What Are the Pros and Cons of a Garbage Disposal Air Switch?

Mal Baxter
Mal Baxter
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A garbage disposal air switch is a type of pressure or plunger control knob that activates a garbage disposal by pushing a burst of air through a plastic or vinyl tube to a control unit mounted under a sink. These air switches do not rely upon electricity and thus permit mounting on counter or sink surfaces. This allows easier button access compared with traditional wall or cabinet-mounted electrical switches. Buttons are sometimes sold individually or as part of sets including tubing, power cords, and single or dual outlet receptacles for activation of the garbage disposal from the switch box. They are often easily installed but higher priced and harder to fix, and they may be limited to continuous feed-type disposals.

Electrical switches are best mounted off the surface area of a counter or sink, which sometimes places them out of arm's reach of the disposal unit, or even across the room. Instead of mounting an electrical switch on the flat surface of the counter, where water leakage could create a potentially fatal shock hazard, a garbage disposal air switch eliminates that danger and permits a user-preferred placement on a horizontal surface. This versatility works well with island sink installations, for example, while dual-outlet designs offer an additional power source for hot water dispensers.

The switches work with most types of garbage disposals with common power ratings. Power receptacles, however, must usually be placed within a few feet of the disposal unit under the cabinet. A hole is drilled into the countertop to support the cylindrical mount of a garbage disposal air switch, which typically has a flange and button design, with a raised or flush button, or sometimes a fiber-optic touch-sensitive pad. Users who are not comfortable or equipped to drill a hole in a given countertop material might hire a service technician to complete the installation for them.

These switches are less common compared to electrical varieties. A disadvantage of the garbage disposal air switch is a higher price, as well as additional installation issues such as power access. Garbage disposals wired directly into a wall for safety may require the services of an electrician to install a switch box. Additionally, enough air tubing must be provided to reach from the switch to the disposal unit.

An added consideration includes the material or finish of the garbage disposal air switch. These buttons come available in traditional and modern materials. Some specialty finishes, such as satin and polished or brushed metals, might be damaged by cleaners used on the sink and fixtures. A more resistant surface, such as brushed or satin stainless steel, can better withstand the heavy cleaners and bleaches of heavy-duty residential or commercial use.

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Discussion Comments


@Drentel: If you don't already have electricity wired under your sink, this is a good solution rather than bringing in an electrician which could cost you an arm and a leg.


We have an air switch that works well with our island sink garbage disposal. I prefer this to having to walk across the room to get to the garbage disposal wall switch and then having to walk back to the sink and so forth.

And the air switch is definitely safer than having an electrical switch on the counter. I have had that setup before and did not feel it was as safe as it should be because water was always being spilled on and around the switch.


Before reading this article I was unfamiliar with the use of an air switch for garbage disposals. After reading this article, I don't understand why these switches are needed. Even if they could be obtained and installed for free I wouldn't need one.

I'm definitely not going to pay for one. On top of that, the article says they can be expensive. Am I missing something here?

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