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Leaky Garbage Disposal can be annoying

There are many potential causes for a leaky garbage disposal.  Luckily, identifying the cause of your garbage disposal’s leak is as simple as observing the source of the leak, and repairing the issue yourself is very doable.  Most often, if your garbage disposal is leaking, the cause can be identified and repaired yourself in short time, saving you the cost and hassle of replacing your entire disposal unit.

IMPORTANT: Whenever you are working on your garbage disposal, inserting items, and/or inserting body parts into your garbage disposal unit, it should be UNPLUGGED and the POWER TO THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL UNIT SHOULD BE OFF!  Failing to do so will put you at risk of SERIOUS INJURY.  Also, if possible avoid placing your hands directly near the blades at the disposal.  If you can, instead use a tool to wedge out items or check the blades for blockage.

The most common causes of a leaky garbage disposal are:

  • Leaking gasket;
  • Leaking flange;
  • Loose seals or pipes;
  • Leaky dishwasher connection; and
  • Cracks in disposal body.

Leaky Gasket

Your garbage disposal gasket is the top rim where the rubber seal mounts to the flange.  If your disposer is leaking from this area, the cause could be a leaky gasket.  Gasket leaks can have several causes: ageing gaskets can develop leaks; long periods of disuse can dry the gasket and cause it to leak; if your garbage disposal was removed and then replaced, the gasket may have been improperly sealed; if the gasket is not locked evenly on all three sides, it will leak.

Your gasket can be easily replaced.  Your local hardware store will have a replacement gasket and replacing the gasket is a simple procedure.

  • First, disconnect the drain and unplug the cord to your garbage disposal.  If you have a dishwasher, remove the drain hose from your disposal unit.
  • Next, unlock your garbage disposal by grabbing the sides of the mounting nut and twisting counter clockwise.  Your unit should drop straight down.  Move your disposal unit and set it down somewhere that you can see the rubber gasket while you work on it.
  • Peel off the old gasket and replace it with your new gasket in the same place, ensuring that it pops into the lip and sits flat.
  • Lift your garbage disposal back into place while looking down at it from above your sink to verify that the gasket is sitting flat before locking it into place.
  • Check to ensure all three mounting grooves are locked in.
  • Reconnect your drains and plug the cord back in to test for leaks.

Leaking Flange

A sink flange is the uppermost portion of a garbage disposal.  It is the point where the sink, drain, and garbage disposal meet, and it keeps debris from clogging your drain.  If you have a leak at the uppermost area of your garbage disposal, the source is likely your garbage disposal flange.  The two most likely reasons for a flange leak are that the mounting bolts have loosened and that the plumber’s putty has failed.

If the plumber’s putty has failed, you might be able to stop the leak by replacing the putty.  To do so without removing your garbage disposal, loosen the retaining bolts until a gap forms, force the new putty between the pipe and flange, and retighten the bolts to secure the putty into place.  If this does not work, then remove your disposal unit and reseal the flange.  To do this:

  • Drop the disposal unit down;
  • Loosen the three bolts that tighten the flange;
  • Locate the clip that holds the bottom flange in place;
  • Pop the clip out of its groove using something flat;
  • Pull the top flange out from the top of the sink;
  • Remove any old putty from the sink before replacing the flange;
  • Make a snake-like gasket of uniform width out of plumber’s putty and wrap it onto the rim of the flange;
  • Push the flange back into position and reapply the bottom flange, with the clip holding it in place;
  • Tighten the three screws evenly;
  • Clean any extra putty;
  • Lock your disposer back in place, reconnect the drains, and test for leaks.

Loose Seals or Pipes

Most seals and pipes are located beneath your kitchen sink.  It is common for these pipes to be jarred when people are using that space.  If the pipes are struck hard enough, they can shift and sit improperly, causing retaining bolts to loosen and seals to be shifted into awkward positions.  If your leak is coming from this area, you will need to reattach and reseal these pipes.  Fixing this issue may require an experienced, licensed plumber.

Dishwasher Connection

Modern garbage disposal units connect to dishwasher drainpipes.  This enables dishwashers to expel leftover food scraps and residue that would otherwise accumulate in the dishwasher unit.  A common source of leaks is the area where your dishwasher and garbage disposal connect.  These leaks most often occur when the hose’s clamp is not secure enough and when the dishwasher hose cracks.  To fix this issue, simply replace the cracked section of the hose or tighten the clamp.

Cracks in the Disposal Body

As your garbage disposal system ages, it can develop cracks along its interior lining.  When the lining develops cracks, water will begin to appear at its seams.  If this is occurring in your garbage disposal, it cannot be repaired and you must replace the entire unit.

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