Types Of Garbage Disposals
To use a continuous-feed
garbage disposal you simply turn on your water faucet, switch the unit on, and
begin pushing food waste down the drain into the grinding chamber. Using this
kind of disposer is quick, easy and intuitive, but isn't necessarily safe.
Non-waste items can drop into the unit, requiring you to fish them out with a hand
or tool, and you have to be extra careful not to turn on the disposal while
you're doing it. This can make continuous-feed disposals risky in homes with
small children—or easily distracted adults.
This type of disposal eliminates
the dangers of continuous-feed models. To use a batch-feed garbage disposal,
you push the waste into the drain, then cover the hole is with a magnetic lid
that activates the disposal's power switch. Lifting the lid to add more food
scraps turns the disposal off. This is slower than using a continuous feed
model, but that's not always a bad thing, since it minimizes the strain on
older pipes. Slowing down the process also reduces the risk of dropping
silverware in to be mangled by the disposer's blades.
Garbage disposals can pose a
problem for homeowners who use septic systems. Unless the system is properly
sized and designed to handle the extra waste and water, food waste can clog up
the system - especially if it isn't finely ground enough. This means homeowners
may need to pump out the tank more often, and it could shorten the overall life
of the system. However, some garbage disposals are specially designed for use
with septic tanks. Typically, they use enzymes or bacteria to help break down
the waste so it won't overburden the system.
The benefits of a home garbage disposal
When you finish a meal at home,
you're often left with a variety of food scraps -- bones, vegetable peels,
pizza crusts -- that need to be disposed of somehow. You can compost them (if
you have curbside compost pickup or a compost bin or pile), throw them in the
trash (where they can smell bad and attract pests) ... or, if you have a
garbage disposal, just push them into the sink drain to be ground up and washed
If you're hooked up to a local
sewer system, the food waste gets flushed into the pipes to be treated at a
wastewater plant. When the strained-out food residue breaks down, it produces
methane, a potent greenhouse gas -- but a few cities, such as Philadelphia,
capture this gas at the sewage treatment plant to produce energy (in fact, Philadelphia now requires garbage disposals in new residential construction).
However, garbage disposals
might not be right for everyone. We detailed the issues for homeowners on
septic systems above, but even if you are hooked up to a sewer system, you need
to confirm that it is equipped to handle the extra waste load garbage disposals
can produce. Some towns discourage garbage-disposal use because they're afraid
homeowners will misuse them by dumping fats and other greasy residues, which
can clog sewers, or because water is scarce. In areas like this, home or
curbside composting is a better option for dealing with food waste.
Choosing the right garbage disposal
If you decide that a garbage
disposal is right for you, the next step is to choose the best model for your
household. In general, the more often you use your disposal, and the more waste
you put down it at a time, the larger the unit you need. So, for instance, if
your household has more than four members and you cook at home more than a few
times per week, you'll need a disposal with a large chamber capacity and a
powerful motor - at least 0.75 horsepower. By contrast, if you're a one- or
two-person household and need to dispose of food waste only a couple of times a
week, you can probably manage with a smaller 0.5-horsepower model. However, if
you routinely host large dinner parties, you may want to invest in a more
powerful disposal to make sure it can keep up with your biggest jobs.
Also consider the space you
have available for your garbage disposal. Disposals are installed under the
kitchen sink and hook up directly to the drain. If you have a dishwasher, its water
outlet is hooked up to the disposal's. Larger, more powerful and more expensive
disposals will typically take up more space than some less robust models, and
might be a challenge -- or near impossible -- to install if space under the
sink is tight.
Finding The Best Garbage Disposal
Credible expert reviews of
garbage disposals are hard to come by. That said, ConsumerReports.org provides
lots of helpful, testing-based information. Otherwise, we turned to user
reviews from sites like Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com to learn how garbage
disposals performed in real-world situations, sometimes after months or years
of use. The result of that research is our picks for the best continuous-feed,
batch-feed, and septic-tank-friendly garbage disposals. If the bottom line is a
top concern, we name a top budget-friendly choice, too.
The best continuous-feed garbage disposals are
powerful and quiet
When you have a high-performing
garbage disposal, you can entertain large groups without fearing the cleanup
that comes after. The best models work fast, run so quietly that you can still
carry on a conversation, and grind food waste finely so there's minimal chance
of blocking your drain or jamming the machine. They're also made of
high-quality materials, including stainless steel grinding chambers, so they
won't corrode or rust quickly. Paying for the best performance usually gets you
the longest, most comprehensive warranty as well.
No other garbage disposal on
the market earns so many recommendations from both professionals and homeowners
as the InSinkErator Evolution Excel (Est. $325), a continuous-feed garbage disposal. In professional
tests, its 1-horsepower motor reduces food scraps to tiny particles. Owners on
retail sites consistently agree that the Excel can chop up anything they throw
at it, including steak bones, corncobs, watermelon rinds, a pineapple top, and
an avocado complete with the skin and pit.
What impresses owners
still more, however, is its quietness. Many users report that this disposal
makes so little noise that they have to check the switch to make sure it's
running. It's also one of the quietest garbage disposals in ConsumerReports.org's
Most homeowners say
they had no trouble installing the InSinkErator Evolution Excel, but some
caution that it's very heavy and takes up a lot of space under the sink. On the
plus side, that extra weight reflects its sturdy construction. We saw almost no
durability complaints about this disposal, which has a rust-resistant stainless
steel grinding chamber and is backed by a seven-year warranty. The main problem
users have with the Excel is that its baffle -- the rubber gasket that covers
the drain --creates too much of an obstruction. Drainage is slow, and some
users say they have to shove food down into the disposal opening by hand.
InSinkErator Excel is certainly tough, professional tests show it's not
particularly fast. If speed is a priority for you, consider the Waste King Legend 8000 (Est. $155), which earns good marks for both speed
and fineness of grinding. Users agree that this 1-horsepower continuous-feed disposer
is powerful enough to handle all types of waste, and most find its "EZ Mount"
system very easy to install. However, they're much more divided over its noise
level, with some praising its quietness and others complaining that it's too
loud. Professional tests show the Waste King's noise level to be
moderate—not as loud as some cheaper disposals, but certainly not as whisper-quiet
as the InSinkErator.
InSinkErator, the Waste King does not have a stainless-steel grinding chamber.
The actual grinding components are made of stainless steel, but the chamber is
nylon lined with fiberglass. This means it can't rust, but cracking is a
possibility. Although the Waste King is backed by an impressive lifetime
warranty, users are split about how well the company honors it. Of the few
users who have had problems, about half praise the company's outstanding
customer service, while the other half complain that reps are hard to reach and
seize on any possible excuse to refuse to cover repairs.
disposer that gets good marks across the board is the 0.75-horsepower KitchenAid KCDS075T (Est. $240). It's not as fast as the Waste King in
professional tests, but it matches the InSinkErator's quietness and fine grind
size and costs less. This garbage disposal doesn't receive nearly as much user
feedback as the Waste King or the InSinkErator, but what we found is highly
positive. Owners describe it as durable, easy to install, and easy to keep
clean. However, its five-year warranty isn't as impressive as the
InSinkErator's seven years, or the Waste King's lifetime warranty.
just isn't enough room for a full-size garbage disposal. Deep sinks (including
some popular apron or farm sinks) gobble up territory; so do under-sink water
filtration systems, instant-hot water systems and trash pullouts.
cabinets, the InSinkErator Evolution Compact (Est. $170) is your
best bet, reviews say. This space-saving garbage disposal is only 3/4 inch
shorter and 1/4 inch narrower than the Best Reviewed InSinkErator Evolution
Excel -- not much of a difference at first glance, but enough in reality that
users are pleased with the extra room under the sink.
Compared with the
1-horsepower Evolution Excel, the 0.75-horsepower Evolution Compact sounds
louder and doesn't grind food quite as finely in tests. The Compact lacks the
Excel's jam sensor (which automatically increases torque to power through jams)
and auto-reverse (which helps clear jams), and its warranty is shorter (four
years versus seven). However, the Compact also costs half as much as the Excel
-- and owners at HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com are plenty happy with the Compact,
awarding it hundreds of perfect 5-star ratings.
Garbage disposals for small
best-rated garbage disposals cost at least $160, there are some decent continuous-feed
models on the market for considerably less than that price. When you buy a
cheaper garbage disposal, you generally sacrifice two things: horsepower and
build quality. While the disposers covered elsewhere in this report have 0.75-
to 1-horsepower motors, budget garbage disposals generally have no more than
0.5 horsepower. However, this is sufficient for a medium-sized household that
grinds scraps daily or a few times per week. Cheap garbage disposals also tend
to have parts made of galvanized steel or plastic rather than stainless steel.
This often—but not invariably—means they don't hold up as well over
In the $100 price
range, the best-rated garbage disposal is the KitchenAid KCDB250G (Est. $100), which
receives overwhelmingly positive reviews from hundreds of owners at retail websites.
At Amazon.com, for example, owners grant this budget KitchenAid garbage
disposal a 4.6-star rating based on more than 180 reviews.
garbage disposal isn't as powerful as higher-priced models, but most owners say
it has more than enough power for their needs. Owners also praise the ease of
installation and cleaning.
The most common
complaint we saw about the KCDB250G is that it's a bit noisy. However, those
reviewers tend to like the disposal anyway -- and other users say it's a
relatively quiet garbage disposal, especially compared with their old disposals.
The other weak point is the warranty, which is the shortest we've seen at only one
year. However, durability doesn't seem to be a major problem for this disposal
as we found only a handful of complaints about leaks or other failures.
KitchenAid gets good reviews from owners, it hasn't been covered in any
professional sources. However, the InSinkErator Badger 5 (Est. $80) has. This popular model receives good
scores from ConsumerReports.org for its speed and grind size. On noise,
however, it doesn't fare so well; in fact, it's louder than nearly every other
machine in the test.
The Badger 5 has
received thousands of reviews from owners at retail sites like Amazon.com,
Lowes.com and HomeDepot.com. Owners find it very easy to install, and most of
them say its noise level is not really a problem. The real weak point for this
disposer, however, is durability. We saw dozens of reviews complaining that the
Badger 5 developed leaks within a few years after purchase, usually as a result
of rust or cracks in the case. Fortunately, the disposal is backed by a two-year
warranty that covers in-home servicing and parts, so you can expect it to hold
up at least that long.
We found similar
comments for the InSinkErator Badger 1 (Est. $80), which is
essentially a smaller version of the Badger 5. It's less powerful than the
Badger 5 --only 0.33 horsepower -- but it's also more compact, at less than 12
inches high and just over 6 inches wide, allowing it to fit into small
under-sink spaces. Like the Badger 5, it gets high marks from owners for ease
of installation and ease of use, but there are many complaints about noise and
durability. It carries onlya one-year warranty.
Batch-feed disposals put safety first
Batch-feed garbage disposals
have the same basic inner workings as continuous-feed units; the only
difference is how they switch on. Most continuous-feed disposers begin grinding
when you flip a switch on the wall or countertop and keep running regardless of
what you stuff inside. Batch-feed disposals, on the other hand, activate only
once the drain has been covered.
To start a batch feed disposal,
you must line up magnets on the unit's cover and the mouth of the disposal.
Since you can't run the disposal and push scraps down the drain at the same
time, food waste must be ground up in batches. Because of that, these disposers
take more time to do the job than continuous feed models, but parents of young
children have the peace of mind of knowing the disposal won't operate while
fingers are in the drain.
There are only a few batch feed
garbage disposals available. The best, with positive ratings from both
professionals and homeowners, is the InSinkErator Evolution Cover Control Plus (Est. $270). In
professional tests, this 0.75-horsepower disposal actually grinds bones faster
than -- although not as finely as -- the 1-horsepower InSinkErator Evolution
Excel. It's just as quiet, and it blasts through stringy celery and fibrous
potato skins equally well.
Owners describe the
Cover Control Plus as powerful, sturdy and easy to install. Users consider the
batch-feed mechanism a major plus, since they no longer have to worry about
either fingers or utensils finding their way into a running disposal. On the
downside, it's bulky; some owners needed a plumber to rework their under-sink
pipes so the Cover Control Plus would fit. It's backed by a seven-year warranty.
Waste King's batch-feed
disposal, the 1-horsepower Waste King Legend 8000TC (Est. $180), grinds up
bones even faster than the InSinkErator Cover Control Plus in a professional
test. Most users at Amazon.com agree that it's powerful and runs smoothly
without clogs. However, it's noisier in tests (and noisy enough in real life
for several owners to knock off a star in their rating). Some users note that
the batch-feed system is somewhat tricky to use: the disposal won't start
unless the cover is positioned exactly right. It's also 2 inches taller than the
already bulky InSinkErator -- too tall to fit under some owners' sinks. The
Waste King carries a 10-year warranty.
A septic-tank friendly garbage
Homeowners with septic systems instead
of sewers must always be careful about what they put down the drain. Food waste
from a garbage disposal can clog up the system, especially if it isn't ground finely
enough. Even finely ground waste can fill up the tank more quickly, requiring
it to be pumped more often—an expensive and time-consuming process. Because
of this, homeowners with septic systems are often told they shouldn't use a
garbage disposal at all.
A possible work-around is the InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist (Est. $210). This continuous-feed disposer contains a
"Bio-Charge" cartridge that automatically injects enzyme-producing
microorganisms into the unit, helping to break down waste as it flows into the
septic system. User reviews at Amazon.com, Lowes.com and HomeDepot.com say this
system works as advertised, and they've had no problems with plumbing clogs or
backups since installing it. They also appreciate the fact that the Bio-Charge
dispenser works automatically, so they don't have to add any chemicals by hand.
According to the manufacturer, one InSinkErator BIO-CG Evolution Septic Assist Bio Charge Cartridge (Est. $15) should last three to four
months with average use.
Aside from its unique
Bio-Charge feature, the Evolution Septic Assist is a solid disposal boasting a
0.75-horsepower motor and stainless steel construction. Although it's large and
takes up a lot of real estate under the sink, users generally say it's easy to
install, and it's a very quiet garbage disposal. Their main complaint is that
installing it slows down the drainage in the sink. Some users find that they
have to push food waste down into the disposal by hand, as the motor won't suck
it down on its own. The InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist is backed by a
four-year warranty that covers both parts and in-home service.
The Evolution Septic Assist is
the only garbage disposal we've found that's designed specifically to work with
a septic system. Some reviewers say they've successfully used other garbage
disposals while on septic tanks, such as the Best-Reviewed InSinkErator
Evolution Excel, but the Bio-Charge catalyst makes the Septic Assist the safest
bet for any owner who wants to be sure the garbage disposal and the septic tank
play nicely together.
Expert & User Review Sources
The only credible professional
test of garbage disposals we found was at ConsumerReports.org. Editors
there put beef bones and vegetable scraps through 13 disposals and compared
their speed, fineness of grinding and noise level. We also picked through
thousands of user-written reviews on retail sites such as Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, Walmart.com and elsewhere. These sites offer
information on long-term durability and ease of installation, as well as
coverage of disposals that weren't included in the ConsumerReports.org test.