How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last?

Jul19 By Emergency Plumber Garbage Disposal
Stainless steal kitchen sink

Every time you rinse your plate after dinner, your trusty garbage disposal is there, waiting to pulverize leftover food scraps. These small but mighty fixtures are surprisingly resilient, typically lasting eight to 15 years. But despite their durability, they’re not immune to wear and tear and will break down eventually. Learn about the proper care and maintenance required to extend the life of your garbage disposal, along with the signs that a replacement is on the horizon.

How to Prolong Your Garbage Disposal’s Lifespan

Being mindful about what goes down the drain, cleaning the unit regularly, and performing other small maintenance tasks can help your garbage disposal last longer. Here’s how to push your disposal’s lifespan well past a decade.

Grind Only Approved Items

Though robust, your garbage disposal can’t handle every type of refuse. For instance:

  • Grease and oil harden as they cool, forming a gelatinous glob that can cause severe clogs. Whether your kitchen sink has a garbage disposal or not, grease should never go down the drain.
  • Hard substances like bones or fruit pits can damage the impellers, diminishing their performance over time.
  • Starchy materials like cooked rice or pasta can swell with water and cause blockages.
  • Fibrous vegetables such as celery stalks and corn husks can wind around the internal components, affecting their functionality.

Avoid Overuse

Garbage disposals have their limits. Constant food-grinding action strains the components, accelerating their wear and tear. An effective way to extend your disposal’s life is to moderate its usage. Rather than shoving every scrap of food waste down the drain, consider composting or using a trash bin when possible.

Keep the Unit Active

Although overuse can strain the disposal, leaving it dormant for long periods can also cause problems. The internal components of the unit are typically metallic, and water exposure can lead to rusting, particularly if the disposal is idle for weeks or months on end. Running the unit every few days helps to clear residual debris from the chamber, keeping rust at bay.

Clean the Unit Regularly

Apart from preventing unpleasant odors, cleaning your garbage disposal ensures smoother operation. Here are two simple cleaning methods to try:

  • Pour a handful of ice cubes, a dash of coarse salt, and a few lemon peels down the drain. Turn on the unit while running the faucet full blast until all debris is eliminated.
  • Pour one-half cup of vinegar and one-half cup of baking soda down the drain. Once the foaming action subsides, rinse with near-boiling water.

Buy a High-Quality Unit and Install it Properly

You get what you pay for when buying a garbage disposal. To enjoy the longest lifespan, opt for a high-quality, heavy-duty unit instead of a cheaper alternative. Proper installation is just as important. After all, an incorrect setup can put undue strain on the disposal, while improperly sealed pipes can leak, causing rust. Trust a licensed plumber for the installation to ensure optimal performance and an extended lifespan.

Signs Your Garbage Disposal is Nearing Retirement

Like all good things, your garbage disposal’s usefulness will eventually come to an end. But how can you tell if it’s time to replace the unit? Here are some signs that your garbage disposal may be on its last leg.

Unusual Noises

All garbage disposals generate noise, but certain sounds could indicate trouble. If you hear peculiar grinding or rattling sounds, you might be dealing with a significant problem. Of course, a measuring spoon or bottle cap may simply have found its way down the drain, causing the strange sounds.

To check for obstructions, unplug the unit and shine a flashlight down the drain. Remember never to reach your hand inside the unit! If you find an object, carefully remove it with tongs or a similar tool, and test the disposal. Hopefully, it’s running quietly again. However, if the sounds persist after verifying that no obstructions are present, you should call a professional to take a look.

Reduced Performance

One sign of a deteriorating garbage disposal is a drop in grinding capabilities. This could manifest as frequent jams, kitchen sink clogs, or an extended time needed to grind waste. These symptoms could indicate that the blades are dulling or the motor is weakening. These inconvenient issues may lead to more significant plumbing problems, possibly requiring professional drain cleaning.

Unpleasant Odors

Properly using and regularly cleaning your garbage disposal should prevent unpleasant odors. However, if a bad smell lingers after a thorough rinse, this may indicate stubborn particles trapped within the unit. A professional can often remove these trapped particles, but if your disposal is over 15 years old, replacing it may be more cost-effective.


As your garbage disposal ages, cracks may develop in its housing, causing leaks. Left unnoticed, these leaks can make a mess inside your kitchen cabinet, leading to wood rot and mold growth. In most cases, leaks indicate that a replacement is necessary because leak repairs are often not cost-effective and may not fully resolve the issue.

Power Problems

If your garbage disposal fails to turn on when you flip the switch, try pressing the reset button and checking the circuit breaker. If the unit still doesn’t function after troubleshooting, this means the motor may have burned out, a common issue with older disposals. This is a clear sign that professional intervention, and possibly a unit replacement, is required.

Garbage Disposal Services in Seattle, WA

As a reliable kitchen cleanup partner, your garbage disposal deserves the best possible care. At Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating, we understand this and are ready to assist with garbage disposal repair, maintenance, or replacement services.

Our family-owned business has over 20 years of industry experience, consistently delivering superior work and customer satisfaction. Our licensed plumbers are available 24/7 for emergency drain cleaning, making us your go-to plumbing resource on nights, weekends, and holidays. So the next time a malfunctioning garbage disposal disrupts your daily routine, call us at (206) 938-3219 for top-notch garbage disposal services in the Seattle area.

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