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Best Overall: InSinkErator Compact Badger 900 3/4 HP Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal
One term you’ll start hearing a lot as you start shopping for garbage disposals is horsepower. The higher the horsepower, the more powerful—and expensive—the unit. One-half horsepower (HP) is the minimum recommended size for most households and ¾ horsepower is even better for the average kitchen. Why? With the extra horsepower, you’ll be able to toss scraps like potato peels that might jam up a weaker unit.
The 900 version of the Badger features ¾ horsepower, stainless steel, corrosion-resistant grind components, and a compact design that saves space under your sink. The unit it also easy to install thanks to its Quick Lock mounting system. Should you encounter any issues, the garbage disposal also comes with a 6-year warranty that covers repairs or a full replacement if necessary.
Best Budget: MOEN GX Pro Series 1/2 HP Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal
Though it’s lower in horsepower than some of our other picks, this MOEN still offers plenty of power to grind most kitchen scraps. In addition to the ½ horsepower, it has a permanent magnet motor with high-speed 2600 RPM vortex to prevent jamming. In addition to being a good value on its own, it comes with a pre-installed power cord (with most others, you’ll have to buy one separately—incurring an added expense).
Reviewers love that this MOEN model is compact and doesn’t hog too much room under their sinks. It's also super easy to install—it even works with existing mounts, including those from competitors. Though the garbage disposal is durable and corrosion-resistant, it's also backed by MOEN's 3-year warranty. If you experience any issues, in-home service is available.
Best Low Horsepower: InSinkErator Badger 1/3 HP Garbage Disposal
If you’re not a frequent cook or you compost most of your waste (including potentially problematic egg shells and potato peels), you may be able to get away with a lower horsepower unit like this one from InSinkErator. With a 26-ounce chamber, the 1/3 horsepower model is smaller, too, so it’s a good choice if you live in a tiny home or are otherwise short on space.
This disposal is built to last with galvanized steel parts and a heavy duty induction motor. In fact, several reviewers report that they’ve owned theirs for a decade or more before having any problems. Additional pluses? It takes just minutes to install, thanks to its quick mounting system, and it's guaranteed with a 1-year warranty that covers repairs and replacements.
Best High Horsepower: InSinkErator Evolution 1 HP Continuous Feed Noise Insulation Garbage Disposal
Serious at-home chefs who are equally serious about cleanup will appreciate the 1-horsepower InSinkErator which can grind corn husks, bones, melon rinds, and more. The disposal is able to do so thank to what InSinkErator calls MultiGrind Plus technology. Essentially, the model has three grind stages, including an auto-reverse which pulverizes whatever you throw down the drain. All that power operates quietly, too, thanks to SoundSeal technology that is silent enough for you to continue chatting as it works.
With a large, 40-ounce capacity grind chamber, this garbage disposal does take up more room under your sink so you’ll want to measure before investing. Like many of InSinkErator's other models, the Evolution also comes with a 7-year warranty that includes parts and labor.
Best Quiet: Waste King Legend Series 3/4 HP Continuous Feed Sound-Insulated Garbage Disposal
Grinding up food scraps is loud work—or at least it can be if your garbage disposal doesn’t have a sound guard like the Waste King 3/4 HP Continuous Garbage Disposal. Reviewer after reviewer notes that this powerful disposal is quieter than any other they've owned.
Other frequently mentioned pros are its ease of installation, the manual reset button located on the front of the unit, and that it comes with a pre-installed power cord (for many models you have to purchase one separately). It has a stainless steel grinding ring, swivel impellers, and a turntable for the ultimate in rust resistance. It also comes with a plastic drain stopper and removable splash guard for easy clean up.
Best for Use with Septic System: InSinkErator Septic Assist Garbage Disposal
If you have a septic system in your house, that doesn’t automatically rule a garbage disposal out (though check with your plumber if you have any concerns). This one is specifically designed for use with septic systems and includes a Bio-Charge citrus-scented solution that is shot into the grinding chamber each time you use it. The solution doesn’t just smell good, it contains natural microorganisms that help break down food waste to prevent overtaxing your system. (Note that the cartridge will need to be replaced every three to four months.)
Reviewers note that they were pleasantly surprised about how quietly this model operates and that they're had no issues—in some cases for years—using it with their septic system.
Best for Ease of Installation: InSinkErator Evolution Compact 3/4 HP Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal with Power Cord
This version of the InSinkErator comes with its own pre-installed power cord and Quick Lock sink mount so installation is a breeze (and there's one less thing you have to buy). It’s compact, which also means it’s lighter and saves precious room under your sink. Despite its small footprint, the disposal is powerful with ¾ horsepower which is enough to grind down onion peels and other fibrous veggies (skip the bones, though).
If anything should go wrong, the model comes with an impressive 8-year “We Come to You” In-Home Service Warranty. If you're shopping for a disposal that's safe to use with a septic tank, InSinkErator also notes that this one is a top choice.
Best Splurge: InSinkErator Evolution Excel 1.0 HP Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal
What do you get when you spend a little extra on your garbage disposal? The Evolution Excel from InSinkErator—one of the quietest models on the market. In addition to the sound seal technology some of its lower end models have, there’s a quiet collar sink baffle which is said to reduce noise by up to 60 percent.
Of course, there's more to this model than just its low volume. You also get a lot of strength to grind everything from melon peels to chicken bones with a full 1 horsepower and a jam-sensor circuit that increases motor torque 500 percent with continuous feed operation. Lastly it has alloy stainless steel grind components, a 40-ounce chamber, and a leak guard liner.
What to Look for When Buying a Garbage Disposal
Continuous-feed models, which keep running as you drop in new food waste, are convenient but may pose a safety risk to curious children who might stick their fingers down the drain. They also tend to require a hard-wired connection to a wall switch. On the other hand, batch-feed models are loaded with scraps and activated by a magnetic stopper. They can only process one batch of food a time, determined by the capacity of the disposal's grinding chamber, so it can be more time consuming to use if you have a lot of scraps to dispose of. They’re safer and may not require a hard-wired connection, but they tend to be more expensive and less convenient to use.
The power of a garbage disposal is rated by horsepower and the higher the numerical value, the more power. For example, a disposal with 1.0 HP will offer more power than a model with 1/2 HP.
More powerful units will grind food faster—and possibly smaller as well—so they’re better for folks who'll be sending more food down the drain more often. Less powerful units will be less expensive and they’ll consume less electricity. While they may not be able to handle a refrigerator clean-out, they’ll be fine for food scraps rinsed off of dishes.
Garbage disposals are not one size fits all, so you'll need to take a few measurements of your under sink space to make sure it the disposal you're considering will fit. Some have larger grinding chambers and generally the larger the motor, the bigger the disposal.
No garbage disposal will be totally quiet, and the noise depends slightly on what type of food you're grinding, much like a blender, but some models are designed with insulation for more quiet operation. Since it’s unlikely you’ll be using the disposal when everyone’s sleeping, the noise factor may not be critical for everyone, but it’s something to keep in mind if you or your family members are sensitive to loud noises.
How does a garbage disposal work?
Many people think garbage disposals are equipped with blades that spin and break food down into tiny pieces, but this is actually a myth.
Disposals don't have blades. They have a spinning plate with impellers and a grinding plate. The impellers push food against the grinding plate with centrifugal force. The food is grinded down into small particles that are then flushed with water through your plumbing and onto your septic system or a local water treatment facility
What can and can't you put in a garbage disposal?
Most fruit and vegetable scraps, pieces of meat, and leftovers can safely be put in a garbage disposal. A small amount of fruit and vegetable peels can be handled by most disposals, but if you're peeling several pounds of potatoes, it's better to skip putting the peels down the disposal. The starch in potato peels can gunk up the disposal. Same goes for stringy and fibrous vegetables, such as celery, corn husks, banana peels, artichokes, and asparagus, which tend to resist pulverization and can clog your drain.
Coffee grounds and leftover oil or grease should also be disposed of in another manner, since they can clog your drain. Egg shells, bones, shellfish, and fruit pits can also be tough for a disposal to handle and lead to premature wear. These items should be disposed of in the trash or composted.
How do you unclog a garbage disposal?
Clogs can happen if you place too much food into a disposal or don't let enough water run to clear the system. Luckily, they're pretty easy to clear yourself.
The first step is turn off the garbage disposal and water and then unplug the disposal. Use a flashlight to look down the drain opening to see what is clogging the disposal and use tongs, tweezers, or pliers to remove the clog. Then plug the unit back in and test it.
If that doesn't work, some disposals have a reset button that may help.
How do you clean a garbage disposal?
Some food debris can accumulate in the disposal and cause the sink to have an unpleasant odor, especially if you use it frequently. Letting cold water run through the sink before, during, and after using the disposal can help prevent food buildup.
To give your disposal a cleaning, place ice cubes, baking soda, and thin lemon slices down your sink drain without the water running and power the disposal on. The ice cubes help dislodge stuck-on bits of food and the baking soda and lemon help cleanse and deodorize.
The rubber flaps on top of the drain can also be cleaned by either hand scrubbing or removing and putting it in the dishwasher.