When you think about it, we are spoiled in the kitchen. Unlike other parts of the world that have to deal with food waste by throwing it in the garbage or composting it, we can throw excess leftovers into our sinks with impunity, as is the American way.
Why are we so complacent about our food? It’s because we rely so heavily on garbage disposals to handle it for us.
But what happens if it breaks down? What if you want to get a new one? Chances are that you haven’t paid much thought to your disposal that you currently own, unless, of course, it’s not working. That’s the way these things go; we don’t care about our appliances until they break.
Nonetheless, you should be thinking about your disposal, most notably when the last time you checked it out. While these handy devices can last for up to a decade or more, most of us don’t replace them that often, which can lead to trouble.
So, in the spirit of making sure that you can continue to dispose of your food with impunity, let’s dive into the world of compact garbage disposals to see what options you have for upgrading.
Compact Garbage Disposals and How They Work
Garbage disposal units have a range of benefits for your home and kitchen. They help you protect your plumbing, get rid of bad odors, and even have environmental benefits. Despite so many households now having garbage disposals it isn't always well known how they work.
Compact garbage disposal units are designed to fit under your sink, between the drain and the trap. They are installed to shred food waste into small enough pieces so they can pass through your plumbing.
Despite being small, compact garbage disposal units have a surprising amount of power. They work using a small motor built into the device which powers two metal plates with sharp edges. These rotate anywhere between 1500 and 3000 rpm depending on the motor and model.
Food waste is then placed into the unit and lands on these spinning blades where it is ground down into small pieces (typically around 2mm) before being forced out of the device by an impeller arm. This then allows the shredded waste to flow through your plumbing and out of the building without causing any issues.
3 Advantages of Small Waste Disposals
It's incredible to think that the first waste disposal unit was developed in the 1920s, but now they are in the majority of home across the country. In the past 90 years, there has been a lot of development, and we are now seeing some of the most compact garbage disposal units ever created.
These small garbage disposals have a range of benefits:
1. Space Saving
Typically a garbage disposal unit will use around 12-18 inches of space but also needs extra space around it. I’ve found that while there may be room in some homes for this, a lot of kitchens don't have that room going spare. This is especially true for apartments or condos. A compact disposal unit doesn't need anywhere as much space (generally they are under 13 inches), so they're perfect for a smaller home, or if you need the storage.
2. Excellent for Deep Sinks
Deep sinks have come back into style in a big way not only for their utility but also for their look in a kitchen. Unfortunately for most a deep sink, 10 inches deep or more, may leave little room for a garbage disposal. Compact garbage disposals explicitly made for deep sinks will help solve this issue in your home.
3. High Power
Historically you may have opted for a larger garbage disposal because compact units had a smaller motor and therefore wouldn’t work as effectively. Thankfully, you no longer need to compromise. The evolution of compact garbage disposal units has meant that even though the unit gets smaller the motors within still have plenty of juice to get the job done.
Choosing the Best Small & Compact Waste Disposal
For some households, space limitations mean that you have to worry about the size of your disposal. To make sure that you don’t encounter any problems, measure the area beneath your sink, as well as your current unit (if you have one).
If you don’t already have a disposal, then be sure that you are adding a few extra inches for the mounting bracket, which will cause the whole thing to sit down further beneath your sink, rather than being flush against it. Typically, aim for under 15 inches of space with most products on our list being below 13 inches in height.
When looking at garbage disposals, you’ll notice that they will be labeled by horsepower. This is an indication of how powerful the motor is, with the higher 'HP' meaning more power or spinning force.
For the most part, these machines will be around ½ horsepower, with some going up to ¾ or one full horsepower if you’re in need of a heavy duty unit.
At first, you might think that getting a bigger model will be a great idea because it is objectively better than a smaller one. But that’s not always the case. Sure, a ¾ HP model will be faster than a ½ HP one, but other factors such as flow rate and rotations per minute will ultimately tell you how well it can process your leftovers.
Overall, use horsepower as a guideline, but don’t automatically assume that it will be a defining feature.
Flow Rate and RPM
For most disposals, they will tell you how big the grinding chamber is, as well as how much water can flow through it at any given time. The flow rate is called CFM, or cubic feet per minute, and it will tell you how well it can process waste. Thus, a disposal with a CFM rating of 30 is better than 20, and so on.
Rotations per minute are also known as orbits per minute, and that will tell you how fast the impellers are spinning when you turn the unit on. Having a high rpm rate along with a decent CFM means that you shouldn’t experience many issues with clogging or backups in your line.
Finally, another important feature to look at with your garbage disposal is the material of which it’s made. Two primary types of metal are used in these machines; galvanized and stainless steel. If you have an option, always choose stainless, as it is less prone to rusting over time.
In fact, if you treat stainless well, it will last as long as you want it to.
Galvanized steel is another viable material, but it will rust over time, no matter what you do. Because it’s not treated the same way as stainless, it will break down eventually, meaning that you have to replace it more often. The benefit of using this steel is that it’s usually cheaper.
Feed Type (batch or continuous)
An important factor when selecting your garbage disposal is the feed type, as this relates directly to how you will use it. As you look through the range of compact garbage disposal units you will notice there are two main feed types; batch or continuous.
Continuous feed garbage disposals work from the moment you power them on. This means they’ll grind anything put into them immediately and won’t stop until the unit is powered off.
Batch feed garbage disposals grind the food in stages. This means you insert food into the disposal first and then you switch it on separately.
When considering the garbage disposal feed type you should find the volumes of waste and who will be using it or have access to it. If you have young children, then the batch feed might give you better peace of mind, but a continuous feed might be better suited for you.
Generally, I've typically found that if you only have small amounts of waste, then the batch feed is going to be the best for you, and continuous is better for larger households.
Electric Cords & Wiring/Electrical Load Requirements
There are two options for fitting your garbage disposal, you can choose between connecting this directly with cord and plug, or it can be hardwired directly using circuit wire into an electrical box.
A cord and plug can be connected into any plug socket, typically one under the sink. This makes it the perfect option if you have a plug there already. It is worth noting that cords are generally sold separately and not included with the garbage disposal unit.
Direct hardwiring is done using a circuit wire which will go directly into an electrical box with separate wiring to the switch. These are also generally fitted under the sink for simplicity.
As part of any kitchen and home planning, you will also need to consider the electrical load requirements of the garbage disposals. According to the electrical code, every appliance should have its dedicated circuit so that it isn’t overloaded.
When comparing compact garbage disposal units, you should consider which devices you have and which will work in your existing setup. This will also help shape whether you opt for a cord or direct wiring.
Auto-reverse Mode (Anti-jam)
Once you're used to the convenience of a garbage disposal, nothing is more frustrating than when stops working. Jams can be reasonably frequent and cause the blades to stick; however, the auto-reverse feature helps prevent this from happening.
It's a relatively simple concept, but quite useful. Primarily when there's a jam, the blades can be set to work in reverse so that the blockage comes loose. This then allows you to keep using the garbage disposal as usual.
The auto-reverse feature isn’t a necessity, but according to the Consumer Reports Garbage Disposal Buying Guide, it's one of the key elements that will help you get the most from your garbage disposal. When considering your options, it's something to look for.
Quick-Mount Neck (DIY installation)
There is nothing more frustrating to me than getting a new piece of equipment and having to pay extra or wait for somebody to come and install it. I want to be able to use it immediately and ideally fit it myself where possible.
A quick-mount necks feature allows users to install the garbage disposal themselves reasonably simply. It is worth noting that garbage disposals can weigh up to 30 pounds so you may need to get somebody to help.
Generally, quick-mount necks are standard on most modern models, but it's something to look out for when considering which garbage disposal to go for.
Stainless Steel Grinding Chamber
With all appliances, the quality is in the materials, and for compact garbage disposals, this is no different. There are several grinding stages that waste will go through as it passes through your device. Some food waste, like bone, can be challenging to grind but can also take a toll on your disposal if you don't have the right materials.
Stainless steel grinding chambers give more exceptional durability to your garbage disposal and excellent protection from wear and tear. They have been shown to last longer and prevent issues like leaking or blunting blades. Looking out for a stainless steel grinding chamber could save you money in the long run even if it costs more up front.
A warranty refers to the cover a manufacturer offers on its product. This provides the buyer with a level of protection when selecting a product in that they can have it repaired or replaced free of charge as long as it is within the warranty period.
Generally, compact garbage disposal units have warranties that are between 1 and ten years. Of course, the more extended the warranty, the better that is for you, so it's something to look out for.
Best Compact Garbage Disposals Reviewed
1. InSinkErator Evolution
(Inches - H X W)
12.25 x 8.75
3 bolt mounting
Yes, 4-Year In-Home Limited Warranty
As far as garbage disposal brands go, none are quite like InSinkErator brand. This company has become synonymous with producing excellent machines, meaning you are buying high-quality parts and materials along with peace of mind.
When compared to other disposal devices that the company makes, the Evolution Compact has everything you could possibly need. The power and performance of the Evolution are combined to make a reliable and sturdy food disposer.
A robust ¾ horsepower Dura-Drive Induction Motor and 1725 RPM mean that you get more torque, more spin, and better results every time. Also, this unit uses SoundSeal Technology to make it quieter than usual so that you don’t have to cover your ears every time you turn it on.
The other thing that makes the Evolution a valuable disposal is that it comes with a dual-stage 36.4 ounces, grinding chamber. This allows you to toss more food into the unit without having to make sure that it’s soft or pre-processed. It is much larger than the competition, and also helps prevent clogs.
Finally, all InSinkErator disposals come with an E-Z mounting system. What I like about this is that if you stick with the brand, swapping out newer models is a breeze as you simply twist on and off. Along with the quick installation, this model comes with a four-year in-home warranty against defects or leaks, meaning that you don’t have to lift a finger if anything goes wrong.
One impressed reviewer says, "Installed it myself - very clear and easy to follow instructions. Super Quiet, Works Great... LOVE this disposal!"
2. Waste King L-1001
(Inches - H x W)
12.75 x 5.25
Yes, 2-year Limited In-Home
Waste King is one of the best-known brands when it comes to garbage disposal units and one of the brands I've used a lot throughout the years. They've been operating for over half a century, establishing themselves as a market leader and recognizable disposal brand. Waste King have a relatively diverse range of products and all of their garbage disposals come with a reasonable warranty, which offers greater peace of mind when making a purchase.
"With quick and durable installation methods, high speeds, and jam-resistant technology, Waste King residential disposals offer an eco-friendly and easy way to dispose of food scraps right at your kitchen sink." - Waste King
One of the best qualities of Waste King is that they specialize in residential disposals not just commercial units. This means their products are small and well suited for the average home but with powerful motors that operate at speeds of over 2700 rpm. I've been especially impressed with the components within Waste King garbage disposals as they used corrosive resistant materials and galvanized stainless steel in almost every product, adding to the durability of their range.
The Waste King ½ HP L1001 has been described as the perfect compact disposal for the home. It’s one of the most compact garbage disposal units on the market at only 13.5 inches which makes it suitable for even tight spaces. It's built to be simple to fit, with a quick-mount neck and the Waste King 3 bolt mounting system means you don't need professional installation. All the necessary equipment comes as standard including a 32-inch power cord attachment.
Despite its small size, the Waste King small garbage disposal still packs a punch. It features a ½ hp motor giving 2600 rpm. This is not the most potent disposal unit on the market but it's up there, and it's more than capable of dealing with average household food waste. It operates with a continuous feed system, and the compact garbage disposal features a corrosion-proof polymer grind chamber with galvanized steel components. This makes it more durable than other garbage disposals available.
Waste King offers a variety of models for this product based on user needs. The most popular choice is the ½ hp because of the balance of power and size, but alongside this Waste King offers a ⅓ hp and ¾ hp option:
The ⅓ hp is less powerful but still offers 1900 rpm power. This is ideal for the smaller home with fewer people who will be using the device. It's still built with all the same materials that make it durable and long-lasting, but better suited for lower volumes of waste.
The ¾ hp garbage disposal offers increased power with up to 2700 rpm from the motor. It’s better suited for a family home, or a kitchen that sees a fair bit of use. This motor is sound insulated to avoid noise becoming an issue. It is built with a permanent magnet motor that helps achieve full speed quickly and avoid any jams in the device.
All of these options are continuous feed types and are all around 13.5 inches in size. This makes all of them perfect for a small kitchen as they can fit in a limited space.
The Waste King L1001 gets high praise across the board not just for the effectiveness of the product but for the simplicity. It’s one of the most straightforward to fit and includes all the different pieces needed to get it set up. This makes it one of the best choices as a home compact garbage disposal.
3. Waste King L 2600
(Inches - H X W)
13.5 x 6.75
Yes, 5 Year In-Home Warranty
Next, we have another high-quality disposal from Waste King.
While this particular unit is a little smaller than the Evolution in terms of power, it is larger in terms of height, making it a tighter fit for most homes. It still can process a lot of food in a little amount of time as it boasts a ½ horsepower motor that operates at 2600 rpm.
The impellers are also stainless steel so that they won’t break down or corrode over time. In fact, Waste King is so committed to providing rust-free components that they offer a lifetime guarantee against corrosion.
The other thing that I like about this disposal is that it’s insulated to reduce noise, and it comes with a removable splash guard for easier cleaning. One thing that sets Waste King apart from InSinkErator is the inclusion of a power cord when buying online, which is always a nice touch.
Finally, this particular model comes with a five-year service plan against defects or breakage, which means that you can enjoy it worry-free. Overall, the L 2600 is slightly bigger than the L 1001 above. Both are similar in performance, it is just the size and shape differ substantially.
An eBay shopper notes that, "This model had a quick connect system that was a simple twist and lock - way easier than the three tension bolts and collar used on other disposals. Existing plumbing worked and no additional fitment was needed."
4. Emerson Evergrind e202
(Inches - H X W)
12.62 x 6.3
Yes, 1-year limited warranty
So far, we’ve seen disposal units that were built with high-capacity operation in mind. However, what if you don’t use your disposal very often? Why pay more for a device that can chew through more food if you don’t toss that much to begin with?
So, with that in mind, we have the Emerson Evergrind e202. This is not quite as robust or powerful as the ones we’ve seen, but it’s cost-effective, compact and can do an excellent job for you.
One thing that I appreciate about the Emerson Evergrind is that it too comes with a Dura-Drive Induction Motor. That means that you will get better torque and performance overall as the ½ horsepower powers through your leftovers.
As far as materials go, this particular model uses galvanized steel components, which means that it won’t cost as much up front, but it also won’t last quite as long due to rust and other effects that will wear it down over time. As I said, this disposal is made for low-capacity households that don’t need a ton of waste disposal.
Finally, this model comes with an easy mounting system and a one-year warranty on parts and labor. It even has a power cord to help you get started.
5. InSinkErator Evolution PRO
(Inches - H X W)
16.2 x 10
Quick Lock Sink Mount
Yes, 6-year warranty
At first, you might think that we’re repeating ourselves, but here we have the PRO edition of the Evolution, meaning that it is a bit more powerful and reliable than the standard version we saw above.
In fact, this model is so high-end that a few years ago you had to be a plumbing contractor to buy it! Thankfully that has now changed and as it is available for regular consumers online.
The performance of this model is top-notch. While it still comes with a ¾ horsepower Dura-Drive Induction Motor, it spins a bit faster than the regular version and has a higher flow rate (35 compared to 30) so that it can process more food in less time.
Again, it comes with a dual-stage grinding system and a high-capacity chamber, which all adds up to professional-quality disposing all the time.
While the performance is a bit more advanced, everything else about the PRO comes standard. You get SoundSeal Technology to reduce the amount of noise, stainless steel impellers that will last a lifetime, and InSinkErator’s E-Z mounting system for quick installation and replacement.
To help eliminate even more noise, this model comes with a quiet collar sink baffle for added insulation. Finally, this disposal comes with the standard four-year in-home warranty, in which technicians will get out to you if anything breaks down or is faulty upon installation.
6. Whirlaway 291
(Inches - H X W)
13.7 x 6.1
Yes, 2 Year Over The Counter Replacement Warranty
Finally, we come to the Whirlaway 291. This is similar to the Emerson disposal, in that it’s designed more for low-use families and people who want a quick and cost-effective replacement. While the 291 won’t blow you away with its features, it’s more than capable to handle most sinks as it's very slim design is a major drawcard for certain homes.
The motor on the 291 uses ½ horsepower and is built to be both compact and reliable. While I would prefer it to come with stainless steel components, this particular model has galvanized steel which will do just fine in the short term.
The size of this disposal is another selling point, as it is much more compact than anything else we’ve seen. In fact, if you have limited space under your sink this might be your best option as it will squeeze almost anywhere.
Mounting is relatively straightforward, although you will have to replace any current bracket that you have already. Finally, this disposal comes with a two-year limited warranty. Apart from the Waste King 1001, the Whirlaway is the thinnest or slimmest device on our list.
Batch Feed vs. Continuous Feed
There are two main types of garbage disposal units; continuous feed and batch feed. Continuous feed is generally the more popular, and there are a lot more of these available on the market. However, both feed types have their merits.
Continuous feed garbage disposals start working from the moment you power them on. This means they’ll grind anything put into them immediately, and won’t stop until the unit is powered off.
Batch feed garbage disposals grind the food in stages. The food waste is inserted into the container and, when full, the motor is switched on to crush the waste.
When it comes to batch or continuous feed types, you'll have to think of your situation. While batch feed garbage disposals have the advantage of safety, they are generally slower and better suited for lower volumes of waste.
A busy family home will benefit from a continuous feed, though be careful if you have curious minors who might injure themselves trying to use it.
Grinding Stages of Waste Disposals
There are several different types of garbage disposals, and one of the most significant differences is the number of grinding stages the device has. The number of grinding steps will impact how small your food waste will become when it’s forced out of the disposal.
Most garbage disposal units are one-stage grinders. As the name suggests, food waste will only go through one stage in this type of disposals. These garbage disposals need a lot of water passed through them to help dispose of them, and they may struggle to break down tougher elements like bone.
Two-stage grinders will do the same as one-stage grinders, however, in the second stage, the food is liquified. This is useful for more stubborn waste like small bones or fruit/vegetable peels that may need to effort than standard food waste.
Finally, you have your three-stage grinders. Food waste will pass through a third stage here which will make your waste even finer. This allows it to run through your drains with no impact on your plumbing and ultimately reduces any chance of a blockage occurring.
While most homes will generally not need a three-stage grinder, it depends on what type of food waste you produce. More robust items, like bones, will need more stages to grind them up and the more grinding, the less likely any blocked drains are to occur.
When choosing your garbage disposal, you should bear in mind that one-stage grinders are much more affordable than three-stage grinders so you'll need to make sure your budget is aligned to your preferences.
Cleaning Tips for Small Garbage Disposals
The importance of cleaning your compact garbage disposal can't be overstated. Garbage disposals, big or small, need to be maintained; otherwise you can end up with bad odors lingering in your kitchen and can even lead to bacteria building up in your sink and drains.
When cleaning your small garbage disposal, you should first focus on the ‘baffle' which is the piece that connects the disposal to your sink. Using the rough slide of the sponge and some washing up liquid should help you get this clean and ready to use.
Pouring baking soda and then vinegar (slowly) down the drain will help clean the grinding chamber. The mixture will froth up so you should be prepared to put the drain cover on quickly. After leaving this for 30 minutes, you should rinse it out using hot water while the garbage disposal is running. This should help clean the device completely
To get rid of any lingering odor, you can pour some diluted bleach down the drain (1 part bleach to 2 parts water). Alternatively, I like to put some citrus peels through the garbage disposal, and the oils help clean the air and make it smell fresh again.
Most importantly, when cleaning makes sure you've turned off the power, so you don't accidentally injure yourself.
DIY Installation of Compact Waste Disposal Units
Installing a new compact waste disposal unit can be intimidating and can be challenging without guidance. The most crucial first step is finding a model which is easy to fit yourself and ideally includes all the kit you need. Once you have your garbage disposal you should follow these steps:
- 1Turn off the power.
For your safety make sure everything is turned off while you fit the device.
- 2Wire the disposal.
If your unit comes with a power cord attached plug this into the socket. If not then follow the instructions given to fit the cord. To wire your unit without the plug, you may need professional assistance.
- 3Install the drain flange.
Use plumbers putty to fit the drain flange to the underside of the sink and then screw in the mounting ring, so it's securely fastened to your sink.
- 4Fasten the disposal to the mounting ring.
Make sure this is tightened so that it stays in place.
- 5Connect to the P-trap.
Using the instructions from the manufacturer, measure the discharge pipe and use a hacksaw to cut it to the right length. Then attach it to the disposal unit.
- 6Check it all works.
Switch on the power and run water through the system to make sure everything works and there are no leaks. If everything is working, then you can start using your new garbage disposal.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a typical garbage disposal last?
Typically a garbage disposal will last anywhere from 8 to 15 years. This is dependent on the make and model. It's also essential to take care of your garbage disposal unit.
How can I make sure that my garbage disposal unit will last longer?
By selecting the correct garbage disposal unit, you can help ensure it will last longer. Look for a one-stage, two-stage, or three-stage grinder based on what you will use it for. A stainless steel grinding chamber will make the garbage disposal unit from durable.
Will my plumbing be capable of handling the task?
Garbage disposals help grind up food waste so it can go down the pipes, however, most plumbing is not built to handle large amounts of food waste. Build ups of grease, and other food waste can cause blockages. There are many garbage disposal do’s and don’ts which will help ensure this doesn’t happen.
Should I get a plumber to replace a garbage disposal?
Some garbage disposals can be replaced by you, depending on the make and model of the existing unit and the new disposal. A plumber should be used if the current model is jammed, leaking, broken, draining slowly, or smells. They can then help identify and fix the problem.
How do I know the correct size of the garbage disposal unit to buy?
In terms of fitting, you should measure the size under your kitchen sink to determine the extent of unit you have room for. Make sure you take into account the space for the new piping. There is also general guidance on what size of garbage disposal would be best suited for you.
Where is the best place to buy compact garbage disposal units?
There are a wide variety of different small garbage disposal units out there to fit your needs. Amazon is one of the best places to look for garbage disposal units because of the wide variety available.
How much does a compact garbage disposal unit typically cost?
The cost of a compact garbage disposal will vary depending on the model and the features. Typically, your lowest power units will be between $50 and $120, medium power will be $130-$250, and high power units will be $250-$400.
Commercial grade garbage disposals could cost upwards of $2000. These price ranges do not include installation which can cost several hundred dollars.
After comparing these different machines to each other, the clear winner in my book is the InSinkErator Evolution. You get the best power and results you could ask for with this reliable model. If you want something a bit more compact, however, then the Waste King L-2600 is another excellent brand for your kitchen.
Images from InSinkErator.com
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