Finding the best garbage disposals
When you finish eating at home, where do your food scraps go? If you don't have a garbage disposal and don't compost for your own garden, you might throw your leftover bones, vegetable peels and pizza crusts into the regular trash bin for delivery to a landfill or incinerator facility. If you do have a garbage disposal (or waste disposer, as they are also known), you can push food waste into the sink drain for the disposal to grind up and wash away. In many cases, the waste goes to your local sewer system and is treated at a wastewater plant. Although it's more complicated for homeowners in areas without sewers, some garbage disposals are designed for use with septic systems.
Which scenario is better for your local environment depends largely on where you live. Cities with an overburdened sewer system might prefer that you compost or send scraps to the landfill/incinerator; our composting bin report includes information on products for composting food waste outdoors and in. On the other hand, communities with overburdened waste facilities such as near-full landfills may encourage homeowners to install garbage disposals to grind up and wash away unwanted food scraps.
Once you decide that a garbage disposal is right for you, choosing the best model for your household depends on several factors. First, think about how often you'll use it, and for how much waste. This will depend on how frequently you cook at home, and how many leftovers and scraps you usually have in a week.
For households with more than four members and that cook more than a few times per week, you'll need a disposal with a larger grind chamber capacity and higher horsepower like our Best Reviewed Waste King Legend 8000 (Est. $150) . It has a 1-horsepower motor that can handle the kitchen waste from large households. If you're a one- or two-person household and need to dispose of food waste only a couple of times a week, you'll likely be fine with a smaller 0.75- or 0.5-horsepower model such as the KitchenAid KCDS075T (Est. $250) or the InSinkErator Badger 5 (Est. $90) . One exception: If you routinely host large dinner parties, you may want to invest in a more powerful disposal even if your typical food waste load is smaller.
Also consider the area you have available for your garbage disposal. Disposals are installed under the kitchen sink and hook up directly to the drain. If you have a dishwasher, it's hooked up to the disposal's line out. A powerful disposal like the Waste King Legend 8000 takes up more space than some less robust models like our Best Reviewed cheap garbage disposal, the InSinkErator Badger 5. Less powerful disposals also tend to create less noise and vibration, something that homeowners with sinks made out of lighter-weight materials like thin-gauge stainless steel should keep in mind.
Types of garbage disposals
Garbage disposals come in one of two types: continuous feed or batch feed. To operate a continuous feed garbage disposal, simply turn on your water faucet, switch the unit on and begin pushing food waste down the drain into the grinding chamber. Using this kind of disposer is quick, easy and intuitive, but isn't necessarily safe. Non-waste items can drop into the unit, necessitating retrieval with a hand or tool, which could cause problems for small children and distracted adults.
Batch feed disposals eliminate the risk that the disposal will activate when a foreign object or hand is inside. First the waste must be pushed into the drain; the hole is then covered with a magnetic lid that activates the disposal's power switch. Lifting the lid to add more food scraps turns the disposal off. This is slower than using a continuous feed model, but as one user says at HomeDepot.com, "a slower grinding disposer is not a bad thing when you have old drain pipes and a low flow kitchen faucet."
If your home has a septic system, you might have been advised not to purchase a garbage disposal at all. The concern is that added volume from kitchen waste could put too much stress on the septic tank, which could require having the system pumped more often, or lead to an overflowing tank. However, the InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist (Est. $230) has been designed specifically for this situation. As food waste is ground up and passes through the unit, it injects a solution that helps accelerate decomposition.
Garbage disposals can cost upward of $300 or less than $100. Horsepower is one factor that separates models, but other criteria like construction quality come into play. Cheaper garbage disposals are usually made of plastic and galvanized steel components instead of stainless steel, and often aren't as durable as buyers hope. Judging from user reviews at retail sites, manufacturer warranties are a good indication of a garbage disposer's expected lifespan. Cheap garbage disposals with short warranties could be a risky investment. Our Best Reviewed cheap garbage disposal, the InSinkErator Badger 5, comes with a two-year warranty compared to the seven-year, 10-year, or even unlimited coverage offered with more expensive models. Users say the Badger 5 typically lasts three to five years.
To determine the best garbage disposals available today, our editors consult expert reviews from CNET, ConsumerReports.org and others. However, the best and most extensive feedback comes from users who post ratings and comments on retail websites. Based on this combination of reviews, we name garbage disposals that rank highest in terms of performance, ease of use and the ownership experience, including durability.
Best Garbage Disposals
Powerful and quiet, the Waste King Legend 8000 takes on any challenge
When you have a high-performing garbage disposal, you can entertain large groups without fearing the cleanup that comes after. The best models are quick, quiet enough that you can still hear the TV, and grind food waste finely so there's minimal chance of blocking your drain or jamming the machine. They're also made of high-quality materials, including stainless steel grinding components, so they won't corrode or rust quickly. Paying for the best performance usually gets you the longest, most comprehensive warranty as well.
There's a lot of competition for the title of best garbage disposal, but no matter what kind of food scraps you need to grind or how many people you're cleaning up after, our Best Reviewed Waste King Legend 8000 (Est. $150) can handle it. Not only does the Legend 8000 feature stainless steel interior parts, but it's also backed by a lifetime warranty that covers in-home servicing and repairs. This kitchen powerhouse's 1-horsepower motor can grind up almost any food waste, though some users and experts say it has trouble completely grinding larger pieces of fruit rind like watermelon. All agree that the Waste King Legend 8000 is the best all-around disposal on the market.
Running a close second are the InSinkErator Evolution Excel (Est. $320) and the KitchenAid KCDS075T (Est. $250) , both of which cost more than the Waste King. While the InSinkErator has a 1-horsepower motor, the KCDS075T is slightly smaller at 0.75 horsepower and might be better for smaller households or homeowners with less space under the kitchen sink. Smaller units are usually easier for homeowners to install on their own, if that's a consideration.
Many garbage disposals are troubled by poor reviews when it comes to noise, but KitchenAid KCDS075T users say it produces little vibration or noise when grinding. However, it comes with only a five-year warranty compared to the Evolution Excel's seven-year guarantee and the Legend 8000's lifetime warranty.
When considering performance, these three disposals will all grind food scraps in home kitchens that see moderate to heavy use while requiring minimal maintenance. Yet thanks to its strong motor, relative value, easy installation and lifetime warranty, the Waste King Legend 8000 is a clear favorite among users.
Safety comes first with the InSinkErator Evolution Cover Control Plus garbage disposal
Batch feed garbage disposals have the same basic inner workings as the units discussed above; the only difference is how they switch on. Most continuous feed disposers begin grinding when you flip a switch on the wall or countertop and keep running regardless of what you stuff inside. Batch feed disposals, on the other hand, activate only once the drain has been covered.
To operate a batch feed disposal like the InSinkErator Evolution Cover Control Plus (Est. $260) , users must line up magnets on the unit's cover and the mouth of the disposal. Since the disposal won't run while scraps are pushed down the drain, food waste must be ground up in batches. These disposers take more time to do the job than continuous feed models and aren't ideal for large families, but parents of young children have the peace of mind of knowing the disposal won't operate while fingers are in the drain. In addition, turning a batch feed disposal on with its cover means not having to touch any electrical switches.
On the downside, there are few batch feed garbage disposals available, and fewer still with very much positive feedback. The InSinkErator Evolution Cover Control Plus is a new model. Initial feedback is positive, but very limited. However, the InSinkErator Evolution Cover Control Plus is little changed from the discontinued (but still available at the time of this update) nSinkErator Evolution Cover Control (Est. $260) , which receives notable positive reviews. It's quiet and easy to install, putting it on par with some of today's higher-rated continuous feed models. Its seven-year in-home warranty covers parts and labor.
The InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist helps septic systems break down food waste
Homeowners with septic systems rather than sewers must always be careful about what they put down the drain. When using a garbage disposal in a home with a septic system, the ground-up food waste drains into the septic tank and it may fill more quickly, requiring it to be pumped more often. This process is expensive and time-consuming, although having a septic tank overflow is even worse. Because of this, many homeowners are told they shouldn't use a garbage disposal if they use a septic system.
A possible work-around is the InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist (Est. $230) , which releases a solution called Bio Charge that helps break down solids flowing into a septic system. User reviews at sites like Amazon.com say it works as advertised, and minimizes or even negates the impact of a food disposer on septic systems. It also prevents accidental flushing of food waste down the drain. One Amazon.com post reads, "I'm really glad to finally have a disposal for this house that is on septic. No matter how diligent we were, some food particles always ended up in the sink and periodically caused drain line problems." One bottle of Bio Charge should last three or four months, according to the manufacturer.
Besides its unique Bio Charge feature, the Evolution Septic Assist is a solid disposal boasting a 0.75-horsepower motor and stainless steel components. Some reviewers say they've used other small-capacity garbage disposals while on septic tanks with adequate results. However, these cheaper 0.25- and 0.5-horsepower disposals don't have the benefit of the Bio Charge catalyst, and none were reviewed positively enough by experts or users to be included here. The InSinkErator Evolution Septic Assist's four-year warranty covers parts and in-home service.