The Best Garbage Disposals for Your Home

To find the best garbage disposal for your kitchen and your needs, learn the ins and outs of this appliance type and get the details about the top picks on the market.

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The Best Garbage Disposal Option

Photo: amazon.com

They’re one of the handiest kitchen helpers, grinding food waste into tiny bits so it can drain away with sink water. Garbage disposals are not only great for post-meal cleanup, but they also reduce the amount of leftover food in the trash can, which cuts down on odors.

A typical garbage disposal will last 8 to 15 years, but if yours is on the fritz—or you’d like to add one to your appliance arsenal—you’re probably wondering what to look for in a unit. All garbage disposals will pulverize soft foods with ease, but some do tend to jam while trying to grind raw fibrous vegetables, such as celery. On the other hand, some of the most powerful disposals will chew right through chicken bones!

Read on for the facts, figures, and features—and check out the list of top picks below—to find the best garbage disposal for your home.

  1. BEST OVERALL: InSinkErator Pro Series 3/4 HP Food Waste Disposal
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Waste King L-1001 Garbage Disposal with Power Cord
  3. BEST FOR SMALL KITCHENS: Waste King Legend Series 1/2 HP Disposal with Cord
  4. BEST FOR FAMILIES: Waste Maid 1-1/4 HP Garbage Disposal, Premium, Black
  5. BEST FOR SEPTIC TANKS: Moen Host Series Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal
  6. MOST QUIET: Moen A1SPC Waste King Knight 1HP Garbage Disposal 
  7. EASIEST TO INSTALL: Waste King Garbage Disposal with Power Cord
The Best Garbage Disposal Option

Photo: amazon.com

Before You Buy a Garbage Disposal

Not all municipal sewage systems can handle food waste from garbage disposals. Since bits of food flow through the drain pipes, using a garbage disposal can increase the risk of clogs in your home’s plumbing, or possibly even cause problems in septic and municipal sewage systems.

  • Contact your local building authority to determine whether garbage disposals are permitted in your community.
  • If you experience frequent clogs in your home’s plumbing, you’re probably better off passing on a disposal, even if they’re permitted in your community.
  • Food particles break down slower than other types of waste, which can lead to accumulated food matter in a septic tank. If you have a septic system, contact the company that installed it or the company that pumps out the tank and ask if your particular system can handle a disposal. Typically, larger tanks are more suitable for use with a disposal.
  • On average, you’ll use 2 to 3 gallons of water per minute of disposal use. If you use your disposal twice a day, running it half a minute each time, you will use approximately 850 to 950 additional gallons of water per year.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Garbage Disposal

Various factors go into choosing the best garbage disposals for your home. For example, the size of your family and whether you have small children with curious hands can help you choose between a continuous feed garbage disposal and a batch feed disposal.

Family size can also determine power and unit size—based on the amount of food you’ll process in a day. Finally, will you install the unit yourself or hire a pro? Knowing this can help you choose direct-wire versus a simple plug.

Continuous Feed vs. Batch Feed

A garbage disposal contains a motor and an internal canister, called a grinding chamber, which is fitted with sharp blades that spin at high speeds when the disposal is turned on. The bottom of the grinding chamber is perforated to allow pulverized food bits to flow out of the chamber and down the drainpipe.

  • A continuous feed garbage disposal runs continuously, allowing you to turn it on and put food waste in gradually while it’s operating. Most disposals on the market today are continuous feed and range in price depending on power and quality. The only major downside to continuous feed disposal is the possibility of hands getting in the grinder while it’s running, causing injury.
  • Batch feed garbage disposals grind food in small batches and are safer for families with inquisitive young children. A stopper must be securely in place before the disposal will operate. Safety is the main draw for batch feed disposals, but they’re typically more expensive.

If you install a batch feed model, you’ll be able to run only one load of food waste at a time. The size of the grinding chamber will vary with the model but will typically grind 2 to 4 cups of food waste at one time.

Power

The more powerful the garbage disposal, the more efficiently it will grind food. Like nearly all appliances and tools with motors, the power generated by a garbage disposal is rated in horsepower (HP), a unit of energy that was once compared to actual horses.

  • 1/3 horsepower: These are the most economical garbage disposals, but they tend to clog when grinding fibrous foods, such as celery or carrots. Unless you plan to use the disposal infrequently and grind only soft foods, you’re better off with a more powerful model.
  • 1/2 horsepower: A 1/2 HP disposal is suitable for midsize households and will grind most food waste; just take care not to overstuff it to keep it from jamming.
  • 3/4 horsepower: At this level, you’ll get some real power! A 3/4 HP disposal can chew its way through fibrous foods without a glitch, and it is well suited to households with large families and substantial food waste.
  • 1.0 to 1.2 horsepower: These powerhouses make quick work of grinding virtually all food waste you throw its way, including watermelon rinds.

Size

Greater horsepower requires a larger motor, which will often increase the size of the unit as well. While size varies widely by brand, the smallest 1/3 HP disposals range from 6 to 7 inches in diameter and 9 to 12 inches in height. By contrast, a 1 HP disposal can be up to 13 inches in diameter and 18 inches in height.

The only time unit size might make a difference is when you have limited space under your kitchen sink. If you already have a water filtering system, such as a reverse osmosis unit, you may not have enough room for a large disposal. Make sure to note the size of the units you’re interested in and compare them to measurements of your under-sink space.

Grinding Chamber Material

The grinding chamber is exposed to garbage and water much of the time, so you’ll want to invest in garbage disposal with a grinding chamber that can last for the long haul.

Grinding chambers are made from various materials, including stainless steel, plastic, pot metal, and galvanized steel. Each material has its pros and cons.

  • Stainless steel is the benchmark. Although it may cost a little more upfront, it will also last longer—you may not ever need to replace the garbage disposal. In addition, the chamber won’t rust, and stainless steel grind components are the easiest to clean.
  • Plastic comes in second as it won’t corrode. But the parts will eventually crack because the plastic will dry out. Even with that in mind, the parts will last a long time, and you should get years out of your plastic disposal. The lack of corrosion makes it simple to clean.
  • Pot metal will likely be plated or painted. Eventually, this coating will chip away, and the pot metal underneath will rust and be covered in a white powdery substance. However, even though they may end up looking bad, the thickness of the parts means they can last for decades.
  • Galvanized steel has a galvanized protective coating that starts to erode as soon as you start using your garbage disposal. In just a few months, the grinding chamber will rust, and in a few years, the parts may fail altogether.

Direct-Wired vs. Plug-In

Most garbage disposals do not come with power cords that plug into an outlet; they are designed to be wired directly into your home’s electrical system. A few models, however, come with cords and plugs that can be connected to an outlet beneath the sink. Models that do not have attached plugs can be converted to plug-in models with the purchase of optional plug-in cords, sold separately.

  • A cord that plugs into an outlet is the simplest to install, but a dangling cord beneath the sink can get in the way of stored cleaners and other items, which can dislodge the plug from the outlet.
  • Most professionally installed disposals are direct-wired, which means the connecting wires are in a junction box in the wall, making it less likely that moisture will interfere with the wiring. A plug-in model could be affected by a water leak that runs down the wall, which could cause the outlet to short out and the circuit breaker to flip, although the possibility of that happening is unlikely.
  • While the choice to install either a direct-wired or plug-in disposal is usually left up to the homeowner, it’s a good idea to check with your local building authority in case there are regulations in your community.

Connecting a plug to a non-plug unit is relatively easy if you have some wiring experience, and instructions come with both the disposal and with the cord kit. Hard-wiring a disposal into your home’s electrical system is a much more complicated project and should be left to the pros.

Additional Features

Some additional features that you can look for when purchasing a garbage disposal:

  • Anti-jamming: When too much food is packed into a disposal, the grinding blades can jam. Turning off the switch, removing the stuck food manually, then pressing the reset button will usually fix the problem. Some newer disposals come with an anti-jamming feature that can detect a jam and automatically reverse the blades, which will often dislodge the jam.
  • Anti-splash: Splash guards keep the sink clean by ensuring that chewed-up food and water don’t make it back up into your sink. In some cases, it can even reduce the noise of the garbage disposal.
  • Corrosion protection: Corrosion protection inside the unit helps increase the lifespan of the garbage disposal.
  • Noise level: Loud operating noise has long been a downside to garbage disposals, but today’s models are much quieter, with the inclusion of insulation and padded mounts that reduce vibration. High-end disposals can be very quiet, emitting little more than a hum, while some budget-friendly models are still fairly loud.

Installation

Installing a new garbage disposal costs around $500. On top of the unit, the install will also require a new receptacle, fitting, switch, possibly some other parts, and the cost of time. You should factor in about 1 to 2 hours of installation time. Replacing disposal units can cost as little as $150 for install and equipment.

For those planning to replace or install one on their own, a quick-mounting system allows for easy installation. The turn-and-lock system of the mount secures the garbage disposal to the sink.

For those with recurring plumbing issues like backups or clogs, you may need to have your septic system enlarged or repaired first—this will add to the overall cost.

Our Top Picks

Selected based on the shopping considerations detailed above, the following list contains some of the best garbage disposals on the market in a range of categories.

Best Overall

The Best Garbage Disposal Option: InSinkErator Pro Series 3/4 HP Food Waste Disposal
Photo: amazon.com

The InSinkErator 3/4 HP garbage disposal stands out for safety and quiet operation. For one thing, the magnetic lid for the disposal must be securely in place before it will run. This cover also serves as a start switch, a feature ideal for kitchen island sinks.

The InSinkErator’s lid reduces noise, as does its insulated body, and the SoundSeal technology makes this garbage disposal much quieter than standard disposals. With its two grinding stages, which makes tough food a cinch to dispose of, this model is also a good choice for those who have limited cabinet space.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Garbage Disposal Option: Waste King L-1001 Garbage Disposal with Power Cord
Photo: amazon.com

Adding a garbage disposal to a kitchen doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. This reasonably priced unit from Waste King features a 1/2 HP motor for midsize households. The garbage disposal comes with EZ Mount for quick installation with the kitchen sink, and it has a preinstalled power cord that plugs directly into the wall—no electrical work required.

The stainless steel and plastic unit is a continuous feed disposal that activates with a wall switch and will continually grind food as it runs. The garbage disposal also has a removable splash guard for easy cleaning.

Best for Small Kitchens

The Best Garbage Disposal Option: Waste King Legend Series 1/2 HP Disposal with Cord
Photo: amazon.com

The Waste King Legend continuous feed disposal is affordable, efficient, and easy to install. With a 1/2 HP motor, this compact unit fits right into small under-sink spaces. There’s a removable splash guard for easy cleaning, and the disposal is safe to use with a septic tank. The grind chamber features durable stainless steel that will keep this disposal working long term.

No wiring skills are required to set the Waste King Legend unit in place; it comes with an attached power cord that plugs directly into an under-sink outlet. You’ll still need to connect the plumbing under the sink, but clear, simple instructions are included.

Best for Families

The Best Garbage Disposal Option: Waste Maid 1-1/4 HP Garbage Disposal, Premium, Black
Photo: amazon.com

With a 1.25 horsepower motor, this continuous feed garbage disposal unit from Waste Maid can chew up more or less anything you place inside, including watermelon rinds. And the stainless steel components will last for years.

The garbage disposal comes with a Silver Guard, a powerful magnet system that catches cutlery and metal objects before they fall into the disposer. The removable rubber splash guard makes it easy to clean. The three-bolt mounting system ensures a fast installation or replacement; most garbage disposal brands use the three-bolt system.

Best for Septic Tanks

The Best Garbage Disposal Option: Moen Host Series Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal
Photo: amazon.com

Looking for a garbage disposal to use with a septic tank? This unit from Moen is safe to use with appropriately sized septic tanks. It also boasts noise reduction through SoundSHIELD sound-deadening insulation. The 3/4 horsepower motor provides fast, powerful grinding of all food scraps. And it reduces jamming. The compact design frees up space under the sink.

This garbage disposal fits most existing assemblies for those looking for something easy to install, including those from other brands. And the preinstalled power cord plugs directly into the wall.

Most Quiet

The Best Garbage Disposal Option: Moen A1SPC Waste King Knight 1HP Garbage Disposal
Photo: amazon.com

This garbage disposal from Waste King is sound insulated with exclusive silencer technology—the same material used to soundproof music studios. As a result, users shouldn’t hear much coming from the unit while it’s running. The garbage disposal also boasts a three-bolt mount compatible with most existing mounts, including other brands.

A preinstalled power cord means no electrical work is required—it simply plugs into the wall. The garbage disposal will work with appropriately sized septic tanks. The stainless steel construction extends the life of garbage disposal, and the continuous feed diminishes jams and messes.

Easiest to Install

The Best Garbage Disposal Option: Waste King Garbage Disposal with Power Cord
Photo: amazon.com

This garbage disposal unit from Waste King comes with EZ Mount for a twist-and-lock installation, and it features a pre-installed power cord, no electrical work required. The compact size of the disposal unit creates room under the sink, and the sound-deadening insulation ensures silent running.

The garbage disposal is made of stainless steel grinding components for durability and to increase the lifespan of the product. The continuous feed disposal activates via a wall switch or sink-mounted air switch and runs until turned off.

FAQs About Garbage Disposals

For more information about the best garbage disposals, check out these answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. If additional concerns arise, contact the manufacturer.

Q. What horsepower garbage disposal should I get?

  • 1/3 horsepower: These are the most economical garbage disposals, but they tend to clog when grinding fibrous foods, such as celery or carrots. Unless you plan to use the disposal infrequently and grind only soft food waste, you’re better off with a more powerful model.
  • 1/2 horsepower: A 1/2 HP disposal is suitable for midsize households and will grind most food waste; just take care not to overstuff it to keep it from jamming.
  • 3/4 horsepower: A 3/4 HP disposal can chew its way through fibrous foods without a glitch, and it’s well suited to households with large families and substantial food waste.
  • 1.0 to 1.2 horsepower: These powerhouses make quick work of grinding virtually all food waste you throw its way, even the toughest food waste, including watermelon rinds.

Q. Can you insulate a garbage disposal?

Yes. You can insulate the body of the garbage disposal with some soundproof materials. You can also purchase insulated units where the motor and the grinding chamber are covered in insulation materials on the inside.

Q. Are garbage disposals bad for plumbing?

Not if the garbage disposal is installed correctly, and you ensure your septic tank and municipal sewage can handle a garbage disposal unit.

  • Contact your local building authority to determine whether garbage disposals are permitted in your community.
  • If you experience frequent clogs in your home’s plumbing, you’re probably better off passing on a disposal, even if they’re permitted in your community.
  • Food particles break down slower than other types of waste, which can lead to accumulated food matter in a septic tank. If you have a septic system, contact the company that installed it or the company that pumps out the tank and ask if your particular system can handle a disposal. Typically, larger tanks are more suitable for use with a disposal.

Q. What can I clean my garbage disposal with?

Ice cubes, rock salt, vinegar, and baking soda—to find out more, check out this article about how to clean a garbage disposal.

Final Thoughts

Easier post-meal cleanup will ensure smiles on most faces. Garbage disposals not only help with cleaning up, they also reduce the amount of trash in the can, reducing smelly odors. 

You’ll need to consider a few things before choosing the right one for your family, like whether you want a continuous feed model or a batch feed garbage disposal, the amount of HP you need, and the size and cost of the unit.