garbage disposal fail
December 6, 2004 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, our garbage disposal died. Then we ran the dishwasher and the food from the sink started to flow into the dishwasher. We didn't realize the extent of the problem until it started cooking during the drying cycle.

Has this ever happened to you? Is it simply time to call the plumber?
posted by Lola_G to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Sounds like it's time to replace the disposal, whether you call the plumber or not depends on how handy you are around the house. I'm not terribly adept at things like plumbing, but I was able to replace the garbage disposal with a trip to home depot and a half a Saturday. I suggest you consult a home repair information before you take the plunge. You might look here or .

And while you're at the home improvment store I suggest you pick up a mechanical snake (< $20)--it attaches to a drill and does the roto rooter thing your pipes, great to have hand and will save you a>$100 plumber visit sometime in the future.
posted by donovan at 12:13 PM on December 6, 2004

Are you sure it's food from the sink? This sounds suspiciously like a backflow problem. IANAP but when we had our kitchen stuff installed, they had to put an air vent in to ensure that garbage (read sewage) didn't flow back into the dishwasher. Maybe when your garbage disposal died, some guck in it blocked the vent, and you're starting to have backflow.
posted by jasper411 at 12:40 PM on December 6, 2004

For replacing, if you are lucky, the disposal will attach to the sink with a standard mounting. To remove the old one, just lift the disposal (to take the weight off the mounting) and then unscrew it.

The new one should just connect in there with ease - just knock out the dishwasher plug, attach it to the mounting, and reconnect the hoses.

It's a very easy job, even for a left-handed software engineer like myself.
posted by azlondon at 1:33 PM on December 6, 2004

How sure are you that the disposal is dead? Is it making any sounds? If it's silent, the overload protection might have kicked in: there should be a button on the bottom of the unit that will reset it. If it's making a humming or buzzing sound, the blades might be stuck on something. You can free them up by moving them manually: there should be a hex nut on the bottom that you can turn to manually operate the blades.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:36 PM on December 6, 2004

I replaced one a few weeks back, real easy, and a lot of dishwashers pump excess stuff from plates into the garbage disposal so if it's dead/blocked then it would remain in the dishwasher.
posted by zeoslap at 1:38 PM on December 6, 2004

Yes, I think the dishwasher expels water through the same pipe that the disposal uses. I always run my disposal for a few seconds before running a load of dishes - it prevents the backup issue which can sometimes prevent the dishwasher from getting them completely clean.
As an aside, you may also want to consider running the dishwasher with the "air dry" setting instead of the "heated dry" setting. It saves a lot of electricity, and makes it easier to re-wash the occasional dish that comes out with gunk still on it. Usually, I only use heat dry if I'm running a load that has dishes I plan on using or putting away in the next hour or so.
posted by sixdifferentways at 2:04 PM on December 6, 2004

Also - what mr_roboto says:
I've had disposals stop because of the little breaker switch on the bottom. It seems like it can take 30 minutes or so sometimes before it can be re-set. And make sure there's not something just physically blocking the blades . . .sometimes there can be a little piece of metal or plastic or something hidden down there blocking the blades. And, as I learned years ago, unpopped popcorn kernels go in the trash - not the disposal!
posted by sixdifferentways at 2:08 PM on December 6, 2004

Seconding others, I've seen this behavior after the disposal clogs up after disposing a lot of vegetables (lettuce, string beans, etc - lots of fiber). The dishwasher attached to them wouldn't flush right, because the water wouldn't leave the disposal. Usually some plunging helped, but I've had to disconnect the flow into the the sink drain pipe and clean it once or twice. Does the disposal flow well?
posted by Read at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2004

IMO, disposers are not what they once were. Our current top-rated brand is a wimp that cannot handle chicken bones. There seem to be many more substances besides corn husks and lime rinds that will not grind. Oh, if only Westinghouse would return to the consumer appliance market with those burly motors!
As for putting unrinsed dishes into the dishwasher - well, you will get a whole new definition for gigo - with you doing the out portion by hand. I have learned to ignore those who laugh at my "pre-washing" the dishes, but would love to send them over to help you unclog your drain line.
posted by Cranberry at 4:01 PM on December 6, 2004

The disposal & the dishwasher are inextricably linked, at least they always have been in any house where I've lived (that has either): you can't have a dishwasher without a disposal. I have a handy plumbing book and a handy mother though, and this is how I fixed mine: Go under the sink, up under the disposal. There's a hole in the center of it. Take either a flat head screwdriver or an allen wrench (you'll figure out which one works - mom says older ones have a screw, newer ones need an allen wrench) and get it on the knob/screw in the center of that hole. Twist it counterclockwise a couple of turns - if it's badly jammed you'll hit some resistance, that's good, it means that's what is wrong with it - so just turn it a little. Try the disposal again. It sounds absurdly simple but I swear it fixed mine when it did the same thing!

On a somewhat related note, does anyone know if you're supposed to spell it disposall, as in, it disposes with all? Or is disposal correct? Maybe disposall was a trademark?
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:14 PM on December 6, 2004

"Disposal" is the generic term. Dispos-All is a brand.
posted by kindall at 4:24 PM on December 6, 2004

Take sixdifferentways and mygothlaundry's advice. Like donovan, I replaced my disposal (the house inspector said it would die soon and it did about 4 months after I moved in). I scooped all kinds of crap out of the drain pipe and it helped the other side of the sink drain faster.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:03 PM on December 6, 2004

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