Why Is Garbage Disposal Smoking?

The smell of smoke from your kitchen can be concerning, especially if it triggers your smoke detectors. Still, it can be pretty surprising to see the smoke coming from your garbage disposal. So, why does this happen?

When troubleshooting a smoking garbage disposal, first rule out the power supply. It’s possible the wall socket for the appliance is overheating and smoking, not the disposal unit itself. Next, check for overloading or an internal jam, as well as a burnt motor capacitor or a burnt motor. Finally, let the unit cool down before troubleshooting.

If you’re looking for help to understand why your garbage disposal is smoking, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to discover why this happens and what you can do about it.

Why Would My Garbage Disposal Be Smoking?

Wherever there’s smoke, there’s heat. So, whether you smell or see smoke coming from your garbage disposal unit, here are the 4 likely places that are overheating and causing the problem:

#1 Power Supply Problem

When you can’t see where the smoke is coming from, you must first check inside the cabinet that houses the garbage disposal unit. Likely, the problem isn’t the garbage disposal at all, but the wall socket that it plugs into.

There’s likely an electrical fault in that wall outlet causing it to overheat. As that continues, the heat will burn the insulation and even the outlet’s faceplate, creating that smoke smell you’re sensing.

If this is the case, you must immediately shut the power off to that wall socket. You can do that by turning off the dedicated circuit breaker that supplies the garbage disposal unit.

Once that’s done, you must carefully remove the wall outlet and inspect it for any electrical faults. That can be a risky job to do as a DIY task, so don’t be afraid to engage a qualified electrician to do it for you.

Depending on the extent of any damage, you might have to replace the wall socket and its wiring. That will ensure it’s safe to use for your garbage disposal or any other appliance.

disposal clamp to sink

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#2 Internal Jam or Overloading

After ruling out any power supply problems, you must then consider that the problem is with the garbage disposal itself. The most likely cause for smoke or a smoke smell from that appliance is overloading or an internal jam.

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Garbage disposal units are incredibly powerful at grinding your food scraps down to tiny bits. However, they still have safe operating limits that you must stick to. Repeatedly loading too many items into the unit at one time will cause its parts to overheat, leading to the smoke smell that you’re smelling.

The problem becomes worse when you load solid items that do not belong in the garbage disposal. Some things simply do not belong in garbage disposal units, like:

  • Bones.
  • Shells.
  • Non-food waste like branches or rocks.

The garbage disposal will try its best to break those items down. However, its moving parts will certainly generate lots of excess friction, leading to overheating and smoke smells.

Of course, whatever the unit fails to grind down will simply jam the moving parts and prevent them from moving entirely. As the appliance keeps breaking them down, the same overheating and smoke smell will continue.

You can prevent this problem by following the manufacturer’s instructions that come in the user manual. There, you’ll find information on how much is safe to load in the garbage disposal and what items must never be put inside it.

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#3 Burnt Motor Capacitor

When you’ve finished ruling out #1 and #2, you will then have to shift your attention to the garbage disposal’s motor and its motor capacitor.

In simple terms, the capacitor ensures that the motor has enough power to do its job. A capacitor in excellent working condition will ensure that it has no problems grinding and disposing of the food bits you feed to it.

The motor capacitor is an electrical component. That means it’s prone to electrical faults that can cause it to overheat and burn, creating a burning smell and even smoke to come out of the appliance.

The solution to this problem is pretty straightforward: you’ll have to replace the motor capacitor with a new one. However, it’s possible to do it yourself as a DIY task, assuming you can find the correct spare parts.

However, working with electrical components comes with its fair share of risk. So, it’s safer to call a qualified technician to do it for you. 

This option is also the better one if the garbage disposal is still covered by the warranty. That’s because the manufacturer will likely perform the replacement free of charge.

garbage disposal smoking parts

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#4 Burnt Motor

Last but certainly not least, the smoke could be coming from the garbage disposal’s motor. This problem will happen for many similar reasons as the ones mentioned above.

For example, if you overload the garbage disposal too much and too often, the motor will overwork itself and overheat. The same will also happen when a hard object gets stuck and stops the unit’s parts from moving.

As a result, the motor will overheat and burn out, causing smoke to come out from the garbage disposal’s opening.

Unfortunately, there is no solution for this except for a total replacement. Most, if not all, garbage disposals have their motors built into them. So, replacing the motor separately is not a standard option.

Read: Dishwasher Won’t Start – Troubleshooting Guide

What Do You Do When Your Garbage Disposal Overheats?

As you can see, many of the root causes behind a smoking garbage disposal relate to overheating. So, what can you do to reduce or prevent damage when you know the appliance is overheating?

Before performing any kind of troubleshooting, here are the 3 immediate steps you can take when your garbage disposal is overheating:

  • Firstly, shut the garbage disposal off immediately and disconnect it from its power source. When you do this, you’ll prevent the unit from overheating any further.
  • Next, pour running cold water through the garbage disposal to help flush it out and reduce its temperature.
  • Lastly, leave the garbage disposal alone for at least 30 minutes until it completely cools down.

When you’re confident that the garbage disposal is entirely cool, then you can test to see if it still works correctly. If at any point you’re unsure, contact a qualified technician to help you troubleshoot the problem safely.

Disposal installed

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that you’ll find helpful in troubleshooting your smoking garbage disposal unit:

How Can You Prevent The Garbage Disposal From Overheating?

There are 3 steps you can take to prevent your garbage disposal from overheating. Firstly, never overload it with too much food waste at one time. Next, never load hard items (like shells or bones) into the unit. Lastly, run cool water through the unit while using it to keep its temperature down and flush away all food waste safely.

What Happens If A Garbage Disposal Overheats?

Some garbage disposal units have overheat protection. So, when they overheat, a switch will trip and prevent the unit from working at all. Models that don’t have that protection will continue to overheat until the motor, capacitor, and other parts burn and produce smoke.

Can A Garbage Disposal Catch On Fire?

Yes, although unlikely, a garbage disposal can catch on fire. For instance, excessive overheating or a severe electrical fault could cause parts like the motor or its capacitor to start burning. But, of course, many garbage disposal units have fuses and other protective features to reduce the chances of that happening.

How Do You Fix A Burnt Garbage Disposal?

To fix a burnt garbage disposal, first assess the damage. After that, you can replace most burnt or faulty parts. However, a burnt motor will be the costliest repair for a garbage disposal unit. Therefore, upgrading to a new garbage disposal might be better.

How Do You Reset A Garbage Disposal?

Many garbage disposals come with a safety switch underneath them. The switch will stick out if it’s ever triggered. To reset it, all you have to do is push the button back in.

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