Should I Repair or Replace My Garbage Disposal?

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated September 27, 2021
installing garbage disposal in sink
Bill Oxford/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

If your garbage disposal seems to have kicked the bucket, you'll need to figure out whether you can repair or replace it

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Your garbage disposal is supposed to be a super helper in the kitchen, grinding up scraps from your tuna sandwich lunch and making clean-up a breeze. After many years of hard work, though, it might start to show its age, indicating it’s time for you to replace your machine and start fresh. However, sometimes, it can be salvaged—so how do you know if you should be repairing or replacing your garbage disposal entirely?

Before you call the plumber for the umpteenth time, here are six problems that can plague your garbage disposal and whether repairing or replacing it is the best course of action.

1. Your Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On

If you’ve made sure it's plugged in (we know, we know), tried resetting it, checked the circuit breaker and the wiring, and your machine is still not turning on, it’s likely beyond repair. The average cost to replace your garbage disposal is $150 to $950, depending on which unit you buy and the price of labor.

2. It Leaks Often

Find yourself frequently cleaning up puddles near your disposal? There might be cracks in the unit, which are common from regular use, but do mean that you will have to replace the unit. To confirm this is the case, double-check that all the mounting bolts are tightly in place. Tightening them could be a simple fix.

3. Your Disposal Gets Clogged—a Lot

Clogs can happen for various reasons, like throwing things down the disposal that you shouldn’t. These machines don’t like stringy foods like celery and bananas, and hard food like fruit pits and bones are a no-go. However, if your disposal clogs all the time despite your best efforts, the blades could have gone dull, or your disposal may simply be too small for the amount of work you need it to do. 

If you suspect the blades are dull, you can try throwing a handful of ice, a cup of rock salt, and some lemon slices into the disposal. Run the water and then run the disposal until it stops grinding; if this trick doesn’t help sharpen the blades, it is likely time to get the machine replaced.

Disposals are sized by their amount of horsepower, and you can usually correlate the power of the motor to the number of people who live in and use the machine in your home. Here’s a simple size guide:

  • 1–2 person household: 1/3-horsepower motor

  • 3–6 person household: 1/2- to 3/4-horsepower motor

  • 5–8 person household: minimum 1-horsepower motor

  • 8+ person household or restaurant: 2-horsepower motor

Note: Models with a 1-horsepower motor or higher will be notably larger and more expensive than the less-powerful models.

4. It’s Slow

close up on water going down garbage disposal
Oxford/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

If your disposal still functions but it feels like it’s operating in slow motion, it might mean that the motor is beginning to fail or the blades are getting too dull to handle the job they’re supposed to do. If you think the blades are the problem, you can attempt the ice, salt, and lemon trick we outlined earlier, but if it doesn’t work, get your disposal replaced. Make sure you’re always running water when using the disposal.

5. Your Garbage Disposal Stinks

Like the previous tip, a sign that the motor and blades could be failing is if your disposal smells bad. This smell is an indication that food isn’t getting chopped up enough, is getting stuck, and subsequently decomposing in the machine. Try sharpening the blades (the tip we shared will also help deodorize the machine, thanks to the lemon slices!), but if you’re still running into trouble, it may be time to replace it altogether.

6. It’s Very Loud But Doesn’t Macerate Food

If your unit is noisy and making a humming sound, but isn’t actually grinding up any food, the disposal is still receiving electrical power but the motor is probably dead. Before you buy a new one, be sure to check that there aren’t any solid, hard food pieces (fruit pits, we’re looking at you again) stuck between the impeller and the shredder ring.

Before You Replace Your Garbage Disposal

If you’re ready to call a plumber and take the plunge to buy a new garbage disposal, try these possible fixes first.

  • Try resetting it. Sometimes the ground fault circuit needs a breather to get the right amount of power to the unit.

  • Check and see if your current model is still under warranty. Chances are, it won’t be as most warranties only last two years, but you might have an extended warranty or have a faulty unit that failed within that coverage period.

  • Check if the garbage disposal is clogged (the most common issue with disposals) and try and get it in working order again.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.