The term “garbage disposal” is really a bit of a misnomer. If you’ve ever had one, you probably already know that you can’t run random garbage through it. It’s really designed to grind up and dispose of food waste—waste that would be otherwise compostable, with the exception of bones. What makes a good disposal, what features you should look for, and how much should you spend? To answer those questions, we installed and tested six popular models to learn more about how they work and what to look for.
Check out three of our top picks below, or scroll down for more in-depth reviews of these and other options, plus buying advice.
Some municipalities or cities have ordinances regarding the installation and use of garbage disposals. In some cases, towns without public wastewater treatment plants, where residents have their own residential “septic systems,” may not allow disposal use. Although, some models are specifically designed for use with septic systems. Conversely, some cities may require disposal units in kitchen sinks to be sure all waste entering their treatment system is ground into small enough particles to be handled efficiently. In any case, be sure to check your local ordinances before you purchase and install a disposal.
Continuous vs. Batch FeedContinuous feed disposals allow food waste to be passed through the drain, into the grinding chamber continuously. The disposal on these units is controlled solely by a remote switch. Batch feed disposals will operate only with a drain cover in place. Additional waste cannot be introduced to the grind chamber unless the drain cover is removed and the disposal is off. While batch feed may be less convenient, it does have safety advantages.
HorsepowerResidential disposal units are typically available with ⅓-, ½-, ¾-, and 1-horsepower motors. More horsepower generally indicates more robust grinding capabilities. Disposals with higher horsepower are also built with stronger components and may last longer. Some manufacturers suggest sizing that corresponds to family size and activity. Smaller families (1 to 3) and infrequent food preparation, would need something in the lower range of horsepower, and larger families (6 or more) with frequent food preparation should opt for something on the higher end.
NoiseGrinding noise and vibration are some of the biggest concerns people have with garbage disposals. Disposals will usually connect to the sink with a heavy rubber gasket or union that helps reduce vibration. More expensive units may be enclosed in a cover filled with sound deadening insulation. If noise is a concern, look for units with specific features to reduce noise.
Electrical ConnectionsNew disposals may come pre-wired with a power cord and plug, with a cord and plug you have to wire, or with no cord at all—the latter two being options to replace an older, hard-wired unit. All continuous-feed disposals need to be controlled with a remote switch within reach of the sink. If you are installing a disposal where there wasn’t one previously, power will need to be run, and an outlet installed in the sink cabinet, with a switch above the sink.
Prevent Stink in the SinkOne thing we learned using a clear p-trap was that the ground particles hung suspended in water turbulence in the lower part of the trap. As long as the water was running, the particles circulated, trapped in the trap. Once the water was turned off, the particles settled to the bottom of the trap after a couple seconds. Turning the water back on, full force, instantly flushed the particles from the trap. Doing this can help stop food from rotting in the trap and creating odors that may travel up through the drain.
The disposals on this list have been thoroughly vetted and evaluated by our test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience with disposals to determine the best options. Each of the disposal units tested was installed under the same sink, in the same basic, laminate covered, particle board cabinet. The sink itself was an inexpensive, stainless steel, single bowl unit, with sound deadening sprayed on the bottom. Sound levels were measured 6 inches from the front right corner of the sink rim, with the cabinet doors closed, while grinding corn cobs. We used a clear p-trap attached to the discharge tubes and diverted waste into a screen over a 5-gallon bucket for inspection. All units were used to dispose of carrots, celery, baked beans, chicken bones, and raw corn on the cob—a selection used to simulate the breadth of food waste consumers typically dispose of.
Horsepower: ⅓RPM: 1900Feed: ContinuousSink flange: Glass-filled nylonGrind components: Galvanized steelMount: EZ-MountDischarge: 1.5 in.Warranty: 2 yearsDecibels: 96dB
Waste King’s L-111 comes pre-wired and ready to install. A rubber gasket is provided to seal between the sink and flange. The disposal body is made from a reinforced polymer (a type of plastic) and connects to the flange with a twist-lock connector. The discharge pipe connects to your existing p-trap with a compression fitting—not included. There is a fitting for a dishwasher discharge hose if required. Installation was straightforward with the instructions provided.The disposal chewed though carrots, celery, and baked beans, although the carrots lingered a little before being completely ground. The baked beans liquified easily, but they had to pushed through the stiff, rubber splash guard. Chicken bones ground up completely, with patience—they were still clinking around in the disposal for several seconds after they seemed to be done. Raw corn cob was the most tenacious material we tried and required a few start-stop cycles to grind completely. It appeared to hang up in such a way that the impellers stopped pushing it into the grind ring. The disposal never jammed and eventually handled everything we threw down it.
Horsepower: ½RPM: 2800Feed: ContinuousSink flange: Glass-filled nylonGrind components: Galvanized steelMount: EZ-MountDischarge: 1.5 in.Warranty: 1 yearDecibels: 97dB
General Electric’s half-horsepower disposal comes with a convenient rubber gasket to seal the sink flange. However, it does not come with a corded plug, so you’ll need to get one and wire it, or hard wire the unit. The disposal body is made from a reinforced plastic and uses a twist-lock connector on the sink flange. Your existing p-trap should connect easily to the discharge pipe with a compression fitting—not included. A connection for a dishwasher discharge hose is provided. GE lists this unit as “septic safe” in its documentation, and installation was straightforward with the instructions provided.
Like other units on the lower end of the horsepower range, harder items like carrots take a little longer to grind up. Celery hung up in the grind chamber briefly, but cleared quickly on its own. And baked beans presented no problem once they made it through the stiff splash guard. The chicken bones actually ground quite well, and relatively quickly. The most challenging things were the corn cobs which, like some of the other units, required several start-stop cycles to grind completely. The disposal did, however, grind everything in our test without jamming or requiring intervention.
Horsepower: ½RPM: 1725Feed: ContinuousSink flange: Stainless steelGrind components: Galvanized steelMount: Quick-LockDischarge: 1.5 in.Warranty: 2 yearsDecibels: 95dB
The Badger 5, made by InSinkErator, comes pre-wired with a corded plug, ready to install. The sink flange needs to be sealed using plumber’s putty, not included. A Quick-Lock connector secures the sink flange and locks on the glass-reinforced disposal body, with a twist. The 90-degree discharge pipe points straight down to connect with your existing p-trap. You’ll need a compression fitting, not included, to do so. There is a fitting at the top of the unit to connect a discharge hose if required. The instructions provided were clear and the unit was installed without issue.
Waste to be disposed fell effortlessly through the pleated rubber splash guard. Most notably, the baked beans, in small quantities, had enough weight to stretch the pleats and fall through. Carrots were shredded without issue and celery was quickly reduced to pulp. Chicken bones ground up well, but one on/off cycle was required to fully clear the grind chamber. The unit sounded quite powerful grinding up a corn cob, upon inspection one small piece hung up; a second chance at it completed the job. The disposal appeared to eject waste forcefully throughout testing and did not clog or jam.
Horsepower: ¾RPM: 2700Feed: BatchSink flange: Stainless steelGrind components: Galvanized steelMount: Universal Xpress MountDischarge: 1.5 in.Warranty: 8 yearsDecibels: 103dB
Moen’s Control Activation disposal exhibits the fine fit and finish one would expect from the brand. The disposal body and motor are housed in a svelte black cover that also contains sound insulation. This batch-feed disposal comes with a drain cover that fits inside the drain, and when inserted completely, activates the disposal—water may still pass with the cover inserted.
The stainless steel sink flange has a universal Xpress Mount to connect to the disposal. The discharge pipe turns 90 degrees out of the disposal body and should connect with your existing p-trap with a compression fitting, not included. The unit comes, ready to install, pre-wired with a corded plug. Installation was fairly easy with the included instructions.
This unit, being a batch-feed disposal, doesn’t have a splash guard, so waste is very easily inserted through the drain unobstructed. Carrots, celery, and baked beans all ground easily and without issue. The particle size of disposed carrots and celery appeared to be very slightly finer than other units tested. Chicken bones were efficiently shredded completely, while the corn cob required a couple off/on cycles to be completely ground up. While disposing of the corn cob this unit seemed to vibrate more, which contributed to the higher recorded noise level. All materials tested were completely ground and ejected from the unit—no jams or clogs.
Horsepower: ¾RPM: 1725Feed: ContinuousSink flange: Stainless steelGrind components: Galvanized steelMount: Quick-LockDischarge: 1.5 in.Warranty: 6 yearsDecibels: 79dB
Right out of the box, it appears that InSinkErator’s Evolution Compact disposal is a finely engineered product. The electric motor and disposal body is entirely covered with sound protection and fitted with a sleek cover. Internal grind components are all stainless steel, with impeller lugs of heavy sintered, stainless alloy, instead of stamped steel. In place of a rigid, flange-mounted discharge pipe, it has one isolated by a broad rubber gasket so it cannot transfer vibration to the p-trap and associated plumbing. The sink flange and disposal body connect with a standard Quick-Lock fitting. The unit can be hardwired or plugged in, with the included cord and plug.
The Evolution Compact ground carrots and celery quickly and relatively quietly. Baked beans needed to be coerced a little through the splash guard, but presented no issue otherwise. Chicken bones were shredded very nicely, without any lingering clickety-clacking you might commonly hear from disposals. The corn cob took a little longer than expected, but ground up completely, without cycling the unit on and off. Most notable was how quiet disposal of the corn cob was—a full 16 decibels lower than the next quietest unit tested.
1200mm Tubular Linear Actuator
Horsepower: 1RPM: 2800Feed: ContinuousSink flange: Stainless steelGrind components: Stainless steelMount: Universal Xpress MountDischarge: 1.5 in.Warranty: 20 yearsDecibels: 97dB
Waste King’s 9980, 1-horsepower disposal comes enclosed in a full cover, lined with sound insulation. The stainless steel sink flange features an easy-to-use three-bolt mounting system and connects to the disposal with a rubber gasket and steel strap clamp. The 90-degree discharge pipe points straight down to connect with your existing p-trap. A fitting at the top of the unit is provided for a dishwasher discharge hose, if needed. The unit comes prewired with a corded plug, although it can be removed for a hardwired install. We had no issues with installation and the instructions provided were easy to follow.
Carrots, celery, baked beans, chicken bones, and corn cobs all proved to be no match for this 1 horsepower unit. The chicken bones and corn cobs, which lingered in some of the other units, were shredded completely without the need to cycle on/off. Waste was ejected from the unit effectively, and the resultant waste particle size was similar to other units. All waste disposed passed through the unit without jams or clogs. Noise levels recorded were the second highest in our test.
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