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Garbage Disposal Buying Guide

An undercabinet continuous feed garbage disposal.

Updated January 13, 2021

Holly H.

By Holly H.

A garbage disposal helps reduce landfill waste and keeps your home smelling fresh between trash days. But what are all the available options and what’s the best disposal for you? We’ll show you how to pick the best garbage disposal for your kitchen.

Types of Disposals: Continuous Feed vs. Batch Feed Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals come in two feed types: batch feed and continuous feed.

Batch feed disposals can only be turned on by putting a special magnetic stopper in place. These models prevent objects from accidentally falling into the disposal when in use. With this type of model, you can insert food waste in batches and run it all at one time. A batch feed garbage disposal is likely the best disposal choice for locations where adding an electrical switch isn't viable.

Continuous feed disposals operate as long as the power is switched on, so you can clean up as you go. Continuous feed garbage disposals typically involve a wall switch, sink-top switch activator or power outlet below the countertop. This variety is the ideal choice for most households and is the most commonly installed type of disposal.

Tip

Most sinks are compatible with a garbage disposal. If you’re adding a new disposal as part of a complete kitchen sink replacement, check the manufacturer’s specifications before purchasing. Some bar sinks have drains that are too small and may not be compatible.

What Horsepower Garbage Disposal Do I Need?

Garbage disposal motors come in varying horsepower (HP) ratings, anywhere from 1/3 HP to 1 HP or even higher. If you plan to use your disposal often or have a large household, opt for a model with more power.

  • 1/3 HP to 1/2 HP: A basic model suitable for use with everyday food scraps.
  • 3/4 HP: These models can handle small bones and more fibrous food waste quickly and quietly.
  • 1 HP or Higher: The best choice for heavier use and typically contains added features for quieter operation and a finer grind.
Tip

Garbage disposals with more horsepower often operate more quietly and are less likely to jam than standard or basic disposers with lower horsepower.

Garbage Disposal Features and Accessories to Consider

A push-button sink-top garbage disposal switch.
  • Sink-Top Switches: Sold separately, this alternative to a wall switch operates using air pressure and can be installed with a continuous-feed garbage disposal. An ideal switch solution for kitchen islands, it prevents you from having to hardwire to a wall switch.
  • Power Cord: Power cords are included with your machine or sold separately. You’ll need a cord if plugging your disposal into an outlet when installing. If you plan to hardwire your disposal and the model you’re considering has an attached power cord, read the product instructions for guidance.
  • Auto-Reverse: Some disposals include an auto-reverse feature that automatically spins the grind table in the opposite direction to help loosen and process lodged food, preventing jams.
  • Stainless Steel Grind Chamber and Components: Disposals with grind chambers and components made of stainless steel often last longer.
  • Quick-Mount Feature: This mounting design allows for easier installation as the mount implements a turn-and-lock system to secure the disposer to the sink.
  • Baffle: This rubber guard is installed at the sink opening and keeps food and water from splashing out of the grind chamber.
  • Multiple Grind Stages: Basic models include only one grind stage, while other versions have as many as three separate stages to completely pulverize food so it washes down the drain easily.
  • Quiet Models: Some disposals incorporate design elements, such as insulation around the disposer, sound baffles at the sink opening and flexible mounting connections, to reduce excess vibration and noise.

Are Garbage Disposals Safe for Septic Systems?

There are disposals specifically designed for homes with a septic tank. During use, these models spray an enzyme to help further break down food waste as it enters your septic system.

Is a Garbage Disposal Right for My Kitchen?

  • Check local codes to determine if disposals are allowed in your area.
  • Make sure your plumbing is in good working order before purchasing a disposal. If your pipes are prone to clogs, address the cause of the problem during or before installation.

Garbage Disposal Use and Maintenance

A stainless steel undercabinet garbage disposal.
  • Run cold water down the disposal while it's operating.
  • Run the disposal often, and run water after use for a few seconds to rinse internal components. Acid from dried food particles and detergents can corrode the grinding mechanism of your disposal.
  • Never pour grease or fat into your disposal.
  • Cleanse and rid your disposal of odors that come from stuck-on foods by using your disposal regularly, grinding ice or citrus peels, or use a commercial disposal cleaner. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations to determine which types of cleaning products are safe to use with your disposal.

See How to Install a Garbage Disposal for more helpful tips.

Tip

Garbage disposals vary by model. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions and warranty for information on installation, usage and safety.

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