Your kitchen sink's garbage disposal is a core part of your plumbing system, as it is actively preventing food particles and waste from clogging your home's plumbing. A garbage disposal that is not working properly can lead to the accumulation of waste in your pipes, which can increase the risk of water damage, leaks, and plumbing damage. Thankfully, there are some pretty obvious indications associated with a garbage disposal that is no longer operating correctly that you can watch for to figure out when you need to talk to a plumber about repairing your unit.
1. Lengthy Operation
The first sign that your garbage disposal is not working as intended is if the amount of time that it takes for your unit to break down debris in the drain has significantly increased, especially if that increase happened extremely suddenly. This can point to issues with the blades not being sharp enough, a burned-out motor that is unable to move at the same speed, or wiring issues that are affecting the amount of power that your unit is receiving. A professional plumber will have to look at your unit and determine the underlying cause to get things working properly again.
2. Strong Smells
Another indication that your garbage disposal is in need of repairs or servicing is if there is a constant, unpleasant smell that is coming out of your drain. This smell is caused by food particles that are not being properly disposed of, either because the unit is not properly breaking down the waste that enters your drain, or because it is somehow holding onto the waste that it does break down. Sometimes, simply flushing the unit with vinegar or bleach combined with hot water is enough to remove the smell and clear the food particles, but other times, you'll need to have the unit disassembled and put back together (and maybe even have the blades replaced) to get things draining properly again.
3. Irregular Sounds
Any sort of odd sounds that are coming out of your garbage disposal when it is turned on, specifically grinding or squealing sounds, can point to a mechanical malfunction within your unit. If you notice this, you should stop using your garbage disposal immediately, as the sound is being generated from friction between parts of your unit that should not be in contact with one another, and continuing to use your disposal could lead to serious damage.