A stainless steel kitchen sink in a kitchen.

Understanding the Mechanics of How Garbage Disposal Works

Staring at a pile of food scraps in the kitchen and not knowing what to do? Fact is, a garbage disposal system can be your best ally. This post will decode the mechanics of this handy device, making it easier for you to manage kitchen waste.

Ready to turn your waste woes into wonder? Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • A garbage disposal works by grinding solid food waste into small pieces using rotating blades and a motor, which are then flushed away through the drainage system.
  • It is important to avoid putting items like bones, grease, oil, coffee grounds, eggshells, fruit pits, pasta, and rice in a garbage disposal as they can cause damage or clogs.
  • Common issues with garbage disposals include not starting, clogs, leaks, and jammed blades. Troubleshooting steps for these problems are provided in the article.
  • When selecting and installing a garbage disposal unit, factors to consider include size, power level, noise level durability ease of installation and warranty coverage.

How a Garbage Disposal Works

A garbage disposal works by collecting solid food waste in a grinding chamber, where it is shredded into small pieces by rotating blades. These smaller particles are then flushed away through the drainage system with the help of an impeller arm and plate, powered by a motor.

Overview of the garbage disposal system

A garbage disposal is under your kitchen sink. It takes solid food waste and makes it small. The parts of a garbage disposal are a motor, shredder ring, impellers, and flywheel. You turn on the garbage disposal to make the motor spin.

As the motor spins, so do the shredder ring and impellers. These chop up your food waste into tiny bits. Then water pushes these bits down to the sewer system from your sink’s drain pipe.

Brands like Waste King, Insinkerator, and KitchenAid make these machines for homes around America.

Components: grinding chamber, shredding blades, impeller arm and plate, motor

The garbage disposal consists of several important components:

  • A grinding chamber, where the food waste is placed.
  • Shredding blades, which chop up the food waste into smaller pieces.
  • An impeller arm and plate, which help to push the food waste towards the shredding blades.
  • A motor, which powers the entire system and spins the shredding blades.

Mechanism of solid food waste collection and breakdown

A garbage disposal works by collecting and breaking down solid food waste. When you turn on the disposal, a motor spins a shredder ring and impellers. These parts grind and chop up the food waste into small pieces.

The small pieces are then flushed down the drain and into the sewer system. This mechanism helps prevent chunks of food from clogging your pipes or causing bad smells in your kitchen.

Proper maintenance is important to keep your garbage disposal running smoothly so that it can effectively collect and break down food waste.

Things You Should Never Put in a Garbage Disposal

Never put grease, oil, or fat down the garbage disposal as they can solidify and cause clogs in the system.

List of items that should not be disposed of in a garbage disposal

Here are some items that you should never put in a garbage disposal:

  • Bones: Garbage disposals are not designed to handle bones, which can damage the blades and motor.
  • Grease and oil: These substances can solidify and clog the pipes, causing blockages.
  • Coffee grounds: They can accumulate in the pipes and lead to clogs.
  • Eggshells: Although they are small, eggshells can create a sand-like substance that can clog the pipes.
  • Fruit pits: Similar to bones, fruit pits are too hard for garbage disposals to handle.
  • Pasta and rice: These items expand when they come into contact with water, potentially causing clogs.

Reasons why these items can damage the disposal system

Putting certain items in a garbage disposal can cause damage to the system. Hard objects like bones or fruit pits can break the shredder ring and blades. Fibrous foods, such as celery or corn husks, can get tangled in the impellers and clog the machine.

Grease and oil should not be disposed of because they can solidify and block the drainage pipes. Non-food items like glass, metal, plastic, or paper should never go into a garbage disposal as they can jam or damage the motor.

Chemical cleaners are also harmful because they can corrode the components of the disposal system over time. It’s important to only put soft food scraps into the garbage disposal to avoid these problems.

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting

To troubleshoot common issues with your garbage disposal, such as it not starting or experiencing clogs or leaks, follow these steps.

Common issues with garbage disposals

Garbage disposals can sometimes experience problems that can disrupt their functionality. Here are some common issues you may encounter with your garbage disposal:

  1. Disposal not starting: If your garbage disposal doesn’t turn on, check if it’s plugged in and if the electrical circuit breaker hasn’t tripped.
  2. Clogs: A clogged garbage disposal can result in water backing up into the sink. Avoid putting fibrous or starchy foods, such as potato peels or onion skins, down the disposal to prevent clogs.
  3. Leaks: Leaks can occur at different points in the garbage disposal system, including the sink flange, dishwasher connection, or drainpipe. Tightening connections or replacing worn-out parts may solve the issue.
  4. Jammed blades: Large chunks of food waste can jam the shredding blades. Use a special wrench provided with your garbage disposal to manually rotate the blades and dislodge any obstructions.
  5. Foul smell: Over time, food particles can accumulate inside the disposal and create unpleasant odors. Cleaning the unit regularly using vinegar or lemon peels can help eliminate these smells.

Steps to troubleshoot and fix problems like disposal not starting, clogs, leaks, etc.

Having trouble with your garbage disposal? Don’t worry, you can try these simple steps to fix common problems:

  1. Check the power: Make sure that the garbage disposal is plugged in and that the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped.
  2. Reset the disposal: Look for a small red button on the bottom or side of the disposal unit. Press it to reset the system.
  3. Clear clogs: If your disposal is not starting or making strange noises, there might be a clog. Turn off the power and use a wrench to manually turn the blades and dislodge any obstructions.
  4. Unclog with a plunger: If there’s still a clog, fill the sink with enough water to cover the rubber part of a plunger. Place it over the drain and give it several firm plunges to create suction and dislodge any debris.
  5. Fix leaks: If you notice water leaking from your disposal, check for loose connections or worn-out gaskets. Tighten any loose parts or replace damaged gaskets as needed.
  6. Clean and deodorize: To prevent odors and grease buildup, grind ice cubes and citrus peels in your disposal. You can also pour vinegar down the drain followed by hot water to clean away residue.

Selecting and Installing a Garbage Disposal

When choosing a garbage disposal unit, consider factors such as horsepower, noise level, and warranty coverage. Then follow these steps for proper installation: 1) Turn off the power to the disposal at the circuit breaker; 2) Remove any existing disposer or parts from under the sink; 3) Install the mounting assembly and attach it securely to the sink drain; 4) Connect the discharge pipe to the disposal unit using plumber’s putty or a rubber gasket; 5) Securely tighten all connections and turn on the water supply before testing for leaks.

Factors to consider when choosing a garbage disposal unit

  • Size: Consider the size of your kitchen and the space available under your sink for installation.
  • Power: Choose a garbage disposal unit with sufficient power to handle the amount of food waste you produce.
  • Noise level: Look for a garbage disposal that operates quietly, especially if your kitchen is close to other living areas.
  • Durability: Select a garbage disposal unit made of durable materials that can withstand regular use.
  • Easy installation: Find a garbage disposal unit that is easy to install, especially if you plan on doing it yourself.
  • Warranty: Check for a warranty on the garbage disposal unit to ensure protection against any defects or malfunctions.

Steps for proper installation of a garbage disposal

Installing a garbage disposal is a straightforward process that can be done by homeowners with some DIY skills. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Gather the necessary tools and materials: You’ll need a screwdriver, pliers, plumber’s putty, electrical tape, and the garbage disposal unit itself.
  2. Turn off the power: Before starting any work, ensure that the power to the kitchen sink area is turned off to prevent any accidents.
  3. Disconnect the old unit (if applicable): If you’re replacing an existing garbage disposal, disconnect it from the mounting bracket and remove it.
  4. Prepare the new unit: Attach the mounting bracket to the bottom of the new garbage disposal unit using screws or bolts provided. Make sure it is securely attached.
  5. Apply plumber’s putty: Roll a small amount of plumber’s putty into a thin rope and place it around the sink flange opening. This will create a watertight seal.
  6. Install the new unit: Carefully lower the new garbage disposal unit into place, aligning it with the mounting bracket. Use pliers to tighten any necessary screws or bolts.
  7. Connect electrical wires: Follow manufacturer instructions to properly connect the electrical wires from your home to the garbage disposal unit. Use electrical tape to secure any exposed wiring.
  8. Test for leaks: Once everything is properly connected, turn on the water and check for any leaks around the sink flange and drain connections.
  9. Test run: Finally, turn on power to your kitchen sink area and test run your new garbage disposal by running water through it and ensuring that it grinds up food waste effectively.


In conclusion, understanding how a garbage disposal works is key to maintaining a clean and efficient kitchen. By knowing the mechanics behind it, we can avoid putting items that should not go in there and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

With proper care and maintenance, your garbage disposal will continue to work effectively for years to come.


1. What is garbage disposal and how does it work?

Garbage disposal in a kitchen helps manage waste. It breaks solid waste into small pieces and lets water flow wash it down drains.

2. How does a garbage disposal help with kitchen hygiene?

With the help of bacteria, a garbage disposal crushes or compresses waste for easy passage through drains. This process reduces bad smells and keeps kitchens clean.

3. Is there any link between garbage disposal and recycling?

Yes, some forms of waste processing can turn solid trash into useful items again – that’s recycling!

4. How does proper waste treatment impact the environment?

The right way to treat waste lowers harmful effects on nature like air pollution from landfills, and helps save room in those landfills too!

5. Why is understanding how garbage disposals work important?

Understanding how your home’s sanitation tools function results in better use leading to less harm on earth! We should know about effective solid-waste control methods for healthy homes!

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