Never had a garbage disposal - should I get one?

barlowmomApril 24, 2014

I have never lived anywhere with a garbage disposal, which seem to be uncommon in my neck of the woods. I can't even think of anyone I know who has one.

But we are remodeling our kitchen and I could add one now at comparatively little expense.

Are they that useful?

Should I be concerned about the children grinding up their toys in it, or worse, their fingers?

Our lot is too small to accommodate a compost heap and I haven't bought one of those tumbler things yet, so right now I throw out our scraps. We are on the city sewer line, if that matters.

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I find it very handy. I scrape plates off into the sink with the disposal and when I am done doing dishes, I turn it on, let it run for a few seconds and then I'm done. I don't have to have a trash can close to my sink. I've never had problems with toys or fingers, but my kids can't reach the switch on the wall yet either. Hopefully by the time they are old enough to reach the switch, they will know to be careful.

My parents always had one and I never put anything in it I wasn't supposed to growing up.

They really aren't that expensive, around 100 dollars. I say why not? Even if you end up not using it or not using it often, its only 100 dollars.
Its the same reason I went ahead and got tip out trays on both of my sinks. It was 15 dollars for the tip outs and I figured, eh why not?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:05PM
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I rarely use my garbage disposal, but it's nice to know it's there if I do need to use it. Who knows? You may find yourself wondering how you ever lived without one!

I think if we really though about all the ways kids could hurt themselves in our modern homes, we'd only be happy living in a room full of feather pillows. Worrying about your kids grinding their fingers up is not a reason to not get a GD. Once they've been told what will happen to their fingers should they stick them in there, they won't do it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:10PM
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If you google for threads on this forum on garbage disposal you will see it is a hot button issue.

You will find a wide variety of situations and opinions on disposals. Some live in areas which they are banned, some think they are terrible for the environment, some have had disposals and had issues with them, some have and use them, some love them and would never live in a house without them. You will find all that and lots more.

Personally we have one, love it, no issues, can't imagine ever living without one.

Edited to add: One jam in 25+ years when a fork when into the disposal. It NEVER smells. It never clogs. My Dh installed our first one when we bought our first house. He did it to prevent clogged drains. Nothing can go down the drain without being ground up. There are no issues when changing faucets or sinks. Be there done that a few times over the years.

This post was edited by debrak2008 on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 18:41

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:11PM
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Sometimes I miss a garbage disposal, but not really. We have only just moved but I will be setting up a compost pile rather than waste so much great stuff!

They get to stinking pretty badly sometimes, which means a good hot water flush or grinding up a ton of ice cubes to scrape out accumulated gunk.

they are also hard on septic systems, but since you are on city sewer that is not an issue.

They are also prone to get jammed, even when we are careful bits of broken glass or plastic gets in them, or coins, or chicken bone chips, whatever. Putting my hand in there was my least favorite thing to do, even with it powerless. So gross!

So, I suppose the sentiment that they are cheap so why not is vaild, because you can choose to use it or choose to not, but I am more glad than sorry to not have one anymore.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:18PM
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NO, I'd stay away from might more likely to cause clogged drains....and if you ever need to change sink/faucet, this thing would cause much more trouble......

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:32PM
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That's really weird. I, like debrak have been using a disposal for 20 years and I've never had a jam or clog and no smells. I wonder why the difference in use?

I guess if you have never used one before then it won't bother you to not have one, personally I would hate having to remember to scrape plates into a trash or get all the gunk out of a sink strainer after dishes.

This post was edited by Texas_Gem on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 18:50

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:47PM
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I won't even consider one but we compost and it makes our garden and flower beds so beautiful. If I lived close to you I'd say save your money and save your scraps for me!!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:48PM
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I've lived with and without. Frankly, I could go either way. My DH, on the other hand, seems to feel that they are an absolute necessity.

When I didn't have one, I would put scraps in the freezer until garbage day. A trick I picked up from my grandfather (who never wasted things) was to use the 1/2 gallon milk container for these scrap collectors - we'd rinse out the milk container, "break" open the top so that it would fully open and then you'd "smash" it down flat where the grooves were for the container to fold in. Worked great. We usually buy milk by the gallon now though, so I rarely have those containers.

As for our GD, I haven't had one jam in all the time we've had ours. And almost never have odor from it. But, I'll regularly put a few ice cubes down in there along with some citrus peels and that seems to keep it pretty fresh.

I am kind of hoping to begin doing a bit more with composting and if I do, less will go down the GD, but we'll still have use for it anyway.

The only thing that I ever wound up with mangling in it was a measuring spoon - it was in the sink when I had a single bowl sink and I turned on the GD and it fell down in. Didn't do any damage to anything other than the measuring spoon.

As for kids grinding things up (toys, fingers, etc.) I suppose it depends on your kids - I learned as a child and have always been an advocate of teaching your children not to do certain things. YMMV.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:23PM
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I compost too (well, I dump my bucket of scraps in a compost bin, I don't actually USE it) but I still like having a garbage disposal for that which invariably ends up in the sink despite my valiant efforts.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:30PM
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I compost, but you can't compost everything. I'm not going to put meat, pecan pie, cheesecake or squash casserole in the compost bin. I would hate having those things sitting in the trash and smelling. We've had our disposal for 11 years, and never a jam, clogged pipe, or smell. It's not hard to change the sink either. My wife did just that recently in about 30 minutes with zero plumbing experience and a YouTube video. As far as kids, I of all people am aware of kitchen dangers after the food processor incident. But I don't think a young child could reach the switch or get their hand down in it. By the time they're big enough, they should know better.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:41PM
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Right now my kids are small (5, 3, and 7 months) and we have already had a bit of experimenting with flushing toys down the toilet. I didn't realize there was a wall switch, though, which would help.

It would be nice to cut down on the trash stink.

Maybe I can ask the plumber what his experience has been. We are in an older house and our sewer line is probably relatively small, so my only other concern is clogging the pipe.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:59PM
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I vote yes. They make garbage disposals that do not work off a wall switch, but instead have a cover that has magnets and you put the cover in the disposal and twist to start it. Since I have young kids I chose that kind. Doesn't stop them from grinding up toys, but it keeps little fingers out of the disposal.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 8:33PM
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Blech. :) I vote no. In fact we got rid of the one in our old kitchen and didn't install one when we renovated. Our plumber was definitely against them, and I had to agree when I saw the thick black smelly gunk that he pulled out of our pipes -- the accumulation of years of grinding veggie scraps. We weren't in the habit of grinding up meat (which probably shouldn't go into the city sewer system anyway). He said the gunk from meat ground up in a garbage disposal was even worse.

I have never missed having one, and now that we have kids I am doubly glad. We take our kitchen trash outside often enough that the trash can doesn't smell.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 8:56PM
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There are 2 kinds of GD, batch feed and continuous feed. The batch feed (which I find very inconvenient although definitely a finger saver) requires you to put a stopper in the opening before it operates.
I love my GD. I've had one for most of the past 30 years. I have had a couple of clogs when I had GD with a smaller motor, but nothing that I had to call a plumber for as the plunger cleared it out without issue. I tend to run it longer than necessary to ensure everything is "disposed", I don't have any issue with smells and I really appreciate the GD when we have a city garbage strike!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:23PM
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We just installed our first one a week ago and love it so far! I hated cleaning the gross trapped food out of the little strainer at the bottom of the sink. Also, I never knew what to do when one of our kids left half a bowl of cereal. I didn't want to throw the milk in the trash but didn't want to rinse whole Cheerios down the drain either. Now I grind them up!

We also bought the batch feed kind that requires the cover to be on in order to run because our kids are little (1 1/2 and 4).

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:53PM
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I got one in my most recent kitchen because I could. Previously they were not permitted in NYC and it seemed like a good idea.

I usually forgot to use it and after the novelty wore off I never used it. My garbage pails are stored outside and I have curbside garbage pickup 2x/week so it's not a burden to throw things in the garbage. I don't see the horror of emptying the sink basket into the garbage. I don't plan to compost on my small city lot.

It's taking up a lot of space in a base cabinet that I could use for other things. Some day I'll probably remove it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 10:19PM
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I do compost every little bit that I can, but I still missed the GD when didn't have one -- it is just nice for stuff that I scrub out of the pots & pans that won't get into the compost pail, and nice to not have to clean the sink strainer. I wouldn't worry about the kids, they can be taught.

If you are on a city sewer, in the end the stuff that you send down the GD gets composted (by the city). At least it does in my town.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 10:39PM
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I rarely us ours, but like jelly toast and others, I really love having it. I use it for things that won't compost, and only small bits of that, after scraping. I try to be mindful of what I'm sending to the water treatment plant, you know? But I've had a GD in every house for the last 30 years with never a clog or failure. That said, they do hog a lot of under-cab real estate so yep, consider your space needs. If you've never had one, you mightn't miss it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 10:56PM
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At this point I have to ask, what do most of you put in your compost pile and/or what do you put in your disposal?

I don't have a compost pile but I can tell you what I put in my disposal. Today it was dumping out the half eaten bowl of cheerios my kid didn't finish, the remnants of my babies dinner that she didn't eat (it was beef stew) and the last bit of a casserole that I cleaned out of the fridge, plus the stuff that was stuck to all the plates, bowls, pots and pans I used. If I use a lime or lemon, I always throw the rind in to grind because it helps disinfect.

Banana peels, potato peelings, old bread, half eaten burrito, chicken bones (after I've made some awesome stock) all go in the trash can. Coffee grounds get dumped right outside onto the soil around my roses.

Maybe that is where the difference lies in peoples experiences.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:27PM
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About the only thing we don't compost is meat, although many times there has been small bits of meat left on a steak bone that went through our compost pile just fine. We have a very large lot and do not have neighbors behind us so our compost piles are all the way at the back of the property. A properly turned and aerated compost pile has very little smell...a pile of kitchen scraps that are just dumped into a pile and never turned will definitely smell.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 8:10AM
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I am with Debrak in that I've had disposals in my home since I was a kid, and never once had a clog or a smelly drain.

I am surprised no one has mentioned what you'll see highlighted in other GW threads on disposals - you MUST buy a disposal that is 3/4 hp or 1 hp, no smaller. Anything smaller, that is when plumbers say problems arise. A less powerful disposal than 3/4 hp means both a larger grind, which could cause clogs, and also it means the parts are not stainless steel, which causes longevity issues. The 3/4 hp and 1 hp disposals have stainless steel grinders. It is not much of an upcharge to buy 3/4 hp or 1 hp disposal, and as the OP said the disposal is not such a big expense in a kitchen. Insinkerator is the leading brand. The Kitchenaid and Kenmore models are actually Insinkerators, just so you know.

I've always had batch feed disposals. Insinkerator calls it the "Cover Control" model. It's the kind where you have to put the lid on to get the disposal to run. That way, no accidental grinds, and no possibility of hands in the disposal while it's running. Children won't find it fun to have to put the cover on to get the disposal to run, unlike the thrill a child might get of flipping the switch and the disposal starts. Also, the batch feeds don't have the flange covering them, and those flanges gross me out cause they are impossible to be clean, so one more reason to prefer the batch feed style. You won't need to install a switch anywhere - the cover is the switch. Perhaps it is more of a pain to have to put the cover on to run the disposal, but everything has a pro and con. I like the other features better on the batch feeds, so for me, they outweigh that con. You decide which you prefer.

Whichever disposal you choose, make sure it will fit properly under your sink with your drainage plumbing. Insinkerator also makes a 3/4 hp disposal which is their "compact" model for spaces that are small. It's not a batch feed, so you'll need the separate switch, but it has a good reputation for being a good solution to cramped space under sink.

Here is a link that might be useful: Insinkerator 3/4 hp Cover Control Disposal

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 8:27AM
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Is ANYONE else missing marcolo right now? Was always good for a great GD discussion. Please return soon!!!

"It's true, some do enjoy fondling the squid tentacles and liver parts that get caught in strainers as they blindly fumble about trying to force the murky water to go down. I am not among them.

A GD also acts as a powerful pump when you need to get the dirty water out, but that deprives one of an opportunity to use the bailing bucket."


"There seem to be an outsized minority at GW who do not use GDs. In my area at least, this is highly unusual and would be regarded as a serious problem.
It kind of depends whether you enjoy thrusting your fingers into chicken blood water to scoop up tiny bits of avian kidneys, or lovingly stroking slimy pieces of squid tentacles. Also, if the shrimp digestive tracts that fell into the water while you were rinsing your hands do clog the drain, some bits of them will inevitably slip into the pipe when you get the water flowing again, where they will sit and provide an aroma you can enjoy for days to come.

I don't use a GD to dispose of entire turkey sandwiches the way some people do, but in addition to grinding up dinner leftovers it is also a tremendously useful pump, and I wouldn't want to cook without one."

I have had them and not had them. Wired for one in remodel in case someone wants one down the line, but they kind of scare me...

Here is a link that might be useful: Older GD discussion

This post was edited by cluelessincolorado on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 9:46

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:41AM
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I've always had one in my house, even when growing up. Never had a problem with it jamming, smelling, or anything else. I don't use it extensively, but I do use it.

My situation's a bit different than many people in that I'm on the road most of the time. Therefore, being able to immediately dispose of wet/damp food is very attractive to me. I'm not always able to be home when trash day is.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:50AM
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Circus Peanut

Ha Clueless! I was just thinking the same thing. I do miss Marcolo and often wonder how his remodel went.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:23AM
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Our 'starter' house came with an excellent disposal. When we built new in 2001 (after thirty years in the 'starter'), I didn't want that cylinder lined with rotting gunk an inch from something in my sink.

I've missed having a disposal twice. I used the toilet to dispose of those messes too wet to put in the garbage pullout next to my sink.

There are too many things the disposal will not 'digest', and I don't HAVE that much 'garbage' anyway. We barely have enough to put out for collection weekly; certainly not the twice-weekly our town does collect.

Now...recycling! THAT we have in spades! My pullout houses two bins -- one garbage and one recycling.

How much would you use a disposal? You might try putting only 'disposal-friendly' garbage into a separate container for a few days to see how much there is. No banana skins. No stringy veggies. No big bones. No corn cobs or husks. (In my experience, nothing much!)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 11:49AM
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I've always had a GD and I wouldn't want to be without one. Ours (even growing up) have never been smelly, and the few jams I've experienced personally or remember as a kid were easily taken care of with the hex key that comes with the GD. Turn the bolt thingy on the bottom of the GD and wha-la, no more jam. Super easy. We compost, but only veggies. And we don't eat a lot of meat so the meat that goes down our GD is small remains of fish or chicken. Like others, what we put down the GD are cereal remains, rice, pasta etc... Never any bones. Those don't grind up well and the sound is awful! I didn't even know there were disposals that you had to cover before using. I've always had the kind w/a switch. My kids have never stuck their hands down the drain, and I never did as a kid either, so I think if you make it clear not to, your kids will be fine.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:16PM
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chisue - wait...this is going to sound stupid, but we put banana peels down our GD...we aren't supposed to???

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:08PM
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This can be important: Don't put a one horsepower disposer in a system with quarter horsepower drains.

In other less pretentious words, older houses might accommodate only disposers that won't cram masses of stuff down a clog-prone drainage system. Bigger isn't always better.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:16PM
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Maybe it's a Regional thing? I don't believe I've ever heard of anyone not having a garbage disposal, unless they lived in a super cheap apartment. At least until I discovered Garden Web.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:32PM
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I've always had a garbage disposal. I actually put two in this kitchen. I'm not a fan of cleaning out a sink drainer at all. We have two children 6 and 3 and they have never put anything down them. Up until now we have had a wall switch. The remodel has an air switch and an in cabinet switch. I will always have one unless it is otherwise restricted.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:23PM
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I've lived with and without a GD. When I had one, I rarely used it. Now I don't have one. I don't miss it.

Our KD wants us to add one during the remodel. She says she uses hers every day, like many of the posters above. I don't know if we should. We don't have public sewer here.

I don't find it gross to empty the drain basket into the trash can. For half-eaten soup or cereal or anything like that, I drain the liquid in the sink and dump the solid into the trash can. I do clean the sink with soap almost everyday. Our trash pickup is twice a week, often enough to keep the trash smell out of the house.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:46PM
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Circus Peanut

From many years on this forum, I have gleaned that there is a Canadian/USian split in kitchen appliance habits: Canadians rarely have disposals ("garburators"), whereas they do still often have trash compactors; in the US it's vice versa. I think the last trash compactor I saw was in 1978.

We've had insinkerators and not had them. Currently have been without for about a year and a half. Don't miss it particularly since we too have city recycling with a handy little plastic bin next to the sink for scraping plates.

I can second the rec for a batch-feed Insinkerator, they are very well made, you can entirely dispense with figuring out where the switch would go, and the cover ensures that no fingers or other items get washed down while grinding.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:08PM
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About the comments about banana peels - if you buy a good quality disposal that is 3/4 hp or more, you can indeed put banana peels down the disposal. If you buy a builders' special "Badger" style, or a 1/3-1/2 hp, then you cannot. Simple as that.

I have a 9-year-old Waste King batch feed 3/4 hp 9900TC disposal. For 9 years I have put in banana peels, chicken bones, pineapple skins (though not pineapple tops), shrimp peelings, etc. I've never had a clog. The Instruction Manual specifically lists what this batch feed disposal can grind: "table scraps, peelings, rinds, seeds, small bones, coffee grounds. Break up large bones and cobs before grinding".

I have been impressed with my Waste King. It also has a 10-year in-home warranty. However, I believe that the Insinkerators are much quieter and also are well made.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 9:51PM
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A must have. It rids your trash of onion peels and other stinky things that would linger in your trash container. Also helps prevent drain clogs.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:02PM
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I would sooner give up my dishwasher than my garbage disposal. Have had one since 1972 (well, not the same one, since I have moved and renovated a couple of times) and it is the BEST. No smelly food in the trash, easy clean-up. I have always had the Insinkerator and much prefer the one with the cover than the one with the wall switch. Safer, esp. with kids -- and nothing can fall in while you are grinding.
Get one!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:34PM
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