For most people in the US, the garbage disposal system is part of the house just like the lighting system or the dishwasher.
They are practically indispensable and most homes all around the US have a garbage disposal system of some sort. This is because this system makes it very easy for practically anyone to dispose of their food waste.
Unfortunately, a lot of people mishandle these systems, cutting down their lifespan considerably. The consequences of bad handling? At some point, sooner or later, you will have to face different problems that will come to life exactly because of the bad usage. The system behind garbage disposal is not an invincible one.
It happened not too long ago for me to get back home from a long day of work, only to find an ugly smell that is usually linked to the burning of the circuit breaker. This, for me at least, usually means danger. Most of the time, if you don’t know what you are doing, it is a really bad idea to mess with electricity. A simple mistake could lead to hard-to-fix issues.
I had to sniff all around my house, but eventually, I noticed that the issue was with my disposer. The first thing that I did was, of course, to panic. I have no knowledge of electricity and the steps required to fixing wiring issues. I had to call a professional that came to give me a hand. As it turns out, this isn’t a rare issue – people go through this quite a lot.
So What Is Usually Behind the Smoky Smell?
One of the main reasons for a smoky smell coming from your garbage disposal is the wall circuit breaker. This usually means that the circuit is overpowered, which could lead to the burning of the fuse. The garbage disposal motor could also be the culprit, especially if it was run for quite a while and it is worn out.
If you’re lucky, it might just be the motor that needs to be restarted because it got overheated. This will usually fix the issue and prevent the smoky smell for a while.
Is The Any Way Of Checking if The Garbage Disposal Motor Is Burned Out?
Most things have a limited life, unfortunately. You can’t expect the garbage disposal to live forever. Some of its parts will eventually die out, and among the ones that break first is, of course, the motor. The easier fix when this happens will be to simply replace it with a new, working one.
You will find below the easiest way to know if the motor is the culprit or not.
You should check the power supply
It usually happens that we try to fix the garbage disposal but come to find that the circuit breaker was in fact the problem. You should check the circuit breaker and make sure it works properly before looking for disposal unit problems.
You should first check to see if the wall circuit breaker is supplying the garbage disposal with enough power. This is pretty easy to check- all you have to do is to unplug the disposer and try to use at least two other appliances from the kitchen. You can plug anything from the toaster to the blender in the same ports and see if they are working properly.
It isn’t a rare occurrence to find that the circuit breaker was the one causing the problem. This is usually confirmed if the other appliances will also fail to work properly. If the circuit was tripped you could try to reset it, which will usually make the garbage disposal system work again.
However, if you notice that the circuit breaker is working properly and gives enough power to the disposal, then you should check the motor next. You can also check to see if anything is jamming the disposer because a jammed disposal system will also cause the burning out and the bad smell.
You can usually use a simple hex wrench to try to unjam the disposer. Before buying a wrench like this you should check the accessories that come with the disposer because most garbage disposals come with their own hex wrench.
Try to insert it at the bottom of the disposer
You will have to take the wrench and try to push it in the bottom of the disposer, on the designated port. This will enable you to turn the blades in either of the ways – clockwise or counterclockwise. You should be mindful of any obstruction and if at any point you reach one, you should keep rotating the wrench until it releases.
Next, you should turn the power on to see if the disposer starts again. This time you should instead use the reset button to restart it. You should push the restart button for around twenty seconds to make sure the system restarts completely.
As a next step, you can also make use of a wooden spoon and use it to go inside the disposer through the sink hole. You will have to rotate it inside each of the parts of the disposer to check if any clogs are causing a jam. If you canțt find a clog, you should repeat this process but use an Allen wrench instead.
At this point, it should start working, but if it doesn’t, then the culprit will probably be the motor. Right about now, I should tell you that when the motor is defective, it’s a better idea to replace the whole garbage disposal system than just the motor.
If instead the jamming was caused by a clog, then you should clean everything up to avoid further problems.
To clean it you will have to let it grind freely a little and see if everything works as intended. Just run the water as you would do but start the disposer without putting anything in it. You should then add a combination of vinegar, water, and baking soda to clean it properly.
A cup of vinegar should be poured first, followed by baking soda, and leave it like this for a few minutes. This chemical composition will usually clean any bad smell or gunk as it cleans the inner parts of the disposal. As soon as you finish you can just run water down the drain and it will clean everything and leave it as new.
Can You Prevent The Smoking?
You can always curb the burning out and smoking smell once you realize that most of the time the smoking smell of the garbage disposal comes from its motor.
Don‘t overuse the disposer
Most of the time, depending on the horsepower, the disposer can only handle a certain food waste intake at a time. It’s obvious that 0.3 HP won’t handle ten people’s worth of food waste. Overusing it will cause it to break way sooner than it should.
Use water in abundance when grinding
Just let the water run while you’re grinding the waste. Using cold water will help protect all of the parts, especially the motors, from overheating. Water also lubricates to some degree the parts that are in charge of shredding, when running at a decent temperature.
Don‘t use it for hard food waste
You can’t expect it to run forever if you keep grinding hard food like bones in the disposer. Hard materials can damage the impellers and ultimately burn the disposer completely. The first sign to notice when you’re overusing it is that it starts smoking. Soon after that, it will become unusable.
You shouldn’t ignore a smoke smell – fixing the disposer as soon as possible will help prevent breaking it completely or even worse, a fire caused by overheating. You should use the smoke as a sign that somewhere there is an electrical problem and fix it until it is too late.
If you’re trying to fix everything yourself, remember that you’re working around electricity and try to stay as safe as possible. It’s very easy to get electrocuted when playing with wires. If you don’t have knowledge as an electrician, you should tread carefully and stay as safe as possible.
The easiest way to avoid getting into issues is to cut the electricity all together when fixing the disposal system.