Can I Use My Dishwasher if My Garbage Disposal is Leaking?

The garbage disposal is a modern invention that has made washing dishes and getting rid of waste much easier than it used to be. Unfortunately, garbage disposals are not invincible and occasionally, yours may spring a leak and need to be repaired. The only question is when those inevitable leaks happen, does that mean your dishwasher will be out of commission as well?

A dishwasher can run when the garbage disposal is leaking. Although the dishwasher does drain water into the garbage disposal, it can still run if the garbage disposal leaks. If the disposal leaks while the dishwasher runs, the source of the leak may be faulty pipe connectors or a worn-out flange.

Leaky disposals are never fun to deal with, but sadly, it’s something that you are likely to face at one time or another. However, things aren’t as hopeless as they seem! There are plenty of solutions for leaky disposals as well as preventative measures you can take. Read on to learn more about leaky disposals and what you can do to fix them!

Discovering the Leak

You might be thinking, I’m pretty sure I’ll know if my garbage disposal is leaking. It’s got to be pretty obvious, right? As it turns out, leaks in your garbage disposal can be hard to spot at times. Some leaks located on the side of the disposal facing the wall will be harder to spot.

However, more often than not, water might start to pool under the disposal in your cabinet. If you start to notice this happening, it is imperative that you stop using the disposal and mop up the water. If the water sits on the cabinet flooring, it will warp the wood.

If you have discovered that your disposal has sprung a leak, there are four different places that you should check first. These are:

  1. The garbage disposal body (a crack/leak in the main disposal component)
  2. The rubber hose connecting the dishwasher and disposal (comes out the side of the disposal)
  3. The sink flange (where the bottom of the sink drain and top of disposal connect)
  4. The drain pipe (another pipe, usually made of plastic or metal that drains all the water to the sewer)

Still not sure where the leak is coming from? You can locate the leak in your garbage disposal in a couple different ways. First, use red, green, or blue food coloring to heavily dye some water. Once the water looks like a sports drink, pour it down the disposal. If all goes to plan, the coloring will stain the area where the disposal is leaking and you’ll be able to find it in no time.

If you’d rather not use food coloring, try stopping the sink and filling it with a few inches of water. Make sure you have dried the disposal off underneath the sink very thoroughly. After you have filled the sink, unplug the stopper and let the water drain out. Keep in mind that the water isn’t going to drip slowly, it’s going to spurt, so make sure you put a bucket under the sink. Watch carefully to identify where the leak is.

If you garbage disposal is leaking, you should still be able to use the dishwasher. Just make sure you do not run the disposal before you start the dishwasher. However, if the disposal is needed to drain the sink of water, using the dishwasher without running the disposal first might cause a little bit of overflow. Just be mindful of the conditions before you start it up and you should be fine.

DIY: How to fix the leak

Fixing leaks yourself is either a really good or really bad idea, depending on who you ask. Some leaks can be fixed by people with little to no plumbing experience, while fixing others yourself could lead to more problems in the future. Here are a few things to know:

If the flange is the problem, that will likely be indicated by a leak on the top of the disposal. Thankfully, this is a relatively easy fix. All you’ll have to do is tighten the flange and reseal it to ensure that no water can escape. This task could easily be taken care of by any homeowner.

If you start to notice that the bottom is leaking, that, unfortunately, means that you’re probably going to have to replace the entire disposal, and that is a job that will likely require a pro’s help. So, unless you are one yourself, you need to hire a professional plumber and get the problem fixed right away.

Preventative Measures

As mentioned earlier, there is little you can do to prevent all leaks that might spring in your garbage disposal; however, there are preventative measures you can take to minimize the risk as much as possible. Here are a few things to consider.

First, you need to be extremely mindful about what goes down the garbage disposal because that could mean the difference between whether it keeps working or not. For instance, bones, grease, meat, or anything similar will clog the disposal. If you were to put bones or gristle down there, it’s possible that certain fragments could be hard enough to bust a leak on their own.

You should also be careful to avoid fibrous vegetables, coffee grounds, or eggshells. Some might say that eggshells are a great tool to sharpen your disposal’s impellers, but this is only half true. Yes, you could grind up one or two shells at a time without any major issues, but it’s not a practice most would recommend.

Additionally, you’ll need to keep your disposal as clean as possible. This will prevent unnecessary wear and tear, plus you’ll sleep more soundly knowing there is nothing in the disposal that could cause damage. One way to do this is to grind up a few ice cubes and some salt. Ice will both scour and rinse the impellers, making them sharp enough to do their job.

You can also try using vinegar and baking soda. Pour a few tablespoons of soda down the drain and let it sit for a moment. Once you’ve left it for about ten minutes, pour in some vinegar and let it bubble and fizz for a moment. Once you’re satisfied, rinse the whole thing thoroughly with hot water and run the disposal for a moment or two.

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