Getting rid of food waste is one of the biggest challenges every household is presented with. The struggle between finding an eco-friendly way to do it that is also quick and efficient at the same time is ever-present. Luckily, garbage disposals have emerged as a great solution, walking this line perfectly.

As garbage disposals are slowly taking over other disposal methods, more and more people are looking into them. Though many think garbage disposals are universal and anyone could use any of them, that isn’t the case. We will go into the main differences between types of garbage disposals below and, hopefully, help you select the right unit for your kitchen.

First Things First: What Are Garbage Disposals?

Put simply, garbage disposals are devices that go beneath your sink. They are usually electrically powered, and their purpose is to collect any food waste you throw into them. However, apart from collecting it, garbage disposals also grind the waste into tiny bits so it can go down the drain quickly and without clogging it.

After that, the waste usually goes into the sewers. However, in some cases, it can also go into septic tanks, depending on where you live.

What Type of Waste Goes Into Garbage Disposals?

In general, people use garbage disposals to shred food waste. This type of waste accounts for up to 20% of all household waste, and all of it usually ends up in landfills. There, it is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, which directly aids global warming.

However, garbage disposals ensure landfills are not filled with food waste, as the food goes into the sewers. As such, these devices are both convenient and eco-friendly. That makes them perfect additions to all households.

Does Any Garbage Disposal Fit Your Sink?

If you are thinking about getting a garbage disposal, you need to know that not every model will fit your sink. In reality, it is quite possible that the ordinary sink you have now is not compatible with a garbage disposal at all.

Generally speaking, garbage disposals can connect to your sink in three different ways. The first one is through threaded plastic nuts, the second through large hose clamps, and the third through the mounting-ring assembly.

If you are unsure which type would fit your sink the best, we suggest contacting a plumber. They will know the exact kind of garbage disposal you need for your sink. Another option is to ask your garbage disposal provider for advice. You can show them pictures of your sink or describe it.

Of course, remember to check whether a garbage disposal can actually fit under your sink. Most modern sink designs allow for one, but if your sink is older, you might need a new one with more space.

Garbage Disposals: Types According to the Feeding Method

There are two basic types of garbage disposal units on the market: continuous and batch-feed disposals. They differ in the way they function and in their price.

Continuous Feed Garbage Disposals

As their name suggests, these disposal units grind waste continuously. In other words, it will keep running as long as it is turned on. These disposals are particularly useful for preparing meals, as you can throw away any waste piece by piece.

Example: InSinkErator Garbage Disposal (Amazon)


The most significant advantage of these disposals is the fact that they process little bits of food at a time. That way, the possibility of them clogging up is minimal. They also help you keep your kitchen and kitchen counter clean at all times. Finally, they are the less pricey option out of the two.


However, these disposals can also be dangerous. They are always running, so there is a possibility that random objects could fall into the grinder and wreak havoc. In addition, there is a higher chance of injury with continuous disposals.

Another con is that these units use up more water and energy, as they have to be turned off to stop working. Thus, your power and water bills might be a bit higher if you choose this type.

Batch-Feed Garbage Disposals

As opposed to continuous ones, batch-feed disposals work in a different manner. Instead of running on and on until you turn them off, these work only once the drain cover is in place.

So, you can slice the food in the kitchen, slowly fill up the disposal, and then activate it once you are done. It works relatively simply: you only have to put the drain cover into place, and the unit will activate and start grinding.

Example: GE 3/4 HP 2700 RPM Batch Feed Garbage Disposer


These disposals are a lot safer. Even if something falls in, you can reach in safely with your hand or pliers and grab the object. There is also no way that you or anyone in your home can get injured, as the unit works only when it is covered.

Batch-feed disposals are also better for your power and water bills. They grind waste two or three times a day, rather than all day, every day, meaning that you will not be spending as much power.


These disposals are usually more expensive than continuous ones, and it is not hard to see why. They need to be strong enough to deal with large quantities of waste at once. Thus, their motor needs to be stronger. In addition, they have to come with a noise suppressor, as they are recognizable by the loud buzzing you can hear as they work.

Finally, batch-feed disposals can also be potentially hazardous. Namely, you need to wait until they fill up to turn them on, which may take all day or even more. During that time, bacteria can breed and become a problem. However, this won’t be a huge issue if you run it at least once every day.

Garbage Disposals: Size and Strength

Garbage disposal motors come in various power ratings, ranging from ⅓ hp to 1 hp. Generally speaking, you will get a better and stronger grinding and sound insulations stem the more powerful the motor. However, you’ll also have to pay a bit more, as stronger motors are also more expensive.

Which motor you should get also depends on how much you will be using the disposal unit. If you have a large family and cook a lot, a basic ⅓ hp motor will probably be too weak for your needs. In such cases, a stronger, 1 hp motor would be a better choice. However, if you live alone, a ⅓ hp motor will be more than enough.

Of course, the power of the motor also has an impact on the disposal size. The stronger the motor, the bigger the unit will be. Thus, you need to ensure you have enough space for the right disposal or get a sink that would accommodate your desired disposal better.

More Differences Between Garbage Disposals

Besides the feeding method, strength, and size, garbage disposal units also differ in:

Power Cords

Some disposals come without a power cord. In cases like that, you will either have to buy one or hardwire your disposal instead.

An Anti-Jamming Feature

Naturally, no matter how expensive and good your unit is, clogging is always possible. However, some models come with an anti-jamming feature. This feature detects any clogs and reverses the grinding table so that the lodged food loosens.

If you want a garbage disposal with this feature, you will have to pay a little more. However, you will at least be safe knowing that your unit won’t clog randomly.


Garbage disposals are usually made of steel. While this material is excellent, those made of stainless steel are often more durable and less prone to rust. However, whichever material you go for, if you care for the unit properly, it will last you a long time.

Choosing the Right Garbage Disposal Unit Checklist

If you are looking for the perfect garbage disposal for you, we made a checklist you can follow on the journey. Since disposals are anything but universal, the checklist should help you keep track of all the crucial factors you need to consider.

  • Check your sink and whether it is compatible with a disposal
  • Look at how much space you have
  • Check your pipes or septic tank to ensure they can handle a unit
  • Consult your budget
  • Choose a disposal feeding method
  • Choose the size and strength of your unit
  • Explore different brands online and compare them
  • Read online reviews before purchasing

Follow this guide, and you are bound to make a great decision for your kitchen and your household.

So, Are Garbage Disposals Universal?

And the answer to our question is a resounding no. Garbage disposals are anything but universal. They differ in sizes, materials they are made of, the strength of their motors, and the feeding method they require. Furthermore, no sink and kitchen are the same, so which disposal unit you get also depends on the space and budget you can work with.

If you follow our explanations and checklist, you will be able to pick the best garbage disposal for you. Keep all the differences in mind, and always ask for help if you need it. That way, you will be able to make a good and informed decision.

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