Smoke from Garbage Disposal: Causes, Hazards, and Troubleshooting Tips

Garbage disposals are a great invention. It is incredibly nice to be able to dispose of old food that comes from dishes. However, these inventions can break down and cause some unique issues.

Smoke coming out of garbage disposals is typically caused by the motor overheating or being blocked up. The easiest way to fix the smoking is to clean out the garbage disposal. Some find that it can also be an electrical issue that needs to be handled by a professional.

Now that it is clear why smoke is oozing out from a garbage disposal, there are a few different facets to look into. Some of these include what causes the garbage disposal to smoke, what models are more prone to a malfunctioning motor, if it is possible to repair the garbage disposal without a professional, how much it costs to repair, how to repair a smoking garbage disposal, and how to prevent the smoking from happening again.

What Specifically Causes a Garbage Disposal to Smoke?

There are two main issues that are often the culprit for a smoking garbage disposal. All of these issues center around problems with the motor. The motor is what gets the blades to spin and cut food into smaller pieces. Sometimes, hard pieces of food or utensils cause the motor to work overtime.

you may not realize right away that there are pieces of hardened food and utensils in the way of the blades. If they unknowingly leave it running for too long, it can cause heat in the motor. This can cause either the food or the motor to start to smoke. It’s comforting for people to understand that the garbage disposal had not caught on fire, so there is no danger to the home.

There can be some other issues that might be causing the garbage disposal to smoke. The main other culprit is electrical issues. If something is wrong with the wiring, the current can melt the wires and cause smoke. This issue is much more complicated to handle and you likely need to get an electrician to look into the disposal and handle the issue.

Which Models are Prone to Smoking?

There is not a widely known type or brand of garbage disposal known for smoking. There has only been one major recall of garbage disposals for smoking/causing a fire, which happened in 2018 for the InSinkErator Single Outlet SinkTop Switches. This was due to a design flaw that allowed water into the power module. However, there wasn’t any sort of issue with the garbage disposal itself.

It is comforting that there are no disposal models or brands that are known for having a smoke problem. Regardless of the model, it is always a smart idea to have a newer model of disposal. Garbage disposals tend to last about 15 years when well treated, so if a disposal is getting to be around that age, it is smart to consider replacing it soon.

Is it Possible to Repair it Without Hiring a Professional?

For many of the issues that cause a smoking garbage disposal, there are some things that you can try at home before they call in a professional and pay the rates. Usually, you just need to check and make sure that the disposal is not clogged. This method and other methods do not require additional tools and are easily accomplished by the majority of people.

Other methods require purchasing or using other pieces of equipment. For those who fear that it is an electrical issue, they would need to purchase or borrow a tool to check a power outlet and see if there is a good and safe amount of electricity flowing through it.

If money is tight, you can also rely on skilled family and friends to help them out. If a person doesn’t have any family or friends who have this range of skills, you can also use online resources to get additional help.

Once reassured that the content creator is legitimate and professionally skilled, a person can feel confident in following the different steps they suggest. If you are unsure of the reliability of YouTube, there are also online courses that you can take which are more reputable than some random person.

How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Smoking Garbage Disposal?

Ultimately, how much it will cost to repair a smoking garbage disposal depends on the issue. If it is caused by some utensils or food getting stuck, it can easily be fixed by a person flushing out the system. This can be free, as it just requires water to flush the system out. You can invest in some cleaning products to enhance the cleaning, but it is often not required.

If a person ends up having to hire a professional to repair their smoking garbage disposal, there can be some additional costs to consider. The average cost is around $250-$400. Some problems also require the disposal to be removed and replaced, which costs around the same amount as high-end repairs. This is not always affordable for many families and households. However, sometimes it is worth it to have someone look at your garbage disposal when it is smoking or having issues functioning properly.

It can ultimately be a faster, cleaner, and more effective process long term. It also might be worth it to have someone come in if a person is afraid of getting hurt by attempting to fix the disposal on their own. Luckily, the most common issues are easily fixed by the average person.

How to Repair a Smoking Garbage Disposal

There are many different solutions to fix a smoking garbage disposal. The first step is to identify what smoking is caused by. After a person recognizes that the disposal is smoking or it smells like smoke, they should turn the disposal off and wait until the heat has died down. This can take a few minutes.

It is also a good idea to get a kitchen fan going to improve airflow so the smoke or smell doesn’t bother you. It can also help prevent any weird smells that come from the disposal from sticking around.

Once the disposal has stopped grinding and the heat has diminished, it is good to get underneath the sink and look around. Some disposals will get a hole in the pipe that causes water to leak out. Water outside of the pipe or around the motor can lead to water going towards electrical outlets.

When water comes in contact with electricity, it can cause smoke. If there is water trailing to the outlet or even just outside of the pipe, this can also lead to additional issues later on. This kind of issue with disposal almost always requires a plumber to get in and reseal it or replace the garbage disposal.

If all looks well underneath the sink, the next step is to try and clean out the disposal. This can be done by using a disposal wrench to twist the blades and get them unstuck. Sometimes the blades aren’t stuck, but they are clanging against something hard. If there are utensils or food seen in between the blades, it is likely that they are what is causing the smoking.

Even though it may be gross to reach in and remove the food or utensils, it needs to be done to prevent further damage to the disposal. Wearing plastic gloves can help eliminate any queasiness that comes from touching old or wet food. Gloves can also help you feel safer when reaching in and around the blades.

Once any food and utensils have been removed, it is best to flush out the disposal. This can be done by running water through the system for several minutes. You also might try to use cleaning products to unclog the pipe as well. Something to note is that there are times when the disposal is working great, but the pipe collects too much gunk that has hardened. This might stop additional waste from continuing into the sewage system and cause the motor to overwork itself and start to smoke.

Drain cleaners can break down waste in the pipe and allow food to be disposed of correctly and not remain near the blades.

After doing these steps, a person should try and turn the disposal again. If the smoking continues, that points to additional issues that cannot be resolved by someone who has no experience in plumbing or electrical work. The best plan of action from this point is to stop using the disposal and call someone who is skilled in plumbing and possibly electrical to get further advice.

Until it is fixed, it is best to wash dishes in such a way that does not require the garbage disposal to be used. If you have double sinks should use the disposal-free side until the problem has been resolved.

How to Prevent Smoking

Like most things, it is easier to prevent an issue than fix it. Preventing smoke from coming from the disposal is a matter of creating small and simple habits that promote the longevity of the disposal.

I remember when my family’s garbage disposal started to smoke and how scary that was for me as a child. The problem was caused by a fork that had gotten stuck in the blades and wouldn’t budge. After my father fished out the fork, the smoking stopped, and the disposal was able to be used for several more years with few issues. From that experience, I learned to be much more careful now with putting silverware in the sink, especially the side with the disposal.

When someone avoids leaving utensils in the sink, especially metal ones, they can reduce the likelihood of the utensils getting stuck in the disposal. If a person is consistently handling the utensils well, they will not experience utensils getting caught in the blades. This can extend the disposal’s life by several years and prevent it from smoking.

Another simple habit that you can adopt to promote the longevity of their disposal and reduce the chances of smoke is to avoid putting hard or oversized pieces of food in the disposal. If the food is easily broken down and disposed of, the blades can’t become duller or stuck. That helps avoid garbage disposal smoking issues and also extends the life of the disposal.

Something my father taught me is to never use it for more than a few seconds at a time. He also had me run water while I was using the disposal. By doing this, the food was being pushed down the drain by the water, which helped the food not get stuck. It also helped reduce the chance that the disposal will start overheating.

By reducing the length of time I would run the disposal, I found that the disposal was likely in better condition for a much longer period of time. As a family, we also would run the disposal after every time we washed dishes to make sure nothing got clogged or stuck in the disposal. This helped us reduce food buildup and utensil loss.

There are many different techniques they like to employ to reduce the chance of their garbage disposal smoking. Other techniques that have been found effective include never allowing certain foods or materials to go to disposal.

Some of the items deemed unsafe for disposal include nuts, seeds, pits, shells, and any sort of bone. Even though these items can be considered food products, they all are too hard to break apart. It would be a good idea to not put these items, even the small ones, in the disposal, as they can cause problems long term.

Things that are not considered food products should also never be put at the disposal, like plastic wrap. These can also damage the blades and motor of disposal.