Your garbage disposal is leaking and you have no idea what to do about it.
First, don't panic.
Here are the initial steps to take:
- Turn off and avoid running water from the sink
- Unplug the garbage disposal
- Clean out any food waste within reach from the sink inside the disposal
- Clear everything out from beneath your cabinet (where the disposal is stored)
- Put down a towel or some kind of bucket (if there's room) to absorb the leak until it dries up
Without water running, the leak should stop and allow you time to inspect. First, you need to figure out where the leak is coming from. Its location will determine how the leak is handled.
Leak Location #1: Top
If your garbage disposal is leaking near the top, it's likely that the seal near the top of the flange has corroded and needs to be resealed with plumber's putty. This helps hold the weight of the garbage disposal and keep it still in the sink. If you're not comfortable removing and/or unhooking drain pipes, this is something you'll need to call a plumber for.
Steps to Fix
- Remove the entire garbage disposal, disconnecting it from the pipes and sink
- Clean off the old corroded putty
- Reseal with new putty
- Re-connect the disposal and test
Leak Location #2: Side
If your garbage disposal is leaking from the sides, it's likely the result of drain pipes needing tightened or replaced. There are two pipes feeding into your disposal unit: One to the dishwasher and another to the sewer line. The first thing you can try - if you're comfortable with the process - is tightening the screws on each line. Note that the main drain line (for the sewer) will have a rubber gasket inside that might need replaced. If that's the case, or the pipes themselves need replace, I would advise calling a plumber.
Steps to Fix
- Tighten screws on drain pipe from dishwasher
- Tighten screws on drain pipe from sewer (main drain line)
Leak Location #3: Bottom
Make sure you determine whether the garbage disposal is leaking from the bottom or if it's just dripping from the bottom while the actual leak is higher up on the unit. Almost any leak will run down to the bottom of the disposal, but won't necessarily originate there. If it is only coming from the bottom, this is where the garbage disposal itself is probably the issue, perhaps from one of the seals inside the unit which can wear out over time.
In this scenario, your best bet is to replace the unit. The work involved with replacing worn seals is extensive, and would only be a patch fix for an old unit.
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Though garbage disposals make our lives easier, it can be extremely frustrating when they break and/or just wear out. Before you make any moves, take the time to identify the source of the leak and - if necessary - consult professional help. If it's not the flange or the pipes and the interior of the device is causing the leak, it's best to just replace the unit entirely.