Is It Bad to Run Garbage Disposal Without Water?

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The best way to make sure your garbage disposal is running properly and efficiently is to use it with water.

Running a garbage disposal without water can wreak havoc on your plumbing system. The food sludge can block your pipes. Stringy fiber strands can wrap around the disposal’s moving parts while hard food particles can cause breakdowns. Water acts to lubricate waste and flush it down the drain.

The garbage disposal has disks designed to break down food into tiny pieces. The disks then channel the slush down the drain pipes. There’s plenty of reasons why you should only run the garbage disposal with water.

Do You Have to Run Water When Running Garbage Disposal?

Yes, you have to run water when running your garbage disposal. While your garbage disposal can work without water, running a good flow of water ensures a smoother operation. There are several reasons why you need to run water when running your garbage disposal.


Water softens any hard particles so the disks can crush them into tiny bits. The tough food particles will absorb water and become softer. This makes it easier for the grinder to break the particles into small pieces.

The water then further turns the small pieces into a mushy slush which can easily flow through the drain pipes and into the sewage system.


Some food particles are too light and don’t go down easily into the drain. A good volume of water creates the necessary weight for the crushed bits to flow down the drain. So always make sure you run water until the garbage disposal’s grinder has stopped.

Without the added water weight, the food particles would clog up your sink and interfere with the workings of the disks and motor.


Food particles and other kitchen waste often tend to be sticky. Water usually works to unstick the particles from the surfaces of the sink and drainage pipes.

Without water, the sticky particles would adhere to surfaces, dry up, and cause bottlenecks or blockages inside the drainage system.


Some kitchen waste can be problematic in solid form but dissolves in water. For example, sugar and salt can damage the moving parts of a garbage disposal machine. However, running water through the sink can dissolve the sugar and salt particles for easy flow and disposal.


A garbage disposal unit has a motor, rotating disks, a cutting table, and impact bars. The moving parts of the garbage disposal generate some heat from friction. Running water cools down these moving parts and extends the life of your garbage disposal system.

Without water, some parts would heat up and either melt, expand, or even break off.

Dry action would likely hasten the wear and tear of the system and shorten the garbage disposal’s lifespan. The motors could burn at and restoring them can be costly.


Running cold water through your sink and drainage keeps the pipes and traps free of debris. The running water keeps your sink area free of stinky odors.

If you run the garbage disposal without water, some debris will remain behind and accumulate over time. As time passes, the debris will start rotting and the sink area and probably the entire kitchen will start smelling of rot.

The rotting smell can later attract flies, mice, and other vermin. The smell is also likely to irritate the people living in the home and even cause nausea, stomach upsets, and other diseases.

How Should You Run Water When Running the Garbage Disposal?

Using water when you run the garbage disposal can extend the life of your unit and reduce maintenance costs. However, water will only be useful if you use it correctly.

The best use and long life of your garbage disposal, always start by turning on the water first. For best results, plug up the sink then fill the sink with water first. Then remove the sink plug and after a few seconds switch on the garbage disposal.

Keep the water running as the garbage disposal works. When you think all the waste has been ground up and disposed of, turn off the water for a moment.

Listen for the grinding sounds. If there are no grinding sounds then you can switch off the garbage disposal. You should only hear the smooth swish of the motors.

In case you still hear grinding sounds, turn the water back on. Even after the grinding is complete let the water run for a few moments longer to wash away all debris.

Always make sure the grinding is complete and all debris has passed through the drainage pipes. Otherwise on your next use, the disposal unit may jam due to debris clogging the space between the cutting table and grinding disks.

Some dos and don’ts in operating a garbage disposal include:

  • Before turning on the garbage disposal, plug up the kitchen sink.
  • Turn on the cold water and depending on the amount of waste, fill up the sink.
  • Keep the water running and unplug the sink to let the water flow.
  • After a moment, switch on the garbage disposal.
  • Continue running the water at least 15 seconds after the grinding stops. This clears out the drain pipes.
  • Occasionally add some degreaser or disposal cleaner and keep running the disposer a minute or two after the grinding stops.
  • Occasionally add a few ice cubes after the grinding stops and keep the disposer running for a moment. The ice helps clean the insides of the disposer. When you add ice, secure the drain stopper to avoid flying pieces of ice.
  • Occasionally add some orange or lemon peels to keep your grinding and sink areas smelling fresh. The citrus in the peels also act as a natural anti-bacterial to ward off bad odors.
  • Don’t use hot water during the grinding process.
  • Don’t feed in too many fruits and vegetable waste at the same time. Feed them in slowly, adding bit by bit.

What Happens When You Run a Garbage Disposal Without Water?

Running your garbage disposal dry isn’t a good idea. Depending on the strength of your machine, some debris may not grind well in dry conditions.

Water gives some of the food particles some weight for easier grinding while some particles need some softening for the garbage disposal grinders to work effectively.

Additionally, some food particles and kitchen waste may not sink into the drainage pipes if there is no water pushing the waste down. These lightweight particles may end up floating around the sink or even flying into the air, creating a mess.

Whenever you run the garbage disposal without running water you risk damaging the machine. The moving parts within the grinder create a lot of friction as they move around and chop up foodstuff. Water acts to reduce friction by lubrication of these moving parts.

As the disks in the grinders move, they generate some heat which can reduce the lifetime of the garbage disposal. Running water cools down the grinding system, keeping the garbage disposal working for longer and at peak effectiveness.

When you run a garbage disposal without water, some food particles become more difficult to dispose of. Soluble particles can be especially tough to drain when in solid state.

Dissolving in water makes it easier and safer to run the soluble waste through the drainage and sewer system.

Why Do You Have to Run Cold Water in A Garbage Disposal?

One of the main reasons for running cold water is to solidify any fats, oils, and greases. Once the oils, fats, and greases solidify and congeal, the garbage disposal system cuts them up into tiny bits which can easily be carried through the drainage and sewer systems.

Many people mistakenly think hot water is better than cold when running a garbage disposal. While the hot water can quickly liquefy and remove fats, oils, and greases, all it does is clog up the drainage further down from the sink.

When you use warm or hot water, the fats, oils, and greases liquify and flow through the garbage disposal system but later cool down and solidify in the drain pipes.

The congealing fats, oils, and greases then stick to the insides of pipes and clog up your drainage. You might then incur expenses having to call in a plumber to unclog your drainage.

Garbage disposal and kitchen sinks are not the best places to dispose of fats, oils, and greases. It’s much better to collect the grease in a bowl or bag and dispose of it in your regular trash.