A garbage disposal is an efficient way to keep food waste out of your trash can by flushing it down your plumbing instead. The advantage is to keep smelly foodstuff out of your trash or recycling can. Garbage disposals are mechanical devices hooked to the bottom of your drain. Food waste pushed through the disposal is chopped up into fine bits before it goes down the drain. This allows you to wash the food down the drain while keeping your pipes from getting clogged. Before you buy, consider some important features available on the market.
Considerations when choosing garbage disposals
Batch feed vs continuous feed
Most garbage disposals are either a continuous feed or a batch feed style. A continuous feed disposal operates with a switch and runs continually. It allows you to push food into the disposal while it is running. A batch feed disposal requires you to fill the disposal with food-waste first before putting on a lid to activate the chopping mechanism. A batch feed model is safer, but a continuous feed model tends to be more convenient.
Garbage disposals are loud appliances. If you are concerned about noise, try a more expensive model. Some higher end brands come with sound insulation to keep them quieter.
Size and power
The capacity for an under the sink home garbage disposal will vary. Smaller grind chambers may run about 26 ounces. Larger more powerful models could handle more like 40 oz. You may find power levels varying from about 1/3 horsepower to 1 horsepower. The higher the horsepower the more quickly and effectively the disposal will be able to handle food waste.
It can't handle everything
While a garbage disposal does a good job of chopping up most of the leftover food on your plate, it is not made to chop up anything other than food. You should also avoid putting in any fruit pits or grape stems. Most garbage disposals cannot handle bones or tough pieces of vegetables, like the base of a head of lettuce. Peels from potatoes or fruit can sometimes go down, but might cause your garbage disposal to jam. Never put grease down the drain - it will clog your pipes.
A reliable, less expensive garbage disposal will cost between $50 and $90. In this price range, expect to find smaller models with less powerful motors - usually no more than 1/2 horsepower. These units may be better for households with fewer people or less food waste. While some batch feed models may come at that price point with higher levels of horsepower, keep in mind that a batch feed disposal is less convenient and may not be able to hold all your garbage at one time. Mid-range garbage disposals will cost between about $90 and $125 and will have a higher power level, about 3/4 horsepower, but some models at this price point can offer 1 horsepower. Disposals that cost over $125 will have at least 1 horsepower, or more. They will also have larger capacities, be more durable, and come with longer warranties.
Other important details
A garbage disposal can be a dangerous item in your kitchen. Never put your hand down a garbage disposal. It will cause serious damage if running. Even if the disposal is not running, you could still hurt your hand. It is better to use a handle or a shop vac to extricate any stuck items.
Q. I've heard you're supposed to run the faucet while using a garbage disposal. Is this correct?
A. Yes. Always run water while you are chopping food in the disposal. The water helps keep the elements of the disposal cool and clean. It also helps the food flow through the disposal.
Q. What do I do when my disposal starts to smell?
A. If your garbage disposal smells bad, it is likely that you did not run it long enough to clear it of all food waste. It may also have grease build-up and need to clean it with hot water and vinegar. Some people also recommend putting lemons down the disposal to clear bad smells.
Garbage disposals we recommend
Best of the best: InSinkErator Evolution Excel
Our take: This powerful model has a large capacity and comes with a 7 year warranty.
What we like: We like the 1.0 horsepower motor which is larger than many others. It is also quieter than other models. It works with septic systems.
What we dislike: Owners have reported it failing after 5 years, but the manufacturer will honor the warranty.
Best bang for your buck: Waste King Legend Series 1/2 HP
Our take: A good value on a reliable model that is easy to install.
What we like: This model simply plugs into an outlet, making it easier to install. It comes with stainless steel parts that won't rust and seem to operate well without getting stuck.
What we dislike: Does not have strong enough power to dispose of tougher vegetable stocks.
Our take: If you are a fan of KitchenAid appliances, this model does not disappoint.
What we like: We like the high rpm and decent HP levels to help grind food small for sensitive plumbing systems.
What we dislike: The rubber collar is stiff, which helps keep the noise down, but can make it harder to push food through.
Karen Roth Ridder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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