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How do I Fix a Garbage Disposal Leak?

Your garbage disposal can leak from the top, bottom, or side. It’s important to locate the leak to determine how severe the problem is, and how best to fix it.

Reasons for a Dripping Disposal

If you hear a dripping sound and notice an unpleasant smell coming from the cabinet below your kitchen sink, your garbage disposal might be leaking. You’ll need to know why and where your garbage disposal is leaking to determine if a repair or replacement is required.

Here are some common reasons for a garbage disposal leak:

  • Worn out gaskets

  • A leaky sink flange

  • Loose drain lines

  • Loose seals or pipes

  • Splits or cracks

  • A damaged discharge pipe

  • Excess food waste

Once you’ve landed on a possible source of your garbage disposal leak, the next step is to locate the leak as soon as you can to prevent any further water damage (and stop the stink).

Locating the Leak

There are three common places to check for a leak in your garbage disposal. The solution will really depend on the location of the leak: it could be a quick DIY fix, or it could demand a whole replacement.

Here’s where your disposal may be dripping from, and what you can do to fix the issue:

Leaking From the Top

If your garbage disposal is leaking from the top, it’s likely because of loose plumber’s putty or a damaged sink flange. This seal can corrode and loosen over time, or if your garbage disposal is hit hard (sometimes during other plumbing work under your sink).

In this scenario, you can use plumber’s putty to reseal the garbage disposal: you’ll need to detach the garbage disposal and clean off any old putty, then reseal with fresh putty. If your garbage disposal only uses a sink flange and that seems to be damaged or corroded, you’ll want to consider replacing it with a new one.

Leaking From the Bottom

A bottom leak is usually more severe: in this case, your best bet is to replace your garbage disposal. A leak from the bottom holes or the screw in your unit means the seals on the inside might be worn out, something that happens naturally over time.

If you’re not ready to replace your garbage disposal, you can detach it and attempt to fix the broken seals –– just keep in mind that this effort may not be worth your time or the frustration.

Leaking From the Side

If your garbage disposal is leaking from the side, the connecting drain lines have probably come loose. Your garbage disposal most likely has two drain line connections: a smaller pipe connected to your dishwasher and another larger pipe that drains all of the refuse into the sewer.

The simplest solution for a side leak is to use a screwdriver to reseal or tighten the connections between your garbage disposal and its drain lines. The larger pipe is connected with screws and has a rubber gasket on the inside. You can tighten the screws, but may also consider replacing the rubber gasket.

How to Prevent Future Leaks

Garbage disposals can be a really convenient way to get rid of the food left on your plate, but what goes down there makes a difference.

Do your best to only grind soft foods with your disposal –– scraps like chicken bones and apple cores are harder for your disposal to digest. It’s also smart to run cold water before and after you dispose of any food to prevent any solid fats from collecting, which can impede your sink flange.

Quite the Project

Of course, you can fix your garbage disposal yourself, but should you? Fixing a leaking garbage disposal can be a big project, so if you’re familiar with how your garbage disposal works and have all the proper tools, go for it -- otherwise, you may want some help from the pros. An expert plumber can diagnose and fix the leaking issue right the first time, so you can rest assured you won’t have to redo the repair.

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