Your garbage disposal is designed to make cleaning up easier, not create a bigger mess. If you hear the patter of drips underneath the sink, notice water pooling up below your disposal or smell something like tuna wearing 10-day old gym socks, you probably have a leaky disposal.
There are several ways to test and inspect your disposal to determine where the offending leak has sprouted. Depending on where and how bad it is, you might be able to repair the leak with basic tools and supplies on hand. Let’s take the pain out of your kitchen drain and diagnose your drippy disposal before the situation gets any worse.
Where is My Garbage Disposal Leaking?
Before performing any tests or repairs on your garbage disposal, it’s a good idea to unplug the unit and turn off the power at the circuit breaker. You don’t want to make an ugly situation uglier.
Your leak is likely coming from one of these four areas of your garbage disposal:
- The top flange where it connects to the sink drain.
- The dishwasher drain hose.
- The sewer pipe connection.
- The bottom of the disposal unit.
To determine which one of these has the leak, pat your disposal down with a towel until it’s completely dry. Plug your kitchen sink with a rubber stopper and fill it with an inch or two of water. You can add a few drops of coloring to the water to make it easier to identify leaks on paper towels. Check the underside of your drain where it connects to your disposal unit. If you see drips or moisture, you most likely have a leaky sink flange. If the top is dry, unplug the sink and let the water drain into the disposal.
Check the two side connections for signs of leaks. The dishwasher hose is usually connected with a metal clamp. Pat the area with a dry paper towel. Do the same for the area where the disposal connects to the larger sewer drain pipe. If you detect any moisture, this is the source of your leak.
Finally, pat the underside of your garbage disposal, especially near the reset button, to confirm any leaks from the bottom. Make sure the water is actually coming from the bottom and not dripping down the sides of the unit.
How to Fix A Garbage Disposal That is Leaking
The good news is that three of these four leak areas can be repaired without too much hassle.
To fix the flange: Loosen the mounting bolts on the underside of the sink that connect the garbage disposal to the flange. The flange will be sealed with plumber’s putty that can deteriorate over time. If this is the case, fully disconnect the disposal via the bolts and lift the flange out from the top of the sink. Scrape away the old putty and apply a fresh seal with a new roll of putty carefully pressed around the flange’s circumference. Reinstall the disposal unit making sure that all the bolts are tight to form a watertight seal.
To fix the dishwasher hose: In many cases, the metal clamp that connects the hose may be loose. Simply tighten the screws. If the hose is cracked or faulty, you may need to replace it with one from your local hardware store.
To fix the drain pipe: Loosen the screws that attach the disposal to the drain pipe. Inside is an internal seal that may have worn over time. Replace this rubber gasket if need be and then make sure all screws are tightened again.
What If I See Garbage Disposal Leaking from Bottom?
Unfortunately, this is the leak that can’t be repaired. If your disposal is leaking from the bottom, it signifies that there is a cracked seal within the unit. A professional may be able to repair it but that’s usually not cost effective and a cracked seal is often a sign that your disposal is at the end of its life.
Installing a new unit is the best option in this case. A new garbage disposal should last you 8-15 years depending on the unit and the care you give it.
How to Extend the Life of Your Garbage Disposal
To make sure your garbage disposal lasts for a long time and doesn’t spring any unpleasant leaks, follow these simple precautions:
- Never put hard items like bones down the disposal.
- Always use cold running water before, during, and after running your disposal.
- Clean your disposal regularly.
- Check for leaks periodically.
By carefully monitoring the food waste you dispose of and avoiding foreign objects, your disposal should continue to run efficiently and effectively.
Your Local Dallas Area Garbage Disposal Experts
If your garbage disposal is leaking or worse yet, stopped working, give us a call or contact Ben Franklin Plumbing online. We can quickly diagnose your disposal and either repair it or install a new model that will keep the stink from under your sink.