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How Does A Garbage Disposal Work?

If you are in need of a garbage disposal installation, the professional plumbers at Plumbers 911 Chicago can help! We are available for Garbage Disposal Installation in Chicago or any of the other 240 cities in the Chicagoland area that we service. Checkout our Service Area today and see if we can help in your area.

Garbage disposals have become a common feature in many households, making kitchen cleanup a breeze. But have you ever wondered how does a garbage disposal work?

A garbage disposal, also known as a waste disposal unit or garburator, is a device that is installed beneath the sink and is designed to shred food waste into tiny particles so that it can easily flow through the plumbing system. This helps to prevent clogs and reduce odors in the kitchen.

Once you turn on the garbage disposal, a motor inside the unit spins lugs that are mounted on a spinning plate called the impeller. As you feed food waste into the disposal, the impeller chops it into small pieces. The force created by the spinning lugs and the centrifugal force of the impeller push the shredded waste against the shredder ring, which further breaks it down.

The shredded food waste then passes through the holes in the shredder ring and into the space between the spinning plate and the stationary grind ring. Here, the waste is ground down even further into fine particles. These particles are then flushed down the drain by running water, ensuring that the plumbing system remains clear and free from blockages.

Our friends at Insinkerator have put together a very nice video explaining this process in an easier to understand format and we recommend watching the video below!

What is a Garbage Disposal?

It is an electrical mechanism that helps to reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills. When the device is turned on, the motor spins the lugs, which then shred the food waste into tiny pieces. These small pieces are then washed down the drain with water, leaving your sink clean and free of food waste.

Garbage disposals are popular in many households as they offer a convenient and hygienic way to dispose of food scraps. They help to minimize odors and pests that are attracted to rotting organic waste in trash bags or bins. Additionally, using a garbage disposal can also help to reduce the amount of trash that needs to be collected and taken to landfills, thus reducing the environmental impact.

However, it is important to note that not all food waste can be disposed of using a garbage disposal. Certain items, such as bones, fruit pits, and large chunks of food, can damage the shredding lugs or clog the drainage system. It is recommended to only dispose of small, soft food scraps and to avoid putting any non-food items into the disposal.

Components of a Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal is made up of several key components that work together to process and dispose of food waste. These components include:

Component Description
Motor The motor is the main driving force of the garbage disposal. It powers the lugs and grinds up the food waste.
Lugs The lugs, often referred to as impellers, are located at the bottom of the garbage disposal. They rotate and cut the food waste into small pieces.
Grinding Chamber The grinding chamber is where the food waste is processed and ground up. It is typically made of stainless steel to prevent corrosion.
Hopper The hopper is the opening where food waste is inserted into the garbage disposal. It is usually covered by a rubber stopper to prevent accidents.
Dishwasher Connection Many garbage disposals are equipped with a dishwasher connection. This allows food waste from the dishwasher to be processed along with other waste.
Electrical Connection The garbage disposal needs to be connected to an electrical power source in order to function. It is typically wired to a switch for easy operation.
Drainpipe The drainpipe connects the garbage disposal to the plumbing system. It allows the ground-up food waste to be flushed away and disposed of properly.

These components work together seamlessly to ensure the effective and efficient disposal of food waste in a garbage disposal unit.

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

A garbage disposal, also known as a waste disposal unit or garburator, is an electrically powered device that is installed under a kitchen sink. Its main function is to shred food waste into small particles so that it can be easily washed down the drain.

The garbage disposal consists of several key components. At the top, there is a hopper or a feed chamber where the food waste is placed. When the disposal is turned on, a motor inside the unit spins a flywheel at high speed. The flywheel is attached to a shredder ring, which has small blades on its surface.

As the food waste is fed into the hopper, it falls onto the spinning flywheel, which forces it against the shredder ring. The small blades on the ring cut and grind the food waste into tiny pieces. These pieces then pass through small holes in the shredder ring and are flushed down the drain.

Key Components of a Garbage Disposal Description
Hopper The top part of the disposal where the food waste is placed.
Flywheel A spinning disk connected to the motor that powers the disposal.
Shredder Ring A metal ring with small blades that cuts and grinds the food waste.

It is important to note that not all types of food waste can be safely processed by a garbage disposal. Hard, non-biodegradable items such as bones, fruit pits, and eggshells should never be put into the disposal as they can damage the lugs and cause clogs in the drain pipe. Similarly, grease and oil should be avoided as they can solidify and cause blockages.

In conclusion, a garbage disposal works by using a motor to spin a flywheel which, in turn, rotates a shredder ring. The food waste is shredded into small pieces by the blades on the ring and is then flushed down the drain. Proper usage and maintenance of the disposal are important in order to ensure its efficient and long-lasting operation.

Benefits of Using a Garbage Disposal

Using a garbage disposal in your kitchen can offer several advantages:

  • Convenience: One of the main benefits of using a garbage disposal is the convenience it provides. Rather than having to collect and dispose of food waste separately, you can simply rinse it down the sink and let the garbage disposal take care of it.
  • Reduced Odors: Food waste can quickly start to produce unpleasant odors if left in a trash bin. By using a garbage disposal, you can eliminate the need to store food waste in your kitchen, helping to keep your kitchen smelling fresh and clean.
  • Less Trash: Using a garbage disposal can significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in your regular trash bin. This can be particularly beneficial for households that produce a large amount of food waste, as it allows for more efficient waste management and reduces the frequency of garbage collection.
  • Environmental Benefits: When food waste is sent to landfills, it decomposes and produces methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. By using a garbage disposal, you can divert food waste from landfills and send it to wastewater treatment plants where it can be processed into renewable energy or fertilizer.
  • Prevents Plumbing Issues: Food waste that goes down the drain without a garbage disposal can potentially clog pipes and cause plumbing issues. A garbage disposal can help break down food waste into smaller particles that are easier to move through pipes, reducing the risk of clogs and resulting in fewer plumbing problems.

Overall, incorporating a garbage disposal into your kitchen routine can offer many benefits, making the disposal of food waste more convenient, hygienic, and environmentally friendly.

Tips for Using a Garbage Disposal

Using a garbage disposal is a convenient way to dispose of food waste, but it is important to use it properly to avoid clogs and other issues. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your garbage disposal:

1. Always run water when using the garbage disposal. This helps flush the food waste down the drain and prevents clogs. Run the water before, during, and after using the disposal for best results.

2. Cut large pieces of food into smaller pieces before putting them into the disposal. This prevents the disposal from getting overloaded and helps it to work more efficiently.

3. Avoid putting hard items like bones, shells, or fruit pits into the disposal. These can damage the lugs and cause clogs. It is best to dispose of these items in the regular trash.

4. Do not pour grease or oil down the disposal. These can solidify and cause clogs in the pipes. Instead, pour them into a container and dispose of them in the trash.

5. Clean the garbage disposal regularly to prevent odors and buildup. You can do this by running a mixture of ice cubes and citrus peels through the disposal.

6. Be cautious when using chemical drain cleaners with a garbage disposal. Some cleaners can be harmful to the disposal and pipes. It is best to consult the manufacturer’s instructions or a professional plumber for guidance.

Following these tips will help keep your garbage disposal running smoothly and extend its lifespan. Remember to always exercise caution and read the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific disposal model.

Common Issues with Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals, although convenient and essential in modern kitchens, can sometimes encounter common issues that can disrupt their functionality. Here are some of the most common problems you might face with your garbage disposal:

  • Clogs: One of the most frequent issues with garbage disposals is clogging. This can happen when large food particles or fibrous materials get stuck in the disposal’s blades or drain pipe. To prevent clogs, avoid disposing of items like eggshells, coffee grounds, potato peels, and grease.
  • Odor: Over time, food remnants can accumulate in the disposal, resulting in unpleasant odors. To combat this issue, run cold water and grind ice cubes or citrus peels in the disposal to freshen it up.
  • No Power: If your garbage disposal suddenly stops working, it might be due to a power failure. Check if the disposal is unplugged or if there’s a tripped circuit breaker. Also, make sure that the reset switch located at the bottom of the unit is not pressed in.
  • Leaking: Leaks can occur in the garbage disposal’s seals or pipes, leading to water damage in your kitchen. Inspect the connections and tightening any loose fittings. If the leak persists, it may be necessary to replace damaged components.
  • Noisy Operation: Excessive noise during operation can indicate loose or damaged components inside the disposal. Turn off the power and inspect the lugs and mounting hardware for any signs of wear or misalignment.
  • Jammed Disposal: When a foreign object gets lodged between the disposal’s lugs, it can cause the unit to jam. To resolve this issue, turn off the power and use a wrench or an Allen wrench to manually rotate the lugs and dislodge the object.

If you encounter any of these issues with your garbage disposal, it’s important to take prompt action to prevent further damage or accidents. In some cases, it may be necessary to seek professional assistance or consider replacing the disposal altogether.


What is a garbage disposal?

A garbage disposal is a device installed under the sink in a kitchen that shreds and eliminates food waste.

How does a garbage disposal work?

A garbage disposal works by breaking down food waste into small particles using rotating lugs and then flushing them down the drain with water.

What types of food waste can be put into a garbage disposal?

Most types of food waste can be put into a garbage disposal, including fruit and vegetable peels, small bones, and leftovers. However, hard items like pits, shells, and large bones should be avoided.

Is it safe to put your hand into a garbage disposal?

It is not safe to put your hand into a garbage disposal when there is power to the device. The lugs inside the disposal can cause serious injury. Always make sure to turn off the power before attempting any maintenance or cleaning. With no power to the unit it is completely safe to put your hand inside

Are there any maintenance tips for a garbage disposal?

Yes, to keep your garbage disposal in good working condition, it is recommended to run water while using it, avoid putting non-food items into it, and regularly clean it with a mixture of ice cubes and vinegar.

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