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How to Remove a Garbage Disposal: Tips & Guide

Find out how to remove a garbage disposal with the help of our how-to guide. Video tutorials included in our detailed article.

We know what you’re thinking: having a garbage disposal is a luxury. Why on earth would I want to get rid of mine? Believe it or not, there are plenty of perfectly good reasons, not least of which is simply that these devices break and need to be replaced.

The other scenario that forces homeowners to renege on their garbage disposal install is a lack of knowledge on the home’s utilities and how to properly care for those utilities. For instance, if you own a home that is plumbed to a septic system, rather than a city sewer, it is likely you have been told all of the myriad things that are bad for your septic system. Running a garbage disposal is commonly accepted as one of these detriments.

Whether you moved into an existing home that has a septic system and also features a garbage disposal attachment, or if you put one in yourself only to later realize your mistake, there is some good news. First, you can always flip that gently used garbage disposal on craigslist or Facebook marketplace, and second, the system itself is relatively easy to uninstall. Follow the steps below to ensure you are removing your system properly and not making any more work for yourself than you have to. After all, there is nothing worse than turning a simple job into an all-day affair, especially when it is a piece of equipment you don’t even get to use.

Gather Your Tools

The first thing you will want to do is set yourself up for success. This means gathering everything you need and setting up your space so you are working clean. This will make your life much easier.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Flat-head screwdriver/5/8’s channel lock
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Dry rag
  • Channel locks
  • Teflon tape
  • Plumbers putty
  • Plumbers glue

Cut the Power

To ensure safety, you are going to want to cut the power to the breaker where that the garbage disposal is connected. You are probably wondering why you will need to do so, especially if your garbage disposal is unplugged. Well, you would be surprised at the amount of people that forget they are working with an electrical system and leave the device unplugged. This could be a big problem in terms of safety, specifically with regards to your fingers.

You are also working with a plumbing system, which means water. Even if you do unplug your device, the plug may still be live. For those of us who missed that one science class, water plus electricity equals disaster.

While many industrial plugs, like the ones concerned with the heavy appliances in your kitchen, have Ground Fault Interrupters, if you live in an old house, it is likely that yours do not. The moral of the story is to make sure you cut the power. It may seem like an extra, unnecessary step, but as the old adage goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Check out this video on how to find your circuit breaker using a circuit breaker finder.

Avoid the Flood

It is also important to turn off the water underneath the sink. You can do this by turning the two valves beneath the sink basin (in the cabinet below) tightly to the right or clockwise. Since you have already cut the power, this is less about the safety hazard and more in the spirit of working clean.

You have to remember the garbage disposal essentially works as a splitter between the sink’s main line and the pipe that runs either into the sewer or the septic line, depending on the house. That means, if the water is on and you start opening pipes that link to the disposal, you are going to have some serious leaking.

Disconnect the Dishwasher

The next step is to disconnect the hose that connects the dishwasher to the side of the garbage disposal. While it isn’t always the case that disposal is connected to the dishwasher, most systems are set up this way.

The hose will likely be a flex hose of some sort secured by a hose clamp. Most hose clamps can be loosened with a flat head screwdriver, or a nut driver. If you have a nut driver set, this will be best. Most clamps feature a ⅝ inch nut head. The nut driver will make the unscrewing process slightly easier, as a flat head driver tends to shift in and out of the flat head slot, especially if you are working on your back, upside down, in a cramped space.

It is also a good idea to make sure you have a bucket or some sort of catchall underneath the pipes you are disconnecting. Even with the water off, there will be some leftover liquid in the pipes. This can make a considerable mess if you are not careful.

Check out this video to reverse engineer the process and to visualize the ⅝ inch, flathead pipe clamp.

Disconnect the Waste Pipe

Again, think of your garbage disposal as a splitter. When it is on it is simply splitting your regular plumbing system with your dishwasher. We have already disconnected that dishwasher line. Now we need to take the fitting off of the u-shaped pipe responsible for getting rid of wastewater after you’ve run the disposal and drained whatever was sitting at the base of the sink, clogging it up. This is sometimes called a p-trap, and will be connected by a more conventional fitting: probably something galvanized and female (with threads on the inside).

To get this connection to budge, you are going to need channel locks, perhaps even a monkey wrench depending on the sink. More than likely though, you will be able to get by with a big set of channels.

Once again, you will want to have your bucket handy for anything sitting in the pipe. This is especially true of the p-trap because of its shape.

Here, you can see the u-pipe disconnect in action using channel locks.

Remove the Disposal

The actual disposal can be secured to the sink basin in a couple different ways. While some thread right into the bottom of the sink, others are held in place with a snap ring. To loosen the snap ring, use a flathead screwdriver to pry the ring from the mounting apparatus.

It is vitally important to hold the disposal with one hand so that when it releases it does not come crashing down on the bottom of the cabinet, or worse, your head.

Remove Mounting Apparatus

Whatever is left in the sink hole should also be removed. If you installed your garbage disposal yourself, you will know that you essentially replaced your sink’s normal drain with what came in your disposal’s kit. Nothing there is original to the sink. It should all be specific to the disposal. That means, it can all come out.

There is probably some combination of sealing gaskets, O-rings, flanges, putty, etc. all held in place by the mounting apparatus (something like a snap ring) and screws

Here is the mount removal process in action.

Pipe It

Since you won’t be installing a new disposal, you will have to do a little bit of true plumbing. The PVC and flex that you strung together to connect your disposal will not work. The apparatus itself acted as a pipe connection between the sink and the waste lines. What you have in its place is a bunch of elbows, oddly bent pieces of flex, and a big gap.

First, make sure your drain hole is clean of all parts exclusive to the garbage disposal kit. Once it is, you can insert a new drain.

Once it is clean of all old putty and hardware, roll out a thin piece of fresh putty on the inside lip of the drain. This would happen top side, within the sink, rather than under. The new drain will sit right on top of this lip and the putty.

On the underside of the sink goes the accompanying putty. Recruit some help to hold the drain stable on top while you tighten the washer down to keep all your fresh putty from moving around and squeezing out.

Next, run the PVC drain tailpiece. This connects the drain to the u-pipe, which then connects to the waste. For all of these connections, use Teflon and a little magic lube to make sure you’re not springing any leaks.

For a complete overview of re-piping under your sink, sans garbage disposal, check out this video.

Conclusion

With your garbage disposal removed and your sink replumbed, you no longer need to worry about your septic or fuss with finicky disposal systems that are constantly breaking. With your sink back to its primitive form, you will have to be sure to break the habit of rinsing all that lose food down the drain. Get yourself a good catch basin and some Drano for those days when you most certainly will forget!

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