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How To Pick A Garbage Disposal? A Complete Buying Guide

A garbage disposal is a device that grinds food scraps and other discarded solid materials to allow for easier disposal in the sewers or septic system. They help reduce the volume of waste you dispose of each day and maybe connected with a drain system.

So before you buy a garbage disposal for your household, consider the following: what kind of waste materials do you have? How much space is there under your sink? If you are going to be grinding chicken bones or other hard materials, will it have enough power? And finally, how important is the price to your purchasing decision? Buying these devices could make all the difference in the world to your household’s daily life.

A garbage disposal

Decide Horsepower: Can it grind your food wastes?

The power output of a garbage disposal should be taken into account when purchasing the device. This is because different kinds of food require different levels of grinding and may clog the unit if it is not powerful enough.

There are 4 common horsepower ratings for garbage disposals. They are;

  • 1 HP
  • 3/4 HP
  • 1/2 HP
  • 1/3 HP

The horsepower rating, aka the size of the garbage disposal, you need depends on the type of food wastes you process and the frequency of it. Depending on these factors, here is a guideline on choosing the right disposal size;

Suitable forWhat can it grindHorsepower
Vacation homeSoft foods like fruits and vegetables1/3 HP
Student accommodationsFishbones, cooked meat, fruits, and veggies1/2 HP
Small householdsChicken bones, cooked meat, fish bones, fruit pits etc3/4 HP
Large householdsRibs and chicken bones, large fruit pits, raw meat etc1 HP

If you cook daily and need to dispose of ribs and other tough food wastes, 1 HP garbage disposals are the best choice. For slightly softer food wastes like chicken bones and fruit pits, 3/4 HP garbage disposals are good. 1/2 HP models are good enough to grind food items like fish bones, cooked meat, and veggies. 1/3 HP disposals are for those looking for an entry-level disposer; they can only grind soft foods like fruits and vegetables.

If you buy a larger and more powerful garbage disposal, you’ll also have to deal with higher costs, more electricity usage, and increased water usage. As initial and running costs vary with horsepower, buying the most powerful disposal is not always the best option. But if you bought an underpowered model and added food wastes it cannot grind, you will be troubled with frequent clogs in the pipes and hundreds of dollars in plumbing repairs. So before choosing a garbage disposal, make sure how often you plan to use it and what will go into it.

The best way to find out what sorts of waste material you can grind up in a particular model is to check out the fine print or read online reviews.

Given below are some good choices from each power category;

Waste King L-111

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InSinkErator Badger 1

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Waste King L-2600

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InSinkErator Badger 5

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InSinkErator Evolution Compact

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Waste King L-3200

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InSinkErator Evolution Excel

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Waste King L-8000

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Decide between safety and convenience

There are two types of disposals based on the way food is fed into them. They are batch feed and continuous feed type. In a batch, feed type disposal food is processed in batches, whereas in a continuous feed type, you can add food continuously.

Batch feed disposals

Batch feed disposals are less convenient to use than continuous feed type disposals. This is because batch feed disposals work with the help of a magnetic cover. The magnetic inside this cover works as an electrical switch, and without it, this type of garbage disposals won’t run. So to dispose of food wastes, first, you need to fill the disposal’s chamber with food scraps and then secure the sink opening with the magnetic cover.

Evolution Cover control Plus

InSinkErator Evolution Cover Control

Powered by a 3/4 HP motor, this is perhaps the most feature-rich batch feed disposal available in the market.

The good thing about batch feed disposals is that this magnetic cover makes them safer. Since the disposal works only when the cover is on, it saves children and adults from accidents of putting their hands into the disposal. The cover also prevents any objects like spoons or rings from falling into the disposal. Besides, since batch feed disposals don’t require a wall switch to run, this type of disposals can be easily installed on kitchen islands.

Even though batch feed disposals are safer to use, there aren’t many models available, especially in the entry-level category. So if you are looking for a batch feed disposal in the 1/3 or 1/2 HP segment, you may not find one. They also tend to be costly when compared to continuous feed type disposals owing to their operating mechanism.

Continuous feed type disposals

Continuous feed type disposals are available in plenty. They are very convenient to use as you can throw in the food wastes while the units are running. So you can just run the disposal and scrap off all the leftovers into it. They are also cheaper and available in all horsepower ratings

Waste King 8000 garbage disposal
A Waste King 8000 garbage disposal

Waste King L-8000

Powered by a 1 HP motor, this is one of the most value for money garbage disposals you can buy.

The downside of continuous feed type disposals is safety. They are a bit unsafe to use since things, including your hand, can easily go down, resulting in injury.

Check availability of space under the sink

The dimensions of garbage disposal vary with models; some can be small and thin, while others can be huge. Therefore, it is important to check the dimensions of the garbage disposals to know whether they will fit under your sink or not. As per disposalXT, the space under the sink should be at least 5 inches taller and 3 inches wider than the corresponding dimensions of the garbage disposal you buy.

The more size you have under the sink, the more choice you have. But if the space is small, you better look for a low-profile garbage disposal. Low-profile garbage disposals are shorter in height, and you can find such units across all horsepower ratings.

InSinkErator Evolution Compact

InSinkErator Evolution Compact

This is the most compact garbage disposal in the market. It has only a height of 12.25 inches and a drain height of 6 inches which is suitable even for the deepest sinks.

In addition to height and width, another important dimension to look for is the drain height. This is the distance between the center of a garbage disposal’s outlet pipe and the bottom of the sink. If you are using a deep sink and there is little space for installation, look for a disposal with a short drain height. It is important to look for the drain height since the disposal’s drain outlet should always sit above the drain into the wall; failing to do so will cause frequent clogs.

Check compatibility with the sink and plumbing

Garbage disposals are universal; they can be fitted on all sinks. Well, almost all sinks. They can be fitted on standard sinks with a drain hole size of 3.5 to 4 inches and a thickness of fewer than 0.5 inches. If the sink’s thickness is more than 0.5 inch, you will have to use an extended flange to install the garbage disposal.

When it comes to installation, there are two types of disposal mounts; 3-bolt and EZ. Both are twist and lock mechanisms and easy to install. You can’t replace one type of mount with the other; they come fitted to the garbage disposals. The 3-bolt mounts tend to be slightly more sturdy owing to their metal construction. But you can’t go wrong by choosing either type of mount.

It would be best to make sure that adding a garbage disposal won’t overload your plumbing. If your existing plumbing system is not working well and prone to clogs, it will worsen once you add a garbage disposal. It will cause much load to the pipes as they now have to move water full of food wastes. If your old plumbing system is not up to the task, do not buy a garbage disposal.

Septic tank or sewer

It is generally not recommended to use a garbage disposal with a septic system. However, if you are insistent on getting a disposal, double-check whether your septic tank is properly sized. Garbage disposals will overload your septic system, so the tank should have enough size to handle the extra debris.

InSinkErator Septic Assist

InSinkErator Septic Assist

This garbage disposal injects an enzyme into the septic tanks which accelerates the breakdown of food wastes and thus prevents the tanks from overflowing. A good choice if you have a septic tank.

If the wastewater ends up in the sewers, having a garbage disposal is not a bad idea.

Decide price & brand

The average cost for a new unit in the United States is $250-$450, but it can run up to $600 or more depending on the size and features. If you’re looking for other options, some models go as low as $60. The more expensive ones come with long warranties and other features like sound insulation or anti-jamming technology.

The prices of garbage disposals increase with their horsepower rating. However, you can find high horsepower models at a cheap rate too. The prices also depend on the brands. A Waste King disposal usually costs less than the corresponding InSinkErator disposal. A similar unit by Moen costs between these two.

The most expensive part about installing a new disposal is usually paying someone else to do it; if you have experience with plumbing work, this will save you money! A plumber will charge around $100-150 per hour while doing install work.

Tip: The prices of garbage disposals fluctuate very much over the year. If you don’t need one immediately, wait for the prices to drop.

When it comes to brands, the most popular ones are Waste King and InSinkErator. There are also disposals made by Moen, GE, KitchenAid, and numerous others.

Ensure build quality

Build quality is an important thing to look for while buying a garbage disposal. As they are in constant contact with water and food, they should be built with corrosion-resistant materials to work without failing. They are made mostly of plastic and metals. When you buy a garbage disposal, choose one that has stainless steel grinding components. Some models have galvanized grinding components which are not as durable as stainless steel.

The grinding chamber of garbage disposals can be made of either metal or plastic. Waste King models use plastic grinding chambers, while most InSinkErator units use metal ones. Both types of grinding chambers are proven to resist corrosion so you can’t go wrong with any choice. However, I suggest going for those with stainless steel grinding chambers.

Check warranty and maintenance

The warranty periods of garbage disposals range from 1-year to lifetime. The disposals with the shortest warranty are entry-level models of 1/3 and 1/2 HP. As the disposals become expensive, their warranties also increase. Top-end models usually come with 8-year or longer warranties.

The maintenance of garbage disposals is easy. If you clean them once a week, they will last for a lifetime. Top-end disposals are easier to maintain as they clog less often. Entry-level disposals clog more often, but that is due to putting the wrong food wastes into them.

Choose only the features you need

Entry-level garbage disposals do not have any extra features, but they are good for getting the job done. However, top-end ones come with features like noise insulation, anti-jamming, etc. Here are some of their popular features.

Noise insulation

This is one of the most sought features of garbage disposals. Even though they run for only a minute or so, people put a premium on whisper-quiet garbage disposals. So companies use insulation foams as well as anti-vibration mounts to muffle the noise coming from disposals, with success.

Click here for a list of quiet garbage disposals for your reference.

You won’t find any entry-level disposals with noise insulation features; only the ones with 3/4 HP and more have noise insulation.

Multi-stage grinding

Some garbage disposals use multi-stage grinding technology where food waste is ground finer thanks to the additional grinding components. These disposals also can handle tough food wastes like fruit pits and chicken bones.

All Evolution series garbage disposals by InSinkErator use multi-stage grinding. Here are some good options;

InSinkErator Evolution Compact

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InSinkErator Evolution Excel

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Pre-installed power cords

Some garbage disposals come with pre-installed power cords, while others do not. The ones with power cords are easier to install since they can be just plugged in.

Hex hole

Some models have a hex hole on their bottom side. This comes in handy when unjamming the disposal. You can insert an Allen wrench into this hole and rotate the disposal blades to unjam them. All InSinkErator disposals have this hex hole while Waste King and Moen ones do not.

PS: The more features a garbage disposal has the more costly it is. I recommend choosing only those features you think are important.


It can be confusing to choose a garbage disposal from the plethora of options. The process will be easy if you stick to your requirements.

My name is Thomas Anderson, author of DisposalQA. I have 15 years experience working as a plumber in CA, and this is where I answer common questions about garbage disposals.