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How to Fix a Leaky Garbage Disposal

Even the most trustworthy garbage disposal will develop a leak from time to time; however, just because your food waste disposer has developed a leak does not necessarily mean that it needs to be replaced. Doing a little bit of investigating and troubleshooting before deciding to run out and buy a new garbage disposal can mean the difference between spending $10.00 for a replacement and $100.00+ to replace the entire unit.

Why is my garbage disposal leaking?

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There could be a lot of reasons behind this problem. In fact, the leaking can be observed from various parts of the unit. Hence, you may have to check on several parts before you can determine the source of the leak. These parts can include the drain pipe, gasket, flange, and even the plumbing.

​How to Fix a Leaking Garbage Disposal?

​Depending on where you can see the leaking, the troubleshooting will also vary. That said, here are some of the things you can do based on the specific source of the problem.

​Garbage Disposal Is Leaking from the Top

​Leaking Flange

​The uppermost portion of a garbage disposal is referred to as the sink flange. It is the point where the sink drain and garbage disposal meet one another. There are multiple reasons why it might develop a leak. For example, the mounting bolts that secure the flange in place might not be tight enough. In total, there are three mounting bolts.

Alternately, the plumber’s putty might have failed. To replace the putty, the retaining bolts must be loosened. After a gap has formed, new putty must be forced between the pipe and flange. The bolts should then be retightened to secure the putty into place.

Home Depot’s website offers an excellent step by step guide on how to repair a leaking sink flange, which you can find here.

​Loose Seals or Pipes

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The bulk of a food waste disposer system, which includes the seals and pipes, is located beneath the kitchen sink. Most homeowners use this space to store various items, and it is not uncommon for people to bump or jar the disposal’s pipes when reaching for an item that is in close proximity. If the pipes are struck hard enough, the pipes can shift so that they are no longer sitting properly. Retaining bolts can become loose. Pipes may move, and seals can shift into an awkward position.


If your garbage disposal develops a leak, check to ensure that nothing has been knocked out of place. Look to see where the leak has developed, and then tighten the retaining bolts. If the leaking still continues to occur, then you will more than likely need to replace the sealing ring or the plumber’s putty.

​Leaking Gasket

Take a moment to locate the source of your garbage disposal’s leak. If the leak has developed at the top rim where the rubber seal is mounted to the flange, then the potential cause of your leak could be the garbage disposal’s oversized rubber gasket.


When rubber gaskets age, they can develop leaks. The gasket can dry up, crack, and leak when it is repeatedly exposed to long periods of disuse where no water is present in the drain pipe. Should an older garbage disposal be removed and then placed back, it will require a new rubber gasket to again achieve a watertight seal. Moreover, if a gasket is not evenly locked on all three sides, then it will develop a leak.


The good news is that a leaking gasket can be easily replaced. Most home improvement or local hardware stores will carry them, and they are usually inexpensive. However, depending on the particular model of your garbage disposal, it may require a specially fitted rubber gasket. To ensure that you get the right gasket the first time, write down your garbage disposal’s model number, take it to the store, and ask an employee to match it up for you.


To replace a rubber gasket, your first step will be to unplug the cord to the garbage disposal and then disconnect the drain. If you have a dishwasher installed in your kitchen, the dishwasher drain hose will need to be disconnected from the disposer. With the cord and appropriate drain lines removed, you can now grasp the sides of the mounting nut and twist it in a counter clockwise motion, which unlocks the garbage disposal. The waste disposer should then drop right down.

Place the garbage disposal on a wide, clean work surface and locate the rubber gasket. The old gasket should be peeled off, and the new gasket should be mounted in the same spot. Take extra care to make sure that it sits flat and that it pops into the lip. Now you are ready to re-install your garbage disposal. Plug the cord back in reconnect each of the drains to make sure that there are no leaks.

​Garbage Disposal Leaking from the Side

​Dishwasher Connection

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​Modern food waste disposers are often connected to your dishwasher’s drain pipe. This connection enables your dishwasher to rid itself of any leftover food scraps or residue that it might accumulate while washing your dishes. Where the dishwasher hose and the garbage disposal connect is a common source for leaks. The leaks most often occur when hose’s clamp is not secure enough. Leaks also develop when the dishwasher hose cracks. In order to fix this type of leak, you should either replace the cracked section of hose or tighten the clamp down.

​Garbage Disposal Leaking from the Bottom

​Cracks In the Disposal Body

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​Last, but not least, as your garbage disposal system begins to age, it grows susceptible to cracking along its interior lining. When this shell develops cracks, water will begin to appear at its seams. At times, the leak can be observed from the bottom of the unit, particularly from the reset button. If this is the cause of your garbage disposal’s leaks, then there is no method of repairing other than replacing the whole unit.

​Leaking Garbage Disposal Prevention

Although your garbage disposal will eventually succumb to wear after a few years of use, it’s always better to keep it in its best condition for as long as possible. Proper usage and preventive measures will help make that happen.

Make sure that you only grind food scraps that your unit is designed for because no matter how powerful your disposer is, it still has its limits. Another thing you can do before and after using your disposer is to run cold water through your sink drain. This process will help keep the solid fats from coagulating into gunk.

Thanks for reading - I would love to hear your comments below.

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Justin Curtis
 

I am not a professional plumber, but I do feel like I am pretty handy :). I would love to hear your comments about this post or others. Thanks for reading!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 14 comments
Sharon Reams - January 3, 2017

Thanks for giving such good tips. You may not be a pro but your tips are like a pro 🙂

Reply
Rob - January 16, 2017

The disposal exhaust seal is leaking badly. This is the seal that is on the disposal side of the 90 degree exhaust elbow that feeds to the plumbing P-Trap.
What is this seal named and where can one be purchased?

Reply
    Justin Curtis - February 9, 2017

    I’d check out your local Home Depot or Lowes, they should have the seal and tell you the name of it.

    Reply
Dylan - March 19, 2017

Thank you. Very helpful. It’s a crack, so we need to get a new one, but it was so helpful to know what we were looking for.

Reply
    Justin Curtis - April 12, 2017

    Glad to help Dylan!

    Reply
      Chris - May 31, 2017

      Will flex seal work if its a crack? If not why? Flex seal is made specifically to stop leaks from cracks and loose pipes. Thanks

      Reply
        Justin Curtis - June 5, 2017

        Flex seal should work too.

        Reply
          Kari - August 7, 2017

          my garbage disposal is leaking from the bottom of the garbage disposal.

          I’m guessing that it totally needs to be replaced.

          Reply
          Justin Curtis - August 8, 2017

          Most likely.

          Reply
Jane - November 20, 2017

My disposal is leaking from the hole that you put the thingy (sorry I don’t know the name) in when it is stuck to turn it. Can that be fixed

Reply
David - December 28, 2017

You didn’t cover a loose mounting flange, which is a problem that keeps happening with my disposal. I tighten it whenever I notice that it has loosened but by this time it’s usually already leaked. Most recently when this happened, the bottom of the kitchen cabinet was damaged by the water leakage.

Having the mounting flange repeatedly loosen, allowing leakage between the mounting gasket and bottom of sink, is the problem I need to resolve. I haven’t noticed excessive disposal vibration or any other issues that could be causing it to loosen. Is there a way to lock the mounting flange in place after it’s tightened? Or would you suspect another problem that is causing it to repeatedly loosen?

Reply
Pepper - January 14, 2018

Easy to understand and follow instructions. Well done!

Reply
RITA - January 24, 2018

My disposal is leaking a little bit near the electric wire that attaches to disposal. (right by a couple of screws? clamps?) Do you think this can be fixed? Thanks.

Reply
david - February 21, 2018

I found a vertical crack, about 1 inch long, along the upper part of the disposal housing. The unit, an insinkerator badger 9, is from 2010. When water goes through the unit, a small amount will drip. The amount of water is actually quite limited, even when using lots of water to wash dishes. The unit is obviously old, but seems to work fine otherwise. What are your recommendations? Replace? or just catch the dripping water (1 table spoon per day).
Thank you

Reply

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