What Are The Pros and Cons of Garbage Disposals?

Photo of a garbage disposal motor. Pros and Cons of Garbage Disposals.

Are you considering getting a garbage disposal for your busy sink? If so, take a look at this handy guide with all the pros and cons of garbage disposals to help you make your decision!

Garbage disposals are little grinders built directly into your sink, which pulverize little food scraps. They protect your pipes from clogs and don’t have you wasting your time emptying food scraps into the garbage. They are affordable, easy to mount in your existing kitchen sink, and convenient. However, they can require extra maintenance if they clog or jam, and they still need monitoring as far as what goes into them.

Below, I’ve gone into detail on the pros and cons of garbage disposals to help you make the right choice.

What are garbage disposals, and what do they do?

Before we get too far into the pros and cons of these common household appliances, let’s take a moment to look at what they do. Garbage disposals shred food, so it’s safe to pass through your drain pipes. Their sharp blades will pulverize the food scraps into tiny pieces that help keep your pipes clog-free and don’t harm the water system as they pass through.

As we’ll discuss next, there are positive and negative aspects to installing one of these appliances in your kitchen sink.

The pros of garbage disposals

Some of the biggest advantages of these appliances for the modern, fast-moving household include:

  • Make food clean-up better
  • Protect your pipes from clogs
  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Cuts down on landfill waste

Make food clean-up better

Instead of scraping food remains into the garbage can before rinsing them off, you just press a button and do both tasks simultaneously.

Protect your pipes from clogs

Food waste is one of the biggest reasons for clogged pipes. A garbage disposal helps reduce that risk to protect you from a costly plumber’s bill.


They’re affordable to buy and install, especially if you find composting or other food waste programs expensive and inconvenient.

Easy to install

Garbage disposal units are versatile to install, and you don’t need to completely redo the pipes in your kitchen sink to have it done.

Cuts down on landfill waste

A lot of food scraps go needlessly into landfill waste. If you don’t compost, a garbage disposal can prevent that by helping it pass through your pipes and into the water system,

The cons of garbage disposals

There are important considerations to keep in mind when considering these appliances, however, which include:

  • Have specific use instructions
  • Have to be cleaned weekly
  • Require regular maintenance
  • Can clog or jam or break
  • Can get smelly

Have specific use instructions

Unfortunately, using a garbage disposal is more complex than pressing a button, and everything on the plate gets processed. There are essential “dos and don’ts” to having a processor, especially regarding what can go in them. You’ll have to keep that in mind with your table scraps.

Have to be cleaned weekly

Since food processors come in direct contact with food, you’ll have to clean them regularly. Most recommend it at least once a week.

Require regular maintenance

These appliances work pretty hard since they’re essentially fast-spinning knives. You’ll need to have their maintenance done regularly to keep every part of the processor working smoothly. 

Can clog or jam or break

Even if you take proper care of your machine, they are still prone to clogging and/or breaking down. This can be frustrating and expensive to fix, depending on the problem.

Can get smelly

While cleaning and proper use and care of your garbage disposal will help with this, these are known for getting smelly! Food will rot quickly, so you’ll need to keep it very clean!

Photo closeup of a sink garbage disposal.

Choosing between the pros and cons of garbage disposals

Some of you will find the pros are stronger than the cons, and vice versa. The reality is that neither is right nor wrong. It’s about choosing what will work best for your household and preferences. 

The 2 main problems with waste disposal?

Many consider installing a garbage disposal because they want to do what they can to minimize landfill use and still avoid composting. That being said, relying on this appliance for waste disposal can introduce two new problems:

  • Introduces food waste to water systems
  • Limited restrictions on food use

Introduces food waste to water systems

Even though the food is in tiny little flakes, it does introduce food waste directly to water systems. Whether you are on a municipal sewage system or a self-contained septic tank, it can add in extra food waste that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

Limited restrictions on food use

You’ll often still need to get rid of some food waste in the garbage since a disposal itself can’t take any and every kind of food scrap.

Do garbage disposals attract roaches?

Unfortunately, garbage disposals can attract roaches. Since the food waste will attract them naturally, they’ll be drawn to your sink drain. Even if you clean it regularly, the odor can still encourage them.

Are garbage disposals bad for plumbing?

Garbage disposals are good for your plumbing system since they break down food and help push it through rather than possibly clog the drain with food waste! 

How long do garbage disposals last?

If you properly care for your garbage disposal, you can expect it to last about ten years. You’ll still need to have it maintenanced by a professional during that time.

How to maintain your garbage disposal

What does maintenance look like for a garbage disposal? It’s come to come down to three main features:

  • Cleaning your garbage disposal
  • Using it as directly and recommended
  • Having a professional take a look at it

Cleaning your garbage disposal

You’ll want to clean your garbage disposal with dish soap and water, as mentioned. You’ll also want to learn how to clean beneath the rubber seal at your drain pipe (which quickly can get moldy) and how to clean the blades. If you take the time to learn how to do this properly, it’ll protect your investment!

Using it as directly and recommended

The rules for your disposal are there for a reason! If you misuse it, it’ll cause problems and breakdowns that will cost a lot to repair. Read the user’s manual thoroughly and call for help if you need it. You’ll also want to pay attention to details about how much cold water to use with your unit and how often to let it run.

Having a professional take a look at it

You’ll need regular yearly maintenance to keep your unit working well. This is essential for protecting your investment and your warranty if you have one. Have a professional come in that you can rely on and trust.

Does a garbage disposal add value to a home?

Yes, a garbage disposal will add value to your home because of its ability to protect your plumbing system. Just make sure it’s in good condition and maintained well!

What do plumbers think of garbage disposals?

People misuse garbage disposals, and compost bins can substitute much better in most situations for the modern homeowner. Plus, a compost bin can take any and every kind of food, rather than separating the food types.

Is a garbage disposal necessary for a dishwasher?

No, a garbage disposable isn’t necessary for a dishwasher to be used. It is common to install both together, but you don’t require it!

Are garbage disposals bad for the environment?

There is some literature that garbage disposal can be bad for the environment. Since you are introducing nitrogen-rich food particles into a water system, that water system can impact the water’s chemical makeup. This can create issues with ecosystems (both plant and animal ones).

How to decide if a garbage disposal is right for you

It’s easy to feel torn between the pros and cons of these kitchen appliances. Generally, a garbage disposal will be right for you if you take the time to learn how to use them properly and care for them. They may not be suitable for you if you can’t care for them properly, for whatever reason, or if you are already seriously involved in composting your food waste.

Adding a garbage disposal to your home takes a lot of research. Garbage disposals are little pipe-mounted grinders that cut food scraps into pipe-friendly particles. These are affordable, save on food waste in your garbage, and are convenient for kitchen clean-up.

That said, they need regular cleaning and proper maintenance and have a steep learning curve in what can go in them (or not). Making the right decision on pros vs. cons means considering all of this!

Know someone who wants one of these units? Share this article with them to help them make a decision!

Rosa Peterson

Rose is the writer and creator of Better That Home, a blog about home design and decor. Rose has been designing spaces for over 10 years and writing home design and decor for big publishers. She has been inspired by many other creatives from around the world and loves to share those inspirations with her readers. Read more about Rose here