Home Garbage Disposals

The garbage disposal is a staple appliance in over 50% of American homes. In this post, we will discuss the components, problems, and features of residential garbage disposal units.

John W. Hammes invented the garbage disposal in 1927, later marketing them under the company InSinkErator. Garbage disposals shred food waste into tiny pieces and allow it to move through plumbing and into the sewer system. At Apex Plumbing in Danville, we can diagnose and fix garbage disposal problems, or install a new unit if it’s time to replace your current one. Call us to set up a consultation!

Components Of The Garbage Disposal Unit

The unit can be broken down into three sections: the upper hopper chamber, shredder area, and lower hopper chamber. The upper chamber holds food waste before it is shredded. It connects to the sink drain and to the dishwasher. The shredder area contains the shredder ring as well as impellers that are attached to the flywheel.

When you turn on the disposal, the motor spins the flywheel and the impellers throw food waste against the shredder ring. The pulverized food moves into the lower chamber, and water from the sink washes it out through the waste line. Below the lower chamber is the motor and a reset button (located underneath the unit).

Garbage Disposal Problems


It can be tempting (and certainly convenient) to wash all food waste into the garbage disposal. Unfortunately, these helpful appliances do have limits. Stringy, hard, oily, and fibrous food waste can all contribute to garbage disposal clogs (think uncut celery, bones, fruit pits, grease, or thick peels and rinds). Even if these types of waste make it through the disposal unit, they may lead to clogs further down the pipes that will then require more intensive clearing methods.

Avoid pouring drain cleaning products into disposals, as this can damage them and introduce toxic chemicals unnecessarily. If you find yourself dealing with a stubborn clog that isn’t resolving, call a professional plumber like Apex Plumbing in Danville to safely and quickly solve the problem!


When a large, dense piece of food waste wedges itself into the shredder area of your garbage disposal, it can cause a jam. The motor will run, but the flywheel will not spin consistently, if it spins at all. If the flywheel is completely stuck, the motor will kick off automatically to avoid burnout. A clog and jam can occur simultaneously, especially if the jam went unnoticed and food waste piled up inside the upper chamber.

Fixing a simple jam can be easy. Your garbage disposal should have come with a small wrench that fits into a slot underneath the unit. Insert and turn the wrench to unjam the system. If you do not have the wrench that originally came with your system, you can try a ¼ inch Allen wrench.


When a leaky garbage disposal causes a watery mess under your sink, it is no longer doing its job. Most likely, a seal or other part has degraded or failed. These are usually not worth replacing; installing a new unit may be your best option.

Newer garbage disposals are often faster, quieter, and more efficient than whatever model is currently under your sink. It can be disappointing to get rid of an appliance, but a fully functioning unit will last longer and work better in the long run (make sure you check the warranty information). A helpful professional plumber at Apex Plumbing in Danville can help you choose and install a great new disposal. Schedule an online appointment today!

Strange or Foul Odors

Garbage disposals should be rinsed out daily to prevent food waste from decomposing within the chambers. A stinky unit can indicate a variety of issues. It may be a clog or stuck food that simply needs a thorough rinsing. You can also try baking soda and vinegar, or citrus rinds (remove the pulp and seeds first!).

If the smell has been around for a while and is getting worse or not going away, the blades and shredding components may be worn down. Food can get stuck on dulled blades and decompose, leading to one of the worst aromas you could ever imagine floating through your kitchen. If dulled blades are the culprit, fully replacing the garbage disposal unit is most likely the best choice. Consider upgrading to a more robust system if you use your disposal frequently or need it to handle tougher food waste. Call Apex Plumbing Solutions, and we’ll help you pick the best garbage disposal for your needs!

Electrical Issues

A garbage disposal uses electricity to function. If it’s not turning on, there are a few things you can check. Sometimes, the solution is making sure the unit is plugged in and the outlet is not loose. Other family members may have unplugged the unit to clean under the sink more easily. If the unit is plugged in but there is no power, try pressing the reset button on the bottom of the unit before attempting to turn on the garbage disposal. Lastly, check to see if the breaker has been tripped.

If you still cannot get the unit to turn on, you can schedule an online appointment with a professional technician from Apex Plumbing in Danville. Electrical problems can be complicated and even dangerous, so it is best to avoid DIY repairs.

Choosing A New Garbage Disposal

If your trusty garbage disposal isn’t so trusty anymore, purchasing a new model will bring ease and efficiency back to your kitchen. Below we will quickly outline the different options you can choose from.

Batch Feed or Continuous Feed

A batch feed unit can only handle a certain amount of food waste at a time. It also only operates when the lid is correctly in place, making it a safe option for keeping scraps inside and hands outside of the disposal. A continuous feed unit will process food waste as long as it is on and water is flowing through it. It can be more convenient than a batch feed unit if you’re not worried about young children reaching into the drain.

Power Level

Less powerful garbage disposal units generally have speeds of ⅓ and ½ horsepower. These are fine for processing smaller amounts of food waste, and are recommended for soft scraps. For more frequent use and stronger pulverization, go with a model boasting speeds of ¾ to 1 horsepower.

Other Considerations

Make sure the disposal you choose will fit under your sink, and take into account anything else you’d like to store there. If you’re interested in a heavy unit, confirm that your pipes will support it. Keep in mind that garbage disposals vibrate while in use; this could be bothersome if your sink is made of thin material. Finally, go with stainless steel blades to avoid rust.

Call A Professional To Install Your New Garbage Disposal

Nothing dampens the mood of buying a new appliance quite like installation issues. If you’ve ever been halfway under your sink surrounded by parts you can’t keep straight, you know it’s not a fun way to spend the afternoon. For a mess-free garbage disposal installation, call Apex Plumbing! We’ll make sure everything is properly hooked up so the only surprise you get is how much better your new system works.