Garbage disposals aren’t the most glamorous appliance. They grind up old food, and once you’re doing using them, you’d much rather think about almost anything else (except maybe the appliances in the bathroom). But when your garbage disposal stops working, does it mean that you can’t use your dishwasher anymore?
If your garbage disposal is leaking, you can still run your dishwasher. The leak won’t send dirty water back to the dishwasher, so your dishes will still be cleaned. But the dishwasher will send more drain water to the garbage disposal, making it leak even more.
Keep reading if you want to know how to tell if your garbage disposal is leaking, how to safely use your dishwasher while you’re waiting for the plumber to come to fix your garbage disposal, and if worse comes to worst, how to fix the garbage disposal yourself.
How to know if it’s leaking
In some cases, it’s really easy to tell that your garbage disposal is leaking. There will be water under your sink where there wasn’t before, and in some cases, the leak is so big that you will be able to clearly see the water filtering out of the garbage disposal as the sink water is running.
But sometimes leaks are harder to discover. They might be really small, or in a place hard to see, possibly on the other side of the disposal where it’s a little bit harder to stick your head. In this case, you can use a flashlight to try and look closer, but there is a better method for searching for these sneaky leaks.
When your garbage disposal is leaking, there are four main spots that will likely be leaking. These four places are:
- The garbage disposal body (a crack/leak in the main disposal component)
- The rubber hose connecting the dishwasher and disposal (comes out the side of the disposal)
- The sink flange (where the bottom of the sink drain and top of disposal connect)
- The drain pipe (another pipe, usually made of plastic or metal that drains all the water to the sewer)
There are two ways to know if your garbage disposal is leaking:
The first method is to dye a few cups of water with red, blue, or green food coloring. Avoid using yellow, as that will be harder to see. Once you’ve dyed the water and mixed in the color enough so that the water looks like a sports drink, pour the dyed water right down the sink drain, right into the garbage disposal.
If there’s a leak, the dyed water will flow right through it, staining the spot and making it much easier to find than before.
The second way to find the leak is to dry the outside of the garbage disposal with a towel. Since it’s dry, any new water will be easier to spot. Then use the sink stopper to fill the sink with water, a few inches if possible. Once you take out the stopper, all the water will flood the garbage disposal, so the leak will be bombarded with a heavy flow of water. It’s likely that the water will come spurting out of the leak (instead of slowly dribbling out), so it will be much easier to spot. It’ll be like having a waterpark in your own kitchen.
If you want to be doubly efficient, try putting those two methods together. You can dry the outside of the garbage disposal, put in the sink stopper, and fill the sink with dyed water. Then you’re twice as likely to spot the leak. The downside of this is that if the water comes spurting out, it will dye the inside of your cupboards whatever color you’ve chosen, so only do this as a last resort.
How to use the dishwasher while leaking
To get rid of the leak, the first option is usually to call a plumber. But while you wait a week for them to show up, the dishes are still piling up in your sink. How are you supposed to run the dishwasher while you’re waiting for the plumber to come fix it? You could wash all the dishes by hand, but who’s got that kind of time on their hands?
The dishwasher should run normally, and the leaking garbage disposal won’t impact the dishes (or their cleanliness) in any way. But running your dishwasher will send a lot of water to the garbage disposal, which might make the cupboard under your sink a little more wet than normal.
To avoid Niagra Falls from pouring out on your kitchen floor, the best solution is to get a bucket and stick it under the garbage disposal. We recommend using a smaller bucket (NOT an industrial) because it will be easier to get under your sink and easier to get out. Using an industrial bucket runs the risk of spilling all the water out again if you have to tip it under your garbage disposal to pull it out again.
If the dishwasher runs, but you notice that the dishes come out smelly and not squeaky clean, there’s a chance that the garbage disposal is not only leaking but is also clogged.
Garbage disposals and dishwashers are connected so that the nasty processed food and sludge from the garbage disposal won’t end up filtering back to the dishwasher. That would ruin the whole point of a dishwasher. But if the garbage disposal is clogged, then the water will be blocked from traveling to the sewers, meaning it could get backed up; the water just drained from the dishwasher might refilter through it again.
Here’s a website that explains how to fix a clogged garbage disposal:
DIY: How to fix the leak
Fixing leaks by yourself is either a really good or really bad idea depending on who you ask. Some leaks can be fixed by people with little to no plumbing experience, and sometimes doing it yourself could build up to more problems in the future.
If you wanna stay on the safe side, the best idea is to call your plumber to do it for you. It’ll cost money, sure, but sometimes a little extra money upfront means saving a migraine and a bunch of money later.
But some leaks are just easily fixable, so if you want to fix it yourself, here are some helpful guides that walk you through fixing all the different types of leaks on garbage disposals: