Can I Use a Dishwasher with a Broken Garbage Disposal?

opened dishwasher

If you’re wondering whether you can still use the dishwasher with a broken garbage disposal, then you’ve found the right place. After looking into this topic, I can offer you some ways to know whether your dishwasher will still work, even if the garbage disposal is broken. 

In many cases, you can still use the dishwasher if the garbage disposal is broken. The garbage disposal is not connected to the dishwasher; however, the dishwasher will often drain through the garbage disposal (but not always). There are some cases where the clogged garbage disposal will cause the dishwasher to back up. 

Below, we’ll talk about the different connections between dishwashers and garbage disposals. We’ll also give you some tips to troubleshoot a broken garbage disposal, so you can get your kitchen back up and running. 

Will The Dishwasher Still Work if the Garbage Disposal is Broken? 

The answer is nuanced. If the garbage disposal is broken, it may drain, and it may not. The first thing you need to do is determine how your dishwasher is connected to your garbage disposal. 

Even if you know nothing about plumbing, it’s not too difficult to look under your kitchen sink and see how the drain from the dishwasher is connected to the garbage disposal. Then, you can better determine the problem. 

Let’s look at several possibilities – you can use these as a guide for your own diagnosis: 

  • If the garbage disposal isn’t working right, can you use the dishwasher?
  • If the garbage disposal is clogged, can you use the dishwasher?
  • If the dishwasher isn’t connected to the garbage disposal, can you still use it?

Let’s look at this closer.

If the Garbage Disposal is Ineffective 

Sometimes, a garbage disposal just won’t clear the food like it used to. In this case, your dishwasher should still work. Make sure you avoid placing any large, lumpy food in your dishwasher – always rinse every dish beforehand. 

When you can, it’s a good idea to repair the garbage disposal. Even if the dishwasher is still working, old food and gunk can begin to catch in the garbage disposal, leading to a fowl odor and making it harder to repair later. 

If the Garbage disposal is clogged, will the dishwasher work? 

If the garbage disposal is clogged, the dishwasher may not work. Why? Because the garbage disposal may be downstream of your dishwasher’s drainage (this is common if the dishwasher passes through the disposal system). 

In this case, it depends on where your garbage disposal is clogged. For example, some garbage disposals might be ineffective because there is something large, like a spoon or a child’s toy, that is completely stopping the unit – water should still be able to drain. 

But, if you’re garbage disposal is clogged with something like potato peels, then it’s likely that your dishwasher will be clogged too because the drain area is completely packed with waste. Before the dishwasher or garbage disposal will work, you’ll need to unclog the entire system. 

What if the dishwasher Isn’t Connected to the Garbage Disposal? 

There are instances when a dishwasher will bypass garbage disposals. In these cases, even if the garbage disposal is clogged, the dishwasher will drain. However, if the dishwasher isn’t draining, then you know the problem is probably with the piping of the dishwasher itself. 

In the next section, we’ll give you several ways to troubleshoot your broken garbage disposal – in some cases, fixing your garbage disposal will make your dishwasher function properly. 

Troubleshooting a Broken Garbage Disposal 

If your garbage disposal is broken, it may or may not impact your dishwasher. However, you still will want to repair your garbage disposal. Even if the dishwasher looks like it’s still working, broken garbage disposal could lead to more blockages and washback into your dishwasher. 

Note: before you think about repairing a dishwasher, ensure you understand all safety procedures. The same goes for the garbage disposal. Many of these units are hardwired into the electricity, and they can cause electric shock if you aren’t careful.

Yes, you might want to save the money and avoid calling a repairman, but if you’re unsure of yourself, it’s sometimes wise to take the safer route. Also, if you rent an apartment, then there’s no reason you should mess around with the system: call the maintenance department and ensure they come and fix it properly. 

Alright, now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about some options for fixing a garbage disposal and dishwasher. These are all simple. 

Ways to correct a broken garbage disposal:

  • Check Power
  • Check Trip Switch 
  • Drain Plug 

Here’s a video that goes over some tips for fixing a broken garbage disposal.

Check the Power 

Yes, I know this one sounds silly, but it’s sometimes the silly things that can go right over our heads. First, look underneath your sink. Many times, there is a plug underneath the sink (placed there for garbage disposals and dishwashers). This plug makes it easier to remove and replace units without needing to hardwire every time. 

However, with a plug, it’s possible that it was accidentally pushed from the socket. It could be that you threw something under the sink, and it pulled the plug out. Double check this before you worry about more serious issues! Also, check the breaker box to ensure a switch wasn’t tripped.

Now let’s talk about the trip switch. 

Check the Garbage Disposals Trip Switch

Some garbage disposals will run really hot – sometimes you can hear them really laboring to grind up a lot of old food. When garbage disposal begins to work too hard and risks overheating, then some systems have an automatic shut-off feature. If this feature engages, then your unit will stop until you press the reset switch. 

If you’re garbage disposal suddenly stopped, look around your unit for a switch that might reset the system. Often this is a red button. If you can’t find the switch, look at the owner’s manual or reach out to the manufacturer. 

If you do find the trip switch and your garbage disposal turns back on, just be careful that you don’t overload the system again. Also, it might be wise to contact a professional to ensure that something more sinister isn’t at play. 

Hidden Drain Plug in a Garbage Disposal 

A couple of things can happen when installing a new dishwasher or garbage disposal. First, you might have a new garbage disposal, and you’re trying to connect it to your dishwasher. This is a pretty common occurrence. 

Second, you might have a new dishwasher, and you’re trying to connect it to the waste disposal (which did not previously have a dishwasher attached). You get everything all set up and ready to go, but when you run the dishwasher, you realize that the water isn’t draining from your dishwasher. What happened? 

In both cases, the answer might be a drain plug in the garbage disposal. Manufacturers know that not everyone will have a dishwasher and that not everyone will connect their dishwasher to the garbage disposal, so they place a watertight drain plug on the side of the garbage disposal, ensuring water doesn’t leak everywhere! 

The problem starts when someone forgets to remove this drain plug. If you’re dishwasher isn’t draining, disconnect it from the garbage disposal, use a flashlight and look into the opening in the trash disposal – if you see a blockage, it’s probably the drain plug. 

Now, all you need to do is use something to push the drain plug out. You’ll probably have to retrieve the drain plug from the sink above, so make sure the disposal is turned off!  

Here’s a video that show you how to remove a drain plug from the garbage disposal.

Tips for Better Interaction Between Dishwasher and Garbage Disposal

Rinse Dishes Before Placing them in the Dishwasher 

If you want to get maximum effectiveness from your dishwasher and garbage disposal, it’s imperative that you understand how they work and what they can handle. Some dishwashers and waste disposals can handle just about everything; some cannot. There’s no reason to become frustrated trying to force a unit to do something it wasn’t built to do. 

Avoid Placing Some Foods in the Garbage Disposal 

There are some foods, such as uncooked rice, or potato peels, that should not be placed in a garbage disposal. Check what your unit is rated for and figure out what your septic system can and cannot handle.

Now for our conclusion.

Final Take on a Broken Garbage Disposal and Using the Dishwasher 

Depending on how your dishwasher is attached to your garbage disposal, it may or may not work if the garbage disposal fails. If the dishwasher connects directly to the garbage disposal, then a truly clogged garbage disposal will usually clog the dishwasher; however, the dishwasher may still drain even if it’s just a partial block. 

Don’t ask your garbage disposal or dishwasher to do anything they weren’t designed to do. If you’re not sure what you can handle, look at your garbage disposal, find the name of the manufacturer and give them a call – they will be able to answer your questions with the most detail. 

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