Even if you take great care of your garbage disposal, leaks can develop over time. You could find yourself reaching into the under-sink cabinet for dishwashing detergent only to discover an expanding pool of water! To complicate matters, it may not be immediately clear where the leak is coming from.
If you want to investigate the situation before calling a plumber, it’s important to know where and how to check for the source of the leak, as well as what your repair options are.
The Anatomy of a Garbage Disposal
With most garbage disposals, there are four areas where leaks can occur:
- The sink flange, which connects the top of the disposal to the bottom of the sink drain.
- The dishwasher connection, which is usually a rubber hose connected to the side of the disposal.
- The drain pipe, which is usually a plastic or metal pipe that drains water and food away to the sewer.
- The garbage disposal itself.
Identify the Source
If you want to conduct a test to find the source of the leak, begin by drying the outside of the disposal and sink flange so that any new moisture will stand out. Then place a stopper in the sink drain and fill the sink with several inches of water.
Wait for a few minutes while you observe the disposal under your sink. If you notice active dripping, that’s a sign that the leak is coming from the sink flange.
If it’s still dry, remove the drain plug from the sink and watch the disposal closely. You should be able to see water coming from one of the other three points -- either the dishwasher hose, the drain pipe or some other part of the disposal. The appropriate fix depends on where the dripping originates.
Whether to DIY
Depending on how comfortable you are performing your own plumbing repairs, you might be able to fix one or all of these problems yourself. But it can be easy to get in over your head with this job, so if you have any doubt, consider calling a licensed plumber after tracking down the source of the leak.
Fixing a leaky sink flange may be very easy. It could be a simple matter of tightening the bolts that hold the flange onto the sink drain. But if that doesn’t work, you may need to apply a new layer of plumbers putty to seal the flange into place. To do this, you’ll need to loosen the mounting bolts and create enough space between the flange and drain to smear a fresh dab of putty all the way around the drain. Then just re-tighten the bolts and wait a few hours for the putty to form a tight seal.
If the leak is coming from the dishwasher hose, you’ll need to determine whether the hose is cracked or simply loose. A cracked hose will need to be replaced altogether, but a loose hose can usually be fixed by just tightening the hose clamp.
Similarly, a drain line leak may possibly be fixed by using a wrench to tighten the connection. But there’s also a seal inside this connection, and that may have failed due to age. If so, the seal must be replaced.
The worst-case scenario is if the leak is coming from a crack or seal in the disposal itself. Some of these leaks are repairable by a professional, but in most cases, it’s most cost effective to simply replace the entire disposal.
Call the Pros
Not sure if you’re up to the task of identifying your leak or repairing it afterward? Just reach out to your local plumbing experts for reliable expert service.