Replace Your Old Garbage Disposer

By James Dulley

October 17, 2019 4 min read

Dear James: My daughter dropped a spoon in our old garbage disposer, so we have to replace it. Is installing a garbage disposer a typical do-it-yourself project, and what are the basic steps to replace one? — Laura P.

Dear Laura: An old garbage disposer is no match for a strong, stainless steel spoon. Once the cutters are damaged, your best option is to replace the entire unit, particularly if it is old. There are quite a few moving parts and seals in a garbage disposer, and they do wear out over time. A seven-year warranty is typical on the best models.

Replacing a garbage disposer is not a difficult do-it-yourself project. The most difficult aspect of this job is lifting the heavy garbage disposer when you are in an awkward position underneath the sink. It is also difficult to reach some of the connections with the space constraints. Perhaps your daughter's smaller hands can help with this.

Nearly all garbage disposers have a universal mount, which will fit any standard sink drain. Since you will not want to do this job any more often than absolutely necessary, spend a little extra, and purchase a new, high-quality model. Look for one with many stainless steel parts and automatic reverse grinding action.

If installed properly, the garbage disposer should be hard-wired to a wall switch. Don't rely on just switching it off when you remove the disposer. For extra safety, ALWAYS switch off the circuit breaker controlling the garbage disposer wall switch in case you accidentally bump the wall switch.

The first step is to disconnect the drain from the garbage disposer. You may also see the drain hose from the dishwasher, which often is attached to the garbage disposer drain. Place a pan under the sink to catch any water during this step.

Check the length of the electric wire leading to the garbage disposer to see if it is long enough to allow the garbage disposer to rest on the floor underneath the sink. It is easier to disconnect the wire when it is on the floor. If it is not, disconnect the electric wire first.

Place an old pillow or a stack of towels on the sink floor. The garbage disposer is heavy, and you may not be able to support it when you loosen the mounting screws. Instead of trying to be Superwoman, just let it drop onto the pillow.

Most garbage disposers include detailed do-it-yourself instructions for installation. In order to avoid leaks, always use fresh plumber's putty under the sink flange. Roll out a long rope of it in your hands, and place this in the indentation in the sink hole. After the flange is tightened, cut off the excess putty that oozes out.

If you have a dishwasher that attaches to the garbage disposer drain, be sure to remove the plug in the disposer drain. You cannot readily see it, but it is there. If you forget to remove it, the dishwasher drain water will shoot out the sink-top vent. Slide a gasket and mounting ring over the end of the flange, secure it and attach the new garbage disposer. Attach the wiring.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: kaboompics at Pixabay

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