Leaky Garbage Disposal? Here’s What to Know

Garbage disposals are one of those work horse plumbing fixtures in the home. We put them through absolute hell and back – after all, it’s a motor with a shredder attached to it it’s meant to handle it! But what happens when you see a puddle of water flowing from under your sink, bust open the cabinets and discover water dripping from the bottom of your garbage disposal?

Let’s talk about it!

Leaky Garbage Disposal

Leaking garbage disposals can often go unnoticed and unattended until you have that sopping wet cabinet or a foul smell from under the sink gets you to take a look. Regardless, you’ve spotted it, so now what? There’s a couple possibilities, depending on where the leak is so first things first, you need to discover where the leak is actually coming from!

How to Find the Leak

First unplug the disposal from the wall outlet. Now is not the time to get yourself electrocuted! Turn off the power from the break box as well to further make things safe. Then, put the stopper in your sink drain and dry off the disposal unit.  Then fill a cup or bowl with some water and put some handy food coloring into it. Then, pour the freshly colored water into the stopped drain.

Grab a flashlight and take a look under the sink! There are three likely spots for a leaky garbage disposal: the top, the side, or the bottom. Ok that’s sounds a bit simple but it’s the truth those are going to be the three likely weak points.

The Top

This is where the disposal meets the sink drain.

The Side

This is where the main drain pipe or dishwasher hose connect to the disposal.

The Bottom

The bottom of the unit. There should be know pipes or connections here, which makes potential leaks  that much worse.

Use a flashlight and look for any colored water. Leaks in the top of the disposal, where it connects to the drain are possible while the drain is still stopped. If you’re not seeing any from the top of the disposal then continue your way down and open up the stopper. Look again. Leaks coming from the side or bottom of the disposal might need more water to be going down the drain.

How to Fix the Leaky Disposal

Top Leaks

If the leak is at the top of the garbage disposal, its simple! Reseal the connection, tighten the flange and you’re in business. The Flange is the metal portion that sits inside the sink drain. It is usually sealed with a type of plumber putty and secured with bolts. If either of those connections loosen or the putty deteriorates (which is totally possible over time) the seal won’t be watertight anymore and allows for leaks.

To reseal this connection you need to first loosen up the bolts securing the disposal to the sink and drain pipes. Then loosen the screws in the mounting ring that connects the disposal to the mounting assembly beneath the sink. With it loosened up you should be able to remove the disposal entirely, set it down on a dry surface. 

Then lift the flange from the top of the sink. Take a putty knife and scrape off the old putty that has broken down and clear it away. With a fresh working surface you can reapply a new layer of putty that should do the trick. Take a handful of the putty, roll it into a rope and place it along the edge of the flange. Place the flange back into the drain until it’s tight. Go back and reinstall all the mounting hardware and pipes and after some time the putty should dry and seal everything right up – leak be-gone!

Side Leaks

If the leak is coming from the side of the disposal, you want to tighten the connections between the disposal and the drain lines, and potentially replace worn out gaskets.

There’s typically two drain lines that come of the side of garbage disposal. One that goes to a nearby dishwasher (the dishwasher hose) and th main drain pipe that connects the disposal to the sewer. Which of these two places is the leak coming from?

If it’s coming from the connection where the dishwasher hose meets the disposal, it may mean the clamp connecting them has loosened. Use a screwdriver to tighten and you should be in business.

If the leak is coming from the main drain pipe, loosen the screws that secure the drain and take a look at the rubber gasket inside the pipe. If it needs replacement, replace it and retighten your screws.

Bottom Leaks

Bad news, if the leak is coming from the bottom of the disposal (such as from the reset button), you are going to need to replace the whole disposal. These leaks indicate that one of the seals inside the disposal that protects the motor from water has deteriorated enough that water is now getting through and damaging the inner components. There’s no easy fix here, you just need a new unit!

Do you need a new garbage disposal? Need a professional to come out and diagnose the leaks! Economy Plumbing Service is here to help! Give us a call today and we’ll be out in no time to get you and your disposal back in action!

If Water Goes Through It Or To It, We Do It!

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