Any household appliance that involves water can leak and cause water damage, including garbage disposal units. The garbage disposal is a household invention that makes life in the kitchen more convenient and less time-consuming. The first models came into production in 1940; today, nearly half of all US households have a garbage disposal hidden away under the kitchen sink. Occasionally, the unit will leak, which can cause water damage to flooring, baseboards, and the cabinet. Unresolved water damage can lead to a mold infestation that could spread throughout the home.
How to Spot a Leaking Garbage Disposal
A leak under the kitchen sink can go undetected for weeks or months, especially if the leak is minimal. Detection is difficult for many reasons. The area under the kitchen sink is usually cluttered with cleaners, garbage bags, rags, brushes, sponges, and other kitchen items. The door to the cabinet is kept closed, and the area under the sink is rarely illuminated. The cleaners and other products under the sink often mask any unusual odors that might indicate a leak.
A plumbing expert offers the following tip on how to detect a leaking garbage disposal unit: “Prior to testing the garbage disposal for leaks, unplug it at the wall outlet and turn off the power from the breaker box to prevent electrical shock. Then insert a watertight sink stopper into your sink drain and wipe the unit dry with a clean cloth. In any handy container, mix a few drops of food coloring into a few cups of water, and pour the dyed water onto the sink stopper to help you locate the leak.”
Some signs there may be a leak under the sink from the garbage disposal, from the sink itself, or from connections to the dishwasher include:
- A musty, mildew smell is detected under or near the cabinet.
- Items under the sink are regularly wet or moist.
- The flooring in the sink area and in the bottom of the cabinet is wet, warped, soft, or covered in mold and mildew.
- A dripping noise can be heard when the sink is filled with water or when the garbage disposal has just been used and flushed.
- An inspection of the joints, connections, and fittings yields evidence of moisture being deposited under the sink.
Six Common Causes of Garbage Disposal Leaks
Worn out or deteriorated gaskets
When a leak is discovered under the sink near the garbage disposal, check the gasket located between the rubber seal and the flange. Discharge indicates the gasket is defective.
Leaky sink flange
The sink flange is found at the highest point of the garbage disposal, where the unit meets with the sink and drain. A leak at this juncture signals a defective flange. The cause may be weak or damaged putty.
Loose drain lines
The garbage disposal can leak from the drain lines. Inspect the junction of the appliance with the drain lines.
Loose seals or pipes
Activity under the sink and around the garbage disposal unit can result in seals and pipes being damaged. Constantly bumping the pipes or the unit can cause leaks.
Dishwasher connection issues
A garbage disposal leak might be from the dishwasher connection to the drainpipe. A garbage disposal unit attaches to the dishwasher because the dishwasher disposes of food waste into the garbage disposal unit.
Split or cracked unit
If a leak persists after repairs, the problem may be a catastrophic failure of the garbage disposal. The only solution for this leak is to replace the old unit with a new one.
What to Do If Water Damage Has Occurred Due to a Garbage Disposal Leak
A leak under the sink through the garbage disposal is considered gray water. An undetected leak can cause structural damage and create unsanitary conditions that may pose a health risk to the household. Also, the dark, warm, moist area under the sink is a prime location for mold growth.
When water damage has occurred due to a leaking garbage disposal unit or an appliance connected to the unit, the fastest and safest way to deal with the issue is to call in certified, experienced, and well-equipped water damage restoration technicians. They can determine the extent of the leak and any risks involved in drying and cleaning the affected area. In many cases, homeowner’s insurance covers this type of water damage. The staff and technicians at SERVPRO of Ennis/Red Oak can manage both the insurance claims process and the cleanup and restoration project from start to completion.