Garbage disposals are one of the most useful labor-saving appliances in today’s kitchens. They help us dispose of food waste, improve plumbing conditions, and even protect the environment.
Similar to any home appliance, garbage disposals don’t last forever and will burn out at some point. Still, you can delay that day with proper care and regular maintenance. Some units may even last up to 15 years.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the lifespan of garbage disposals, as well as the best garbage disposals, when to replace them, and how to maintain them, so sit tight!
How Long Garbage Disposals Last
On average, garbage disposals can last up to 10 years if properly maintained and cleaned. Some higher-quality units can last even longer, depending on how well you take care of them.
That’s why it could take years before your garbage disposal needs replacing, especially if you take care of it. You may need to do some minor repairs here and there, but the unit itself shouldn’t require any structural repair.
What’s more, many reputable brands offer warranties that can cover the majority of the garbage disposal’s lifespan.
Companies such as InSinkErator, for example, have an eight-year warranty period. Waste King offers from two to 20-year limited warranty for its disposal units.
Best Garbage Disposals
Buying a garbage disposal from a reliable brand is one way to ensure that the unit you’ll install will function efficiently for over a decade.
That said, the best garbage disposals are the ones that can meet your needs without a hitch. That’s why there are certain features that you should consider.
Continuous or Batch Feed
Garbage disposals fall into two categories: continuous feed or batch feed. These mechanisms influence the way you operate your garbage disposal.
Continuous feed garbage disposals are the most common and most convenient of the two types. You can gradually feed these garbage disposals food waste as they’re running.
On the other hand, batch feed garbage disposals are less common in the garbage disposal market, so they tend to be more expensive.
You feed these units food waste one batch at a time, from two to four cups depending on their size.
Even though batch feed disposals are costly and take more effort to operate, most people are drawn to them for their safety features.
This type of disposal has a stopper that you place over the drain to turn the unit on. It never operates unless it’s covered, which significantly reduces the chances of injury.
Garbage disposal motor power is measured in horsepower (HP), and motors are often: 1/3 HP, 1/2 HP, 3/4 HP, or 1.0 HP.
Choosing motor power usually depends on the size of the family and the amount of food waste produced daily.
A 1/2 HP garbage disposal, for example, is ideal for midsize families. 3/4 and 1.0 HP garbage disposals, on the other hand, can grind through most types of food. They’re most suitable for large families and can chew through virtually all food waste.
Most top-quality garbage disposals are made from stainless steel, such as the InSinkErator 750. While stainless steel can be pricey, it’s easy to clean, incredibly durable, and difficult to rust.
Plastic garbage disposals come second because they don’t corrode or break easily. Still, plastic isn’t as durable as stainless steel, so it doesn’t last as long.
Some garbage disposals can be made from a mix of stainless steel and plastic, such as the Waste King Legend, to keep the price down while delivering satisfactory performance.
If it’s possible, stay away from pot metal and galvanized steel garbage disposals. These materials will most likely erode and chip as soon as you start using them.
One thing to keep in mind before buying a garbage disposal is to ensure that the house’s plumbing system can handle food waste from garbage disposals.
You can find out whether you can install one by contacting your local building authority.
When to Replace a Garbage Disposal
If you notice any of the following signs, you should consider replacing your garbage disposal.
It’s quite common for some leaking to occur after a while. You can usually repair the leak by tightening some screws or applying a fresh coat of plumber’s putty. Some leaks, however, are either too costly to repair or completely irreparable.
If the leak is coming from the garbage disposal itself, this usually indicates that the body has rusted or cracked. You can have a professional look into it, but the consensus is to replace the garbage disposal.
If your garbage disposal frequently clogs even though you:
- Run water during use
- Only dispose of food materials that are garbage disposal-friendly
- Feed the unit gradually
Your current disposal unit may be too small for your needs, so you may need to replace it with one that has a larger capacity.
Lastly, frequent electrical problems can mean that the garbage disposal’s motor is failing. You may find that you need to reset the unit often or it doesn’t turn on at all. We have discussed some ways to fix this here.
If you’ve tried to find the cause and fix it without any success, either the unit is having some electrical problems or the motor is burned out.
Fixing a garbage disposal motor can cost anywhere between $70 and $200. Rather than wasting time, effort, and money repairing the motor, you can spend the same amount of money on a brand-new garbage disposal.
How to Maintain a Garbage Disposal
While any garbage disposal will eventually reach its expiry date, there are a few tips and tricks to delay the unit’s inevitable demise.
Only Dispose of Approved Food Materials
The golden rule, and the best thing you can do to extend the life of a garbage disposal, is to only dispose of what the unit is designed to break down.
That means that there certain foods that should never go into the unit, including:
- Starchy and fibrous foods, such as potato peels, onion skin, celery, pasta, bread, and rice
- Oil, grease, and fat
- Nuts, bones, and pits
- Coffee grounds
You also should never try to dispose of non-food materials, such as plastic, paper, glass, or cigarette butts.
These foods and materials can clog or, even worse, break the garbage disposal.
Run Water During Use
Another cardinal rule to extend the life of your garbage disposal is to run water during use. This step reduces friction and helps food particles go down the drain easier.
When you run the disposal dry, friction between the disposed food and the impellers increases, which can rapidly wear down the impellers and flywheel.
Clean and Freshen Routinely
Although cleaning and freshening a garbage disposal only takes a few minutes, it can significantly prolong the unit’s life.
Every two weeks or so, you can grind citrus peels or shaved soap to freshen the unit’s smell.
You can also pour one part vinegar and one part baking soda into the disposal while it’s turned off. Wait for the solution to stop foaming and rinse it with lukewarm water. You should do this process once a month to remove any grime or sticky residue.
Whether you have a new garbage disposal or have had one for a while, you may be wondering, “How long do garbage disposals last?”
Most garbage disposals have a long lifespan, ranging from 10 to 15 years. You can prolong this period by following a regular maintenance schedule and only disposing of appropriate food materials.
That said, some garbage disposals may wear out or break down quicker than others. As a result, you should always be on the lookout for signs that your unit may need to be replaced.