Smoke Coming From A Garbage Disposal? (Here's Why & A Fix)

Hannah DeMoss
by Hannah DeMoss

On an average day, garbage disposals will grind solid food waste into a texture that can be disposed of in the sink. There are some instances, however, when they can break down and emit smoke. This issue can be a cause for concern. What causes this in your sink, and what can you do about it?

A smoking garbage disposal is typically caused by an overheated motor. This issue can arise from a clogged or burned out disposal system. A few ways to fix this issue include shutting off the power, removing debris, flushing it out with water, and more. To prevent hurting your disposal, avoid the addition of hard items and avoid hard foods.

Read on to learn more about what to do if smoke starts spewing out from your garbage disposal and what causes this to happen. By the time you finish reading, you should have enough knowledge to handle a smoking garbage disposal situation without a problem.

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What Causes Smoke From A Garbage Disposal?

Smoke from a garbage disposal might seem concerning, but it is usually not a cause for alarm. In rare cases, it might be a fire caused by a strange combination of oil and heat. However, there are only a few reasons why smoke emits from a garbage disposal in your kitchen.

The two main reasons why smoke might come from a garbage disposal include:

  • An overheated motor
  • A burnt-out motor

These are the two most common reasons why smoke might come from a garbage disposal.

There are also more obscure reasons that smoke might come from this device, as we mentioned earlier. You will need to scope it out to see the problem for yourself for the best results when fixing it.

Read on to learn more about the damage to motors and what exactly causes this to happen. There is something that you can do to right the wrong before it is too late. Even with a smoking garbage disposal, it is possible to fix everything in a short span.

What Causes Motor Damage?

We have discussed that a smoking garbage disposal is caused by motor damage. However, we have not talked about what causes the motor damage. What ruins the garbage disposal and causes it to break down inside a sink? It can be confusing and weird to see smoke coming from your disposal for the very first time.

Most of the time, motor damage inside a garbage disposal comes from food, hard utensils, and other objects that stress the motor. This jam causes the engine to work overtime, which can overheat it or even destroy it if the blockage is not removed in an efficient amount of time.

Preventing Motor Damage In The Future

If you are experiencing a smoking garbage disposal and want to prevent it in the future, there are a few steps you can take. These will keep your system intact for as long as possible and prevent you from spending more money on your kitchen than you need to.

To prevent garbage disposal damage, you should keep a few things in mind. These include:

  • Avoiding the addition of hard items to your system, such as silverware and plastic wraps
  • Removing pits and seeds from food before placing them in the garbage disposal
  • Keeping hard foods from going inside the garbage disposal if you can help it

These strategies will help keep your disposal together for as long as possible. They will also prevent the need for replacement for a significant time.

Sometimes, accidents happen. If a hard object goes inside your disposal, you should remove it as soon as possible for the best results. Prevention is always simpler and less expensive than fixing damage already done.

Fixing A Smoking Garbage Disposal

As we mentioned, most of the time, a smoking garbage disposal occurs with a jammed motor. To fix this, you will need to take the time to unclog your garbage disposal. To do this, you should follow a few simple steps.

These include:

  • Shutting off the power to the unit
  • Removing visible debris
  • Rotating and clearing the grinding plate
  • Flushing it out with water

These simple steps will allow you to unclog your disposal.

Read on to learn a little more about each of the steps involved. This method is the easiest way to get your garbage disposal to stop smoking.

Step 1: Shut Off The Power To The Unit

The first thing you should do is shut off the power to the unit. Though the garbage disposal remains broken, you do not want to run the risk of chopping off your fingers by accident. Do not injure yourself by forgetting to do something as simple as cutting the power to your device.

You can shut off power to the unit by flipping the correct switch on the breaker that controls the system. Typically, this will be labeled and easy to read. If you cannot find it, consult a manual or an expert for the solutions you need. The answer for this technique comes with the unit you purchase.

Step 2: Remove Visible Debris

Next, you should remove any visible debris that you see on the grinding plate or outside. This action will help you get down to the core of your problem. Once you remove enough of the excess, you can see what is causing the most damage to your internal system.

Visible debris might include items such as:

  • Eggshells and other hard shells
  • Silverware, such as spoons, forks, and knives
  • Plastic linings and wrappers

All of these might be debris that you can see with your eyes. You can remove these with your fingers, paper towels, or another item that will work as a grabbing piece.

Once you have rid your sink of these items, you are ready to move to the grinding plate. The pieces stuck here are what could be causing smoke to pour from your garbage disposal.

Step 3: Rotate And Clear The Grinding Plate

Next, clear out the grinding plate. This item should be visible once you have removed enough of the excess debris from the outside of the metal. Once you remove debris from a blade, rotate it and move on to the next one. This process will allow you to clear the entire thing swiftly.

Clearing the grinding plate is the last big thing that you need to do to clear your sink. After this, a simple rinse should solve your smoking problem without too much trouble. Here, you will also see any severe damage to the plate and if a replacement is necessary.

Step 4: Flush It Out With Water

The very last thing you should do is flush out the entire thing with water. This action will rid the disposal of any excess debris, ensuring that it is clean and ready to operate. Do not forget this step, or leftover garbage might have the chance to pile up and start up the mess all over again.

Once you have done this, your disposal can operate once again. You can test it out. It should work properly, but if you see any issue, you might need to take further action to get your sink back to working condition once again. This action often means a replacement. We will go over this next.

Video: Clearing Out Your Garbage Disposal

Prefer to watch someone else go through the process as you follow along? Here’s a short video that goes over everything you need to know about clearing out your garbage disposal. Simply follow the steps laid out here, and your smoking disposal will be back to normal in no time!

What If The Smoking Persists?

If the smoking persists, you have likely damaged the motor beyond what a simple unclog can do. You will need to replace the system entirely and start over from the beginning if you cannot get rid of the smoke or smell that comes with it.

To replace a motor, you will need to buy a new one. There are a few great places to do this. These include shopping at:

  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Ace Hardware

By buying from these, you should have the capacity to replace the motor inside your garbage disposal with a simple look at a YouTube video online. There are many informational pieces out there that will guide you along through the replacement process.

It can be frustrating taking on any manual labor by yourself, so prepare yourself an entire afternoon to take on this process. By the end, you will have a garbage disposal that does not smoke every time you use it. It should last a lot longer than the one you destroyed.

Of course, you can always hire a professional to do the work for you. These people are inexpensive if you do your research and will complete your task efficiently. A professional will save you time and money if you fear you will fail at the replacement process and damage items beyond repair.

When Is A Garbage Disposal Beyond Repair?

Ideally, you would always be able to fix your garbage disposal by thoroughly cleaning it and clearing out the debris. Unfortunately, sometimes garbage disposals are damaged to a point that they must be replaced.

One sign your garbage disposal is beyond repair is when the metal has thinned quite a bit. If there are holes in the disposal that water can get through, that’s an indicator you’ll need to replace it immediately.

Excessive rust buildup can also be problematic when paired with holes in the metal. However, rust on its own doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’ll need to replace your garbage disposal.

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When your garbage disposal is smoking or has a burning smell, it may be clogged with food waste or the motor may be burnt out. Turn off the disposal, and then remove any visible debris. Using a long object to rotate the grinding plates is often helpful.

Next, flush out the unit thoroughly with water and turn it on to see if clearing it solved the issue. If the smoking continues, that’s generally a sign you’ll need to replace your garbage disposal. In most cases, though, a few minutes of unclogging will solve the problem and you’ll be able to use your disposal as usual once again.

Hannah DeMoss
Hannah DeMoss

Hannah DeMoss has been a writer for nearly a decade. Her passion for writing began years ago has continued to grow. Her expertise at home involves furniture restoration and other small DIY tasks. When not writing, Hannah enjoys the outdoors with her husband and pups, as well as traveling.

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