power on the switch, the problem is with your garbage disposal. You can have an electrician check it or just go ahead and replace it.

5. Poor Performance

If you have had your garbage disposal for some time, you very well know how long it takes to grind food waste. When your garbage disposal is taking too long to grind the waste and you are sure the drain line is not clogged, the blades are just too dull.

If you are very handy, you can disconnect the unit and replace the blades yourself but if you have to use a plumber then a replacement would be ideal.

Tip: To keep your garbage disposal blades sharp fill it with ice cubes and add a ¼ cup of salt the run it till all the ice has dissolved.  Do it often.

6. Constant Clogs

As a good practice, you should run your garbage disposal while running cold water at the same time as well as use small loads to prevent clogs. Combine that with grinding waste that is only recommended for garbage disposals

If you notice that your garbage disposal is constantly clogging despite these practices, it has surely seen better days. This is often caused by dull blades which are not grinding the waste well enough causing frequent clogs.

7. Bad Smells

Since most of the waste that goes down the garbage disposal is organic, it is bound to decompose and produce awful odors. Pouring baking soda and vinegar in the garbage disposal then running it as you drop off slices of lime will get rid of garbage disposal smells.

If the smells will however just not go away or keeps on recurring, you may want to call in a plumber to fix the problem or you may just opt for a replacement.

The ice cubes and salt combination is also very effective in scraping the inside of a garbage disposal and removing food particles which are usually the cause of the bad smells. More on that in this post.


If your garbage disposal is more than 10 old, you should start planning for a replacement. New garbage disposals will grind efficiently and fast. This is especially the case if you want a continuous feed garbage disposal.

If you are looking for a decent garbage disposal that will last long, the InSinkErator Evolution Excel, 1.0 HP Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal is the best one to buy.


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