Can You Run a Garbage Disposal Without Water?

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Never Run Your Garbage Disposal Without Water!

There’s a lot of misinformation about what you should and shouldn’t do with your garbage disposal. Some people swear that running water will damage your disposal, while others swear that dry-running your disposal is what’ll cause the damage. Which is true?

You should never run garbage disposal without water. Doing so will damage your disposal and could end up requiring a costly repair. Additionally, running your garbage disposal without water can cause food particles to stick to your plumbing and emit foul smells from your sink. 

This article will discuss what happens when you run your garbage disposal without water and other actions that might damage your disposal.

Why Do You Have To Run Water With the Garbage Disposal?

Running the water while using the garbage disposal isn’t as complicated a concept as it seems.

When using your garbage disposal, running the water is essential whether you’re scraping leftover bits into it or just getting done with a nasty set of dishes. But why do you have to run the garbage disposal in the first place?

You have to run the water on your garbage disposal to ensure that all the food you’re getting rid of makes it down the pipes. Otherwise, food can stick to your plumbing and may start to smell. Food may also get stuck on the discs and prevent the disposal from working when you don’t run the water.

Besides the smell and disc damage, not running water with your garbage disposal may cause other damage, too. Below are some of the implications of dry-running your garbage disposal.

Damage Caused by Running a Garbage Disposal Dry

Water helps to lubricate the food you’re putting down your pipes and the gear that chops the food up.

As we mentioned above, food sticking to the sides of your plumbing can cause a horrible smell to take over your sink and kitchen. But it can also make your dishwasher and plumbing experience clogs and backups, which aren’t an easy fix.

Additionally, if the discs in your garbage disposal become damaged, your garbage disposal may stop working altogether. If you haven’t experienced a need to reset your disposal before, your garbage disposal will emit a noise that sounds like gears grinding together and then just a motor running. Then, nothing will be chopped up when you put it down at your disposal, which may cause even further smells and backup.

How Long Can a Garbage Disposal Run Without Water?

If you’re guilty of running your disposal without water, you may be wondering how long it takes for the damage to occur.

There’s usually no time limit on how long you can run your garbage disposal without water because how quickly the damage occurs will differ for everyone. Also, while your disposal can run without water, dry-running it will cause damage to your plumping and the garbage disposal itself. 

That’s why, as previously mentioned, it’s not recommended at all to run your garbage disposal without water. However, if you forget or are too lazy to run it with water, know that there isn’t a timestamp for how long you can run it.

Everyone runs their disposal a different amount, puts different things down the drain, and applies different amounts of water pressure while doing the dishes. Just like running will make different people tired at different speeds and lengths, different garbage disposals may experience different resilience to dry-runs.

When Running the Garbage Disposal Do You Use Hot or Cold Water?

Now that you know you need to run water, you may be wondering if the temperature matters. While this may have seemed like a silly question at first, the temperature does matter.

Some have heard running hot water will make rice and noodles expand in your plumbing, but running cold water will solidify grease and fat. So which should you use? Hot or cold?

When you run the garbage disposal, you should always use cold water. Coldwater has a slower absorption rate than hot, so things like pasta or rice getting flushed down won’t expand in your plumbing. It’ll also prevent fats and greases from liquifying and clogging your pipes. 

Let’s be clear, though. You should never put fat or grease down your sink, as they’ll coat your plumbing and cause foul smells and backup even quicker than food particles.

Always put your fat or grease in a jar or aluminum can and then throw out or wipe up dried-up grease with a paper towel.

Why Can’t You Use Hot Water With a Garbage Disposal?

Water makes food expand, but cold water makes it expand at a much slower rate. How about hot water?

You can’t use hot water with garbage disposal as sending food down the drain with it may contribute to food clogging up your pipes. Hot water can also liquefy grease and fat, putting your pipes at risk for clogs.

That’s why you should always use cool water when operating your garbage disposal. Additionally, never put grease down the drain because it could cause extensive damage even with cool water running, so you should avoid it at all costs.

Can You Turn On Garbage Disposal With Water in Sink?

If the above information is new to you, you might be wondering what exactly is okay and what isn’t. For instance, what about running garbage disposal with water in the sink? Is that okay?

You can turn the garbage disposal on with water in the sink, but ensure that water is running before you even operate it. The water will drain past the disposal and help food particles flush down the sink. But if you don’t have the running water on, you risk damage to your plumbing and disposal. 

So while you don’t need to worry about your sink being full of water to run the disposal, make sure that your faucet is also running, too.


Don’t run your garbage disposal without water because:

  • Water helps push the food particles down the drain and lubricates the disposal itself.
  • Running your disposal without water can damage it.
  • Food particles that aren’t pushed down your pipes with water will get stuck, causing a foul smell in your kitchen.

Running your disposal with cold water also helps to ensure no foods expand in your pipes. The only exception would be if you’re pouring any greases or fats down the drain, in which case hot water would be your go-to. However, avoid them altogether, as they can lead to clogging.


You may also be interested in… What Drain Cleaner Is Safe for Garbage Disposal?Does A Broken Garbage Disposal Affect Your Dishwasher? and Is Glass in Garbage Disposal Bad?