Different Types of Garbage Disposals Explained

Is your kitchen trashcan making your house smell unpleasant because it’s full of food waste? Is your outside trash full days before the garbage truck comes to empty it? Are you worried about the amount of garbage you’re sending to a landfill? The solution to these problems could be a kitchen garbage disposal unit. In this guide, I will explain what a garbage disposal is and how it works. I’ll also lay out the benefits of buying one, what types of garbage disposal are available, and things you need to consider when you’re buying one. Let’s begin.

What is a garbage disposer?

A garbage disposer is a little unit that sits under your kitchen sink. Inside it are grinders or impellers, usually made from stainless steel. Instead of putting it in the trash, empty your leftover food into the sink’s drain. Switch on the garbage disposal. The grinders will chop your food waste into a fine powder which washes into your drain. It then goes into your sewer system or septic tank. Kitchen scraps, vegetable peelings, even chicken bones, a good garbage disposer will make light work of any food waste.

All you need is a kitchen sink with enough room under it to fit the unit (units are around 12 inches in height, 8 inches diameter), and a power supply nearby. You can install it yourself, although I would recommend getting a plumber in to make sure it’s done properly.

Why should I get one?

The benefits of owning a garbage disposer all stem from the fact that you’ll be putting less food waste in your kitchen trashcan. This is great because:

  • Food waste won’t sit rotting in your trash, making your house smell bad. Garbage disposals are more hygienic.
  • Your trash can will take longer to fill up. You won’t have to take your garbage outside as often, which is often a dirty and annoying job. You won’t run out of room in your outside trash before the truck comes anymore.
  • You won’t be sending as much waste to landfill anymore. Garbage disposals are better for the environment.

The only mark against garbage disposals is that they use more power and water than putting your food in the trash. Consider the effect on your household bills before you buy.

Types of garbage disposal

There are two types of garbage disposal unit, with their own pros and cons. These are:

  • Continuous Feed. This is the most common type of garbage disposal. It’s operated by a switch on your wall. Switch it on and the grinders will run continuously. You drop the food waste into the kitchen drain and the food is ground down to powder. Once you have finished, you switch it off.
  • Batch Feed. Rather than operating continuously, these disposal units grind the food down in batches. You put your food waste into a chamber, then cover it with a stopper. Once you turn the stopper the grinders will start to work.

Continuous Feed garbage disposals are popular because they are fast, efficient and easy to use.

Batch Feed garbage disposals, while not as easy to use, are good for families with young children. Because they will only work when the stopper is in place, they can’t be switched on accidentally. This makes them safer around small children, who like to explore and press buttons.


The power of a garbage disposer is measured in horsepower. The more horsepower you have, the more grinding power in your garbage disposal. Although more powerful units cost more, I recommend investing in the most powerful garbage disposal unit you can.

Less powerful units do not grind as well, especially when dealing with hard food waste like chicken bones. Chunks of food that haven’t been ground down properly can clog up your drain. Also, lower powered units don’t last as long.

I recommend a garbage disposer with at least 1/2 horsepower, preferably 3/4 or 1 horsepower. There is almost nothing a unit of that power can’t deal with.

Grind stages

Different garbage disposal units grind down food into different amounts of fineness. These amounts are called grind stages, and there are three.

  • Stage 1 – When your garbage disposal grinds food waste into a powder.
  • Stage 2 – When your garbage disposal can liquefy food, such as vegetable peelings.
  • Stage 3 – Beyond stage 2, your garbage disposal can even cut grain of rice in half.

The higher the grind stage capability of your garbage disposal, the better it will work. You will avoid clogging your drain and be able to dispose of more types of food waste. I would recommend buying garbage disposal with 2 or 3 grind stages.


In days gone by, garbage disposal units were extremely noisy. Today, however, manufacturers have worked hard on making them as quiet as possible. Your garbage disposal will never be totally silent, and if you have a stainless steel sink, it may vibrate quite loudly when the garbage disposal is running. Larger units tend to be quieter, and some models have insulated chambers to seal the noise in. Look for a model of garbage disposal that lists its quietness as a benefit, and you won’t go wrong.


Clogs can be common with garbage disposals, especially in lower power units that do not liquefy the food waste. These can damage the units or the pipes in your sink. To combat this, many models of garbage disposal have an anti-jamming feature. These vary from model to model, one example is a stainless steel filter that stops larger food particles reaching the bottom of the unit. I recommend you purchase a garbage disposer with an anti-jamming feature. It could save you time and money.

Septic tanks

Garbage disposals are not always compatible with homes that have a septic tank. This is because the garbage disposal emits waste that the microorganisms in your septic tank cannot digest. There are models of garbage disposal that deal with this problem by injecting natural microorganisms into the grinder whenever it’s used. If your home has a septic tank, make sure you purchase a model that has this feature.


Your garbage disposal unit should last for many years, especially if you look after it well. Keep it free from clogs and try not to get cutlery jammed in it. For peace of mind, I would recommend buying a garbage disposer with a long warranty period. Some manufacturers offer lifetime guarantees, and if you have any problems with your garbage disposal, will come to your home to repair it.


With garbage disposals, you definitely get what you pay for. If you want a basic unit, prices start around $50. For a top of the range unit packed with features, you could pay up to $500. There are many price points in between. My advice is to decide which features you want most and shop around for the best prices. There are some great deals available online.

Thank you for reading our Garbage Disposal Buyer’s Guide. If you have any advice, any questions, or just want to tell us what you think, please leave us a comment. Happy grinding!