How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last [Updated Guide]

Published by Hala Zaqqout on February 3, 2022 | Last updated on May 15, 2023

Ever wonder what’s going on inside a garbage disposal? It chews up food scraps that are fed down the drain with a heavy flow of water.

For such simple machinery, garbage disposals are one of the most revolutionary kitchen appliances ever invented.

If you own a garbage disposal, you already know that it helps to make kitchen clean-up quick and easy. You also know that you no longer worry about clogging your pipes because of food scraps that have been accidentally washed down your kitchen sink.

But what you may not know is that if they’re not properly cared for, garbage disposals won’t last more than a few years.

So what is a garbage disposal and how does a garbage disposal work and when to replace a garbage disposal? Let’s first answer a fundamental question: How long do garbage disposals last?

In this CleanersAdvisor article, we will reveal to you how long do garbage disposals last, along with a description of how and when to replace a garbage disposal. 

What Is a Garbage Disposal Unit?

Garbage Disposal Unit

A garbage disposal unit is a device in a kitchen sink that grinds up food waste so it can be washed down the drain, usually electrically powered, installed under a kitchen sink between the sink’s drain and the trap.

The disposal unit shreds food waste into pieces small enough. Also, many city water systems have established wastewater treatment plants that reuse wasted food by turning it into fertilizer or using it as an energy source.

How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last?

The garbage disposal unit has an average life expectancy of between 10 to 12 years if the appliance is properly maintained. Of course, how long do garbage disposals last depends a lot on how you use them and how you take care of them.

Regular maintenance and upkeep can increase the likelihood that your equipment meets or exceed its life expectancy.

And more importantly, what you put in it. If you abuse your garbage disposal by repeatedly sending items down into it that you shouldn’t, you not only won’t get as much lifetime use out of it, but you may cause some plumbing issues as well.

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

Before asking yourself how long do garbage disposals last, you should know how the parts of kitchen garbage disposal work. A garbage disposal chews up food scraps that are fed down the drain with a heavy flow of water.

The disposal, mounted to the underside of the sink drain, has an electric motor that is either hardwired or plugged into a 120-volt box or receptacle, usually located at the back of the sink cabinet.

Inside the garbage disposal in what is called the grinding chamber, shredding blades break down the food, and then an impeller arm and plate force the particles and liquid down the drain.

Dishwasher drain water also runs through the garbage disposal so that any large particles are ground up before they reach the drainpipe.

Note: one misconception is that all disposals have blades. Contrary to popular belief, the spinning mechanism on most garbage disposals today does not use a blade.

It uses two lugs mounted on a steel plate (they spin in unison). For the sake of facilitating understanding in conversation, we still refer to it as a blade because that’s what everybody calls it.

This video provides information on how a garbage disposal works and offers troubleshooting tips to assist you in diagnosing and repair.

How to Use a Garbage Disposal?

If you’re wondering how long do garbage disposals last, then you should use them properly to extend their lifespan.

All models vary slightly, but typically a user initiates the chopping by flipping a switch next to the sink, above the counter. There is a reset button on the grinding chamber (beneath the sink), and also a stopper switch.

Here’re some tips for getting the most out of your garbage disposal:

– Before turning on the disposal, run cool/room temperature water.

– If possible, before allowing food into the grinding chamber, turn the disposal on.

– Gradually feed food waste into the disposal.

– Allow the water to run for a few seconds after turning off the disposal.

When to Replace Garbage Disposal?

Appliances don’t last forever, but sometimes it’s hard to know when to replace one instead of repairing it. With garbage disposals, there are some distinct signs that may give you clues about what to do.

1. Strange or Unusual Noises are Coming from Your Garbage Disposal.

Because garbage disposal has moving parts, any peculiar or new noises can be an indicator of a serious problem.

A sneaky piece of silverware or a small dish can easily result in unusual sounds from the unit.

If you find something, carefully remove it and test the disposal. If you’re not able to find anything and still hear abnormal sounds, it’s time to call in a professional or consider a replacement.

2. It Has a Bad Smell that Won’t Go Away

Old food and waste are prone to bad odors, but through proper use of a functioning garbage disposal, this shouldn’t be a problem.

If odors persist even though you’ve thoroughly rinsed and ran your garbage disposal, there may be stubborn particles trapped in the unit that refuse to budge.

In most instances, you can call out a professional to remove these trapped particles. However, if you’re running older disposal – 15 years or more – it may be time to swap it out.

 3. Your Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On

When garbage disposal won’t turn on, there may be a serious problem with the unit itself. Start by pressing the reset button on the unit to see if that gets it going again.

You can also check the circuit breaker in your home’s electrical panel.

If none of these troubleshooting methods resolve the issue, there’s a good chance you’ll need to call in someone to give it a serious look.

4. Water is Leaking from Your Garbage Disposal

Nothing lasts forever. With garbage disposals, you’ll usually be looking anywhere from eight to fifteen years before you’ll need to replace the unit.

Over time, the disposal may develop cracks or even spring a leak.

When this happens, you’ll likely need to replace the unit, as a repair wouldn’t be worth your money.

5. You’re Frequently Pressing the Reset Button on the Unit

If you find that you’re frequently pressing the reset button on your garbage disposal, this is a sign that it’s not long for this world

Pressing the reset button is something that should be seldom done, so pay attention to how often you’re doing it.

How to Replace a Garbage Disposal?

How to Replace a Garbage Disposal

Knowing how long do garbage disposals last is not enough, you should find out how to replace it when it has problems.

Although many homeowners have a garbage disposal, most don’t know how to replace it. Quickly troubleshoot the problem and fix it yourself!

1. Turn off the power running to the garbage disposer and the hot and cold water shut-off valves. These are usually located in the cabinet directly under the sink.

2. Disconnect the drain trap from the disposer’s discharge tube, then disconnect the slip fittings to the drain, and the dishwasher inlet hose (if one is attached).

3. Hold the bottom of the disposer so it doesn’t fall as you unscrew it from the sink. Then turn clockwise.

4. Turn the disposer upside down and unscrew the electrical cover plate from the bottom.

5. Disconnect the electrical cable connector then pull out the wire nuts.  

6. Unscrew the wire from the green ground screw.

7. Remove the mounting assembly if you’re replacing it with a new one.

8. If you’re setting up the dishwasher to drain through the disposer, knock out the plastic drain plug and remove it from the disposer.

9. Install the new disposer in the reverse order that you took the old one out. If you didn’t have a disposer set up before, call an electrician to set up the wires first.

This video will show you how to remove the old one and install a new upgraded model that will last longer step by step.

What Impacts Garbage Disposal Lifespan?

Ultimately, three factors can be attributed to impacting garbage disposal lifespan:

1. Quality of the Garbage Disposal

Newer, modern garbage disposals last longer than their older counterparts. Purchasing new, heavy-duty garbage disposal instead of a cheaper option is an easy investment that will pay off in the long run.

2. What is Put Down the Disposal

The items you place in your garbage disposal play a huge factor in your garbage disposal lifespan.

For instance, if you regularly put grease and fibrous foods down the garbage disposal, your motor and blades will be more impacted than someone who chooses to only put fruit and vegetable scraps down their disposal.

3. Garbage Disposal Usage

It’s not just what you put down the garbage disposal, it’s how often. The more you use your garbage disposal, the more the motor and blades are being used, which impacts garbage disposal lifespan.

How to Extend Garbage Disposal Lifespan?

But before you ask yourself, how long do garbage disposals last, it will be best you know how to extend garbage disposal lifespan and keep your kitchen sink garbage disposal.

1. Use Cold Water Instead of Hot

It may sound counterintuitive — doesn’t hot water clean better than cold? — but using cold water while running at your disposal is best.

That’s because hot water softens food waste, making it stick to the blades and making it harder to break up and flush away, whereas cold water solidifies it and helps prime it for grinding

2. Pour Boiling Water Through It Once a Month

The corollary to tip number one is this: boil a kettle of water and pour it down your disposal every few weeks to loosen and wash away anything that’s become really stuck on the blades or in your pipes.

3. Keep the Disposal Running for a Minute After It Sounds Empty

You know what your disposal sounds like when it’s done grinding up food waste.

When you start to hear that sound, don’t turn it off. Instead, keep it on and keep the cold water running for another minute, just to make sure it’s fully emptied out and all of the food particles are flushed out of your pipes.

4. Use It for Small Amounts of Food Only

Garbage disposals aren’t designed as a catch-all for your kitchen trash; they’re not built to handle hard items like bones, and large quantities of anything maybe too much for its blades to grind up.

Scraping off the small bits of food left on your dinner plates is fine, and food waste that’s cut into smaller pieces will usually be OK, but big pieces and big amounts will overwork your disposal and could lead to clogs.

5. Clean It with Ice

Throwing an ice cube or two in your running disposal can help remove debris stuck to the blades. You don’t want to do this too often, though; once a week for heavily used disposals should be fine.

And if you want to rid your disposal of odors, make ice cubes out of lemon juice and use those.

6. Run your disposal regularly

Your disposal is made mostly of metal, and it regularly comes in contact with water. If it’s not run regularly, it can rust and become useless.

Even if you don’t use yours to grind up food all that often, run it regularly with running water to prevent rust buildup.

What Should I Not Put Down My Garbage Disposal?

Wondering how long do garbage disposals last? One of the most proactive things you can do to increase your garbage disposal lifespan is making sure you know what can and can’t be put down your garbage disposal.

These are items that should never go down your garbage disposal:

• Fibrous foods (such as potato peels, onion skin, and asparagus)

• Coffee grounds

• Eggshells

• Oil and grease

• Bones

• Uncooked pasta and rice

• Nuts

• Items that are not food (paper scraps, cigarette butts, glass)

These are items that can safely be put down your garbage disposal:

• Non-starchy fruits and vegetable scraps

• Liquids and soft foods

• Chopped foods

• Citrus rinds

• Ice cubes

How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last FAQ

To Wrap Up

Wondering how long do garbage disposals last? Functioning garbage disposals help keep your sink and pipes clean. Plus, garbage disposals immediately rid your home of waste, odors, and any critters they might attract.

Take a closer look at what garbage disposal is and how long do garbage disposals last in this CleanersAdvisor article.

Learn to troubleshoot and, if necessary, replace your kitchen garbage disposal with basic tools as we discussed above in this article- saving yourself a bundle!

Still have more questions, or do you want to add helpful information to this article? We want to hear how long do garbage disposals last with you! Leave us a comment below!

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