You just finished washing the dishes and turned on the disposal, only for it to start smoking! While your first thought might be that your garbage disposal is on fire, that’s actually very unlikely.
But if a fire isn’t the reason behind the smoke, what is?
If there’s smoke coming from the garbage disposal, the motor is likely overheated, jammed, or burnt out. Try turning off your disposal and clearing any blockages; if that doesn’t work, ensure electricity is being supplied to the disposal system. If there are no electrical problems, your disposal’s motor is likely burnt out and must be replaced.
Keep reading to discover more about why the garbage disposal is smoking and how you can keep up with preventive maintenance.
We’ll also talk about whether disposals can catch fire, how to know when your disposal is burnt out, and how to fix a burnt-out disposal.
Why Is My Garbage Disposal Smoking?
Noticing a stream of smoke issuing from your garbage disposal can be alarming, but stay calm–it’s usually not a reason to panic.
In most cases, a garbage disposal will smoke when the motor is jammed, overheated, or burnt out. When your disposal system is clogged, it can lead to these problems with the motor.
Very rarely, a fire could begin in the disposal system due to a combination of heat and oil. However, this happens so infrequently that it shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
When you’re dealing with garbage disposal motor damage, the cause is usually a buildup of food and other objects that has stressed the motor over a period of time.
If a fork or other hard utensil has fallen into the disposal, that can cause major damage.
Once your garbage disposal has gotten clogged or jammed, the engine has to work overtime.
Because of this, it gets overheated and sometimes even destroyed, especially when the food and other objects causing the blockage aren’t addressed immediately.
Preventing Damage to A Garbage Disposal
We’ll cover how to repair your smoking garbage disposal later in the article, but first, a word on prevention.
As with most things, it’s better to prevent an issue than have to solve it later on. And for garbage disposals, prevention is quite simple.
The most important thing to remember is not to put hard items and foods into the disposal. Silverware, plastic wrap, seeds, pits, and other hard foods should never enter the system.
If they do, be sure to remove them as soon as possible to prevent lasting damage to the motor.
Can My Garbage Disposal Catch On Fire?
Although it’s technically possible for garbage disposals to catch fire, it’s extremely improbable.
In 2018, the InSinkErator Single Outlet SinkTop Switches were recalled because they posed a fire hazard.
However, the hazard wasn’t due to the disposal itself. The problem was that water could get inside the power module, potentially causing an electrical fire.
About 1,400,000 units were recalled in total. However, the recall only involved products that were controlled with a button, rather than the typical switch.
At the time of writing, this was the only major recall that had taken place due to garbage disposals posing a fire hazard.
In general, smoking garbage disposals are not on fire. A burning smell or smoke emitting from a disposal does not mean that it is on fire.
Usually, the smell or appearance of smoke is simply due to hard food or metal items falling into the disposal and making their way into the motor. This causes it to heat up, smoking and producing a burnt smell.
How Do You Know If The Garbage Disposal Motor Is Burnt Out?
Determining whether your garbage disposal is burnt out only takes a few steps.
1. Inspect The Circuit Breaker
Before you do everything you can to repair your disposal, double-check that the circuit hasn’t been tripped. If it has, reset it and see if your disposal starts working again.
2. Turn The Blades With A Wrench
Switch the disposal on. Use a garbage disposal wrench to turn the blades. If the motor is jammed, this can help free it up and get it working properly.
3. Press The Reset Button
Turn off the disposal switch and press the disposal’s reset button for up to 30 seconds. Then, turn the switch back on to see if the disposal begins to function normally.
4. Check The Outlet
Locate the outlet under the sink where the disposal’s electrical cord is plugged in, and unplug it. Turn the switch on and use a voltage meter probe to check each of the outlet’s ports.
If the meter makes a sound or lights up, then you’ll know the disposal is being supplied with electricity. If it does not light up or make a sound, move on to Step 5.
Now that you’ve ensured there is no disconnection from power causing the issue, it’s safe to assume the motor has burnt out. Your next move is to replace the disposal altogether.
5. Check The Switch
If you completed Step 4 and determined there was no current, continue by removing the switch plate from the switch that turns the disposal on and off. Turn the switch to the on position and place a voltage meter probe on each terminal.
If there’s no current, the switch (not the disposal) may be the problem, and you’ll want to call an electrician.
But if there is a current, then either the disposal or outlet may need to be replaced. We recommend calling a professional to further identify and solve the problem.
How Do You Fix A Burnt Garbage Disposal?
If your garbage disposal is burnt out, you should start by unclogging it.
Turn off the power to the disposal to prevent injuries. Then, remove any debris. If you notice large chunks of food or metal utensils, they may be the cause of the issue.
Rotate and clear the grinding plates using a long object like a disposal wrench. Then, thoroughly flush out the disposal with plenty of water.
If this doesn’t solve the problem and your disposal continues to smoke, you’ll most likely have to replace the disposal system completely.
Before buying a new one, follow the steps in the section above to determine whether the disposal is completely burnt out.
If it is, you can purchase disposal replacement parts at your local hardware store.
Follow the instructions included with your new disposal, or do a quick internet search for video tutorials to help you with the replacement process.
However, if you aren’t ready to take on this DIY project, hiring a professional is always an option.
A jammed, overheated, or burnt-out motor is the most likely culprit when smoke comes out of your garbage disposal.
First, turn off the switch to your disposal and thoroughly clean out the system to remove any blockages.
If your disposal is still smoking, check for any electrical problems. If there are none, it’s very likely your disposal’s motor is burnt out and needs to be replaced.