Garbage disposals, those noisy but wonderful portals under your sink, can make kitchen cleanup safe and easy in any home.
Food scraps that are left in the trash for days can be a breeding ground for bacteria, posing health risks and unwelcome smells. An effective garbage disposal can make those scraps disappear entirely, reducing the risk of pests and preventing bad odors. And, of course, it can speed up and simplify your kitchen cleanup as you can throw all those potato peels into the sink without much thought.
How do garbage disposals work? When you place food remnants in a garbage disposal, a rotating disc with a pair of bars moves the food around a grinding chamber and rubs it on what’s called a grinding ring — a sort of a circular cheese grater. Those remains then go down the sewer, pushed by the water from your faucet.
While the mechanics of a garbage disposal seem universal, quality of function varies across brands. Some garbage disposals can effectively churn up virtually any food waste. Other units, however, aren't as strong, and could jam or be damaged by too-tough scraps.
No matter what kind of disposal you have, it’s key to keep the water running throughout its use — without water, dry food grinds will get stuck. Also, it should be cold water as hot water can break down the grease or fat in foods, and you never want to dump fat or grease down your sink because they can clog the pipes.
Garbage disposal buying guide
• Types of garbage disposals. There are two types of garbage disposals: the continuous feed, which is the oldest and most common, and the batch feed, which is generally safer but more expensive.
Continuous feed garbage disposals consist of an open slot connected directly to your sink and are turned on with a switch. Once you flip that switch, the disposal's rotating discs, known as impellers, keep going while you toss food inside.
It’s important to have a continuous feed disposal already running as you throw things inside to avoid jamming. Why? If the scraps are too big or too tough, the motor might have a hard time starting.
Batch feed garbage disposals, as the name suggests, work in batches. You keep adding food scraps up to a certain point, then put the lid on top when you want to turn it on.
Some activate automatically with sensors or magnets, while with others you need to press down the lid to turn it on.
Some people prefer batch feed disposals because they save on both electricity and water, as both faucet and disposal are only active when taking care of a batch. With continuous feed disposals, some users tend to leave it on as they cut, peel or clean. Batch feed models make that impossible.
The most noteworthy aspect, however, is safety. Since this kind of disposal can only be activated with the lid on, there’s no way someone could get hurt from an accidental hand down the drain. And if you drop something like a fork into the disposal, you can take it out safely before the power kicks on. This is especially important for people with children, or if horror movies ruined garbage disposals for you.
• Power. Garbage disposal power is measured in horsepower, but don’t expect Mustang-like numbers. The existing range is from 1/4 to 10 HP, with 1/3 to 1 HP being the most common in consumer-grade models.
A motor with 1/3 HP is enough for soft scraps, like carrot and potato peels, beans, tomatoes and the like. For more fibrous vegetables and fruits, and soft bones like those of fish, you might want 1/2 to 3/4 HP. If you’re on a special diet, however (like a carnivore diet with lots of bones or a raw vegan diet with thick peels and fruit pits), or you’re feeding a family of four on the daily, you should aim for 3/4 to 1 HP.
• Grinding. Grind size is important to prevent the disposal from getting stuck and your pipes from getting clogged. If you consistently end up with a lot of leftovers and eat tough foods (like potatoes and broccoli), you might want to pay attention to the features that contribute to grind size.
While there’s a correlation between a powerful motor and the disposal’s ability to grind up food effectively, power isn’t everything. The speed of the motor (measured in RPM) and any double- or triple-grind features will have a bigger impact. Double- and triple-grinding models have separate chambers that regrind scraps to achieve even smaller particles, thus reducing the chance of clogging.
You can also consider the size and style of the holes in the grinding ring, but this is more difficult to see. You’d have to take apart a model or find videos and pictures online as this is not advertised.
• Noise. Garbage disposals are notorious for the crackling, grinding noise they make.
Some, however, are noisier and more annoying than others. If noise levels are a concern, look for sound insulation features and where they’re placed on the unit. Less expensive models will only have a bit of insulation around the grinding chamber. Premium units, however, have double insulation and are entirely covered, from the mounting ring to the bottom, where the motor is placed.
Note that disposal brands don’t generally advertise a decibel number for their products. So if you want to make extra sure the noise won’t be a nuisance, look for third-party testing or video reviews to get a better idea.
• Warranty. Garbage disposals work hard, maybe harder than all other appliances — and are also often misused. Many owners throw all of their leftovers down the disposals regardless of their strength. By overworking the unit, you could shorten its usable lifespan.
Partially because of this, you’ll notice that the less horsepower a model has, the shorter its warranty period.
It’s fairly common for models with 1/2 horsepower or less to have two to five years of coverage only, while models with 3/4 to 1 horsepower can have warranties that cover eight years and more.
• Constructional materials and features. While most garbage disposal internal parts are made of steel, not all are made of stainless steel, and that means they can rust with time. The outer case can also be either plastic or stainless steel. Obviously, the latter is a stronger and longer-lasting material.
Another important feature is the unjamming mechanism. At any given moment, an excess of food or big pieces can jam your garbage disposal. On less expensive models, you’ll have to carefully dig around to extract the jammed food bits, or maybe even take the disposal apart.
Others may stop working altogether due to a jam, and they have reset buttons to restart on command. More expensive models have sensors that prompt the owner to use more power in those situations, or even a reverse grind action to remove any blockage.
Best garbage disposals
1. Best overall: InSinkErator Evolution Essential XTR Garbage Disposal
Horsepower: 3/4 │ Noise: 65 dB approx.│ Warranty: 9 years │ Style: Continuous feed
InSinkErator invented the garbage disposal in 1927, and the company has been the clear leader in the market ever since. While the basic specs on many of its models might not seem that different from other brands, InSinkErator’s proprietary touches make its products top-notch. The Evolution Essential XTR offers pretty much all of the top features to give your kitchen the best waste disposal money can buy.
First, it has a 3/4 horsepower motor that can handle anything from soft fruits to cooked meat and fibrous vegetables such as broccoli stems or carrots. It also has a two-stage grinding to make your scraps smaller than average disposals before they go into your sewer system.
The nine-year warranty is about average for this level of power — most disposals in the same price range (about $300) generally offer between eight and 10 years, but some competitors go as far as 20. The entire interior is made of high-grade stainless steel, however, and will last a long time without rusting.
Its noise reduction technology is also very good compared to cheaper models, reading at about 65 decibels thanks to InSinkErator's SoundSeal Technology and what the company calls “advanced noise reduction.” It has multiple layers of sound insulation, and multiple anti-vibration parts as well, to avoid the aggressive shaking present in many disposals.
At $300, the Evolution Essential XTR is probably everything you need in a garbage disposal. If you’re a prolific cook (or a pro) and are looking for something even more powerful, consider the InSinkErator’s commercial modelsfrom 1.5 all the way to 10 HP — do note, however, that they're all well above $1,000.
2. Best overall runner-up: InSinkErator Evolution Excel Garbage Disposal
Horsepower: 1 │ Noise: 45 dB approx. │ Warranty: 10 years │ Style: Continuous feed
The Evolution Excel is InSinkErator’s top garbage disposal and, made entirely of polished stainless steel, it certainly looks the part.
Other than looking glossy under the counter, it really shines by being the quietest garbage disposal around (approximately 45 decibels while other models don’t go below 60), and still being the company’s most powerful non-commercial model with a 1-horsepower motor. Additionally, it has all the anti-vibration technology the XTR does.
The Excel has a rare three-stage grinding technology, only found in InSinkErator’s line-up. Pair that with an automatic jam sensor and reverse grind technology, and jamming is nearly impossible.
There are two main drawbacks to this model: one, the high $400 price tag; second, its availability, since the model has often been sold out lately. However, if you’re willing to invest in a top-notch garbage disposal that will last for years, you can’t do better than the Evolution Excel.
3. Editor’s pick: Moen GXS75C Host Series Garbage Disposal
Horsepower: 3/4 │ Noise: 65 dB approx. │ Warranty: 10 years │ Style: Continuous feed
Best known for its elegant faucets and shower fixtures, Moen has also made quite the splash in garbage disposals. The company has a large catalog for every need and budget, and when it comes to power, noise-reduction and quality, the Host Series GXS75C really has it all, and at an affordable price.
The GXS75C has a 3/4 horsepower motor that’s powerful enough to handle thick fruit peels from bananas and oranges, cooked meat and even some light bones. Also, its speedy motor of 2700 RPM (as opposed to the more common 1725 RPM) helps with finer grinding, avoiding jamming and clogging.
Even with that kind of power, it’s pretty quiet, registering around 65 decibels. While there are some complaints about the noise, there are plenty of reviews saying the opposite. No garbage disposal is whisper quiet, so take this feedback with a grain of salt.
It also comes with a lengthy 10-year warranty, longer than some more expensive models, so it’ll be grinding and disposing for a while before you have to worry about replacing it.
4. Best for low prices: Waste Maid 058 Economy Garbage Disposal
Horsepower: 1/2 │ Noise: 80 dB approx. │ Warranty: 2 years │ Style: Continuous feed
The Waste Maid 058’s main draw is just how budget-friendly it is, retailing for about $50 or less. Don’t let the low price fool you, however. It has a powerful magnet motor with 1/2 horsepower, enough for most soft foods and even some tough fruits and peels. Magnet motors have the advantage of starting at full speed, so they avoid jams from leftover pieces or scraps thrown in before turning it on.
The 058 features a stainless steel grinder, which will last a long time without rusting, and comes with a two-year warranty. This coverage isn’t that long compared to other disposals in this list, but it’s about average for a model of this type. (When it comes to disposals, the general rule is that the lower the power, the shorter the warranty.)
If used correctly and carefully — meaning: don’t throw bones, whole potatoes and veggie stems down the sink — it should be durable enough to reduce your kitchen cleanup for years.
Nevertheless, if you want a more tried and tested brand, you can go with the Waste King L-1001 for about $20 more. Just be aware that it has the same amount of power and the same warranty period. If you want more power, even within the Waste Maid line-up, you’ll have to pay over double the price of the 058.
5. Best value batch feed garbage disposal: Waste King L-5000TC Batch Feed Garbage Disposal
Horsepower: 3/4 │ Noise: Unknown │ Warranty: 10 years │ Style: Batch feed
If that one scene from Final Destination 2 still haunts you, worry not, there are safe garbage disposals for you. Batch feed garbage disposals require the lid to be put on in order to start, so there’s a greatly reduced risk of injury or accidents like grinding a fork.
Batch feed disposals are normally more expensive than their continuous feed counterparts. However, the Waste King L-5000TC offers tremendous value — at around $160 for a 3/4 horsepower magnet motor, and a 10-year warranty from a reputable manufacturer. All the internal components are made of stainless steel too, so that’s one less worry for the long term.
Alternately, there are higher-end batch feed models, like the InSinkErator Evolution Cover Control, which can go for around $300, but if you want more power, the Waste King L-8000TC (about $200) is also a great choice for 1-horsepower of strength.
6. Most power for price: Waste King Legend L-8000
Horsepower: 1 │ Noise: 105 dB approx. │ Warranty: 20 years │ Style: Continuous feed
Not to be confused with the L-8000TC batch feed model mentioned above, the Waste King L-8000 is a continuous feed model with an impressive 1-horsepower motor and an incredible 20-year warranty.
Other than offering plenty of power for less than $120 (and sometimes for under $100 on sale), the model’s 20-year warranty is combined with high-quality customer service. Reviewers — even formerly disgruntled ones — praise the company’s efficient and straightforward technical support when they've asked for repairs or replacements under the warranty.
On the con side, there’s the Waste King’s extremely loud 105 decibel noise reading. However, noise is the price you’ll pay for power on almost any model in this price range.
A more concerning issue is that a while ago, Waste King had to recall all of its 3/4 and 1-horsepower models due to a part that could come loose inside the grinding chamber. Waste King has since solved the issue, and according to its website, disposals manufactured after February 2017 should not have this problem.
At last check, the L-8000 has over 10,000 reviews with 4.5 star rating on Amazon, and it’s no surprise why it’s so popular.