How to Fix a Garbage Disposal 

Like any other appliance in your home, a garbage disposal can develop issues that require fixing from time to time. The common problems include leakage, jamming, foul smells, and humming without functioning. 

Knowing how to fix a garbage disposal will help you manage that part of your home efficiently. You can swiftly get it back up and running any time it develops any problems.

Depending on the problem, a little troubleshooting and patience may be all that is required to get the appliance running again. 

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

Garbage Disposal Fix

Understanding how your garbage disposal works will allow you to precisely diagnose any problem that may arise. When you turn on the switch, the motor in your garbage disposal starts running. The motor then spins the impeller plate.

Many people wrongly believe that garbage disposal blades slice up food, but this is not true. While disposals do feature two dull metal “teeth” called impellers on the spinning disc, they do not have a sharp blade.

Instead, the garbage is ground up by a shredder ring. The food is collected in a small chamber encircled by the shredder ring. When the disposal is turned on, the impeller plate at the bottom of the chamber revolves. A centrifugal force caused by the plate’s fast-spinning propels the food scraps outside the shredder ring. You might think of it as a Gravitron rollercoaster for your leftover food.

Even the best garbage disposal might fail after many years of service. Before repairing a garbage disposal, your first instinct would be to put your hand in the hole to check for a blockage. Even a broken garbage disposal might turn on without notice. Sticking your hand into a disposal is unsafe and should be avoided.

What Are the Common Problems and Best Solutions for Garbage Disposal Not Working?

garbage disposal not working fixes

To discover the quickest and simplest approach to fixing your garbage disposal, you must first identify the issue. In most situations, the signs will inform you which areas to focus on initially.

There are several typical garbage disposal issues that arise on a regular basis, but the best part is that most have quick-fix solutions that you can implement yourself. That is to say, not every problem necessitates the hiring of a professional, saving you both time and money.

It is essential to repair your garbage disposal as soon as you detect an issue since it might create a variety of problems if left unfixed for a long time. Here are some of the common problems you may encounter as well as their solutions.

You Might Need These Tools and Materials

Before you start fixing your garbage disposal, you will need the following tools:

  • Clamp
  • Plunger
  • Bucket
  • Flashlight
  • The hex key
  • A set of screwdrivers
  • Pliers with a long nose
  • Garbage disposal wrench

1. If the Garbage Disposal Is Not Working At All

If your waste disposal does not work—that is, it does not hum or make a sound—it is most likely not receiving electricity. There are two things you should try if your garbage disposal isn’t operating at all. The first step is to press the reset button on the machine’s bottom.

Sometimes the waste disposal will shut off automatically due to overheating or another fault, and clicking the reset button can often fix a garbage disposal that won’t turn on. Look for a red reset button on the disposal’s underside and press it as described above. This small touch is all that is required to restart it.

If it doesn’t work, check to see if your garbage disposal is hooked into an electrical outlet beneath the sink or hard-wired (directly linked) to an electrical box there.

If your disposal is plugged in, unhook it from its electric socket and check the socket with another item, such as a blender. If the outlet does not function with another device, go to the breaker board and reset the circuit breaker that powers the garbage disposal. This breaker is frequently connected to the same circuit as the dishwasher. You can reset it by switching it completely off and turning it back on.

If your garbage disposal is connected to an electrical box, proceed to the circuit breaker board and reset the breaker in the same manner.

If the above fixes prove ineffective, you might attempt replacing the switch if you’re experienced with simple wire fixes. 

  • Turn off the breaker connected to the disposal to prepare for electrical troubleshooting.
  • Check the wire connections by unscrewing the panel that protects the disposal switch.
  • Replace the switch with a new one.
  • If the unit does not work after completing all of the procedures, contact a plumber.

Our complete guide on How To Reset Garbage Disposal provides more information on troubleshooting a garbage disposal that won’t turn on.

2. The Garbage Disposal Hums But Does Not Grind

When the engine hums but the disposal does not grind, is excessively noisy, or works and then pauses before you switch it off, you have a clogged or jammed disposal.

This means that the motor is working but the other components are not spinning. A garbage disposal that does not rotate cannot get rid of food waste. If you keep running the disposal while it’s stuck, the motor might burn out.

The jam is commonly caused by a fruit pit, a piece of bone, or something similar becoming lodged between the drain hole and the impeller blade. To unclog a jammed garbage disposal, you have to spin the blades to remove whatever is clogging them. 

First, unplug it and turn off the circuit breaker, then locate the hex-shaped socket on the bottom of the disposal.

New disposals will frequently come with an Allen wrench. It may be beneath your sink or attached to the garbage disposal. It is in the shape of an “S.” If you can’t find the original tool, a quarter-inch Allen wrench will suffice. You can always get one from Mellbree Stores on Amazon.

Insert the wrench into the hole and rock it back and forth to remove anything trapped. You can also remove the object using a pair of pliers or tongs, especially if the objects are visible.

If you don’t have an Allen wrench, you may also use a broom handle. Put the broom handle down into the garbage disposal’s top. Then, try rotating the disposal blades back and forth until the stuck object is removed.

You can learn more about the various causes of garbage disposal humming from our article on Why Is My Garbage Disposal Humming.

3. The Garbage Disposal is Not Draining

Another possibility is when it whirls and spins but the water does not or only slowly drains. If this occurs, it is most likely obstructed.

If that’s the issue, your best choice for unclogging a disposal is to use pliers or tongs to remove a visible blockage, or a plunger to remove a buildup. If the latter fails, baking soda and vinegar may be able to remove the blockage.

If your efforts did not remove the clog, it is possible that the obstruction is in the P-trap underneath the sink, not the garbage disposal. A P-trap can become blocked owing to things dropping into the pipe and needing to be removed from time to time.

garbage disposal p-trap

Most P traps are easily removed with a big wrench. When you remove the P-trap, you should have a basin beneath the drain to capture any water.

If that isn’t the case, it’s most likely a clogged drain line, and you should contact a plumber at this point.

4. Garbage Disposal Grinds Poorly

If your trash disposal isn’t grinding effectively, you won’t be able to utilize it properly.

Although, this solution might not be permanent, using more water in the disposal might help. When using your garbage disposal, turn on the faucet and let the water run until you don’t hear anything being crushed up.

Now turn off your disposer and then the faucet. This extra water will help wash away any food particles that may still be in the disposal’s drain pipe.

If the impellers or shredder rings have become dull, you can either repair individual component parts or replace the entire disposal. However, repairing a faulty garbage disposal is usually not worth the effort. It is frequently easier and less expensive to simply replace the complete machine.

5. Garbage Disposal That Smells Bad

Avoid using toxic chemicals or heavy-duty cleaning solutions to remove odors. They are unnecessary and rarely work. If the odor lingers or a blockage arises, food may be stuck deep inside the drainpipe and must be removed by disassembling the pipe system. Here are some easy fixes to consider.

  • Grind some orange peels in the garbage disposal chamber by carefully putting them in a few pieces at a time.
  • Pour a solution of baking soda and white vinegar down the drain. Rinse after waiting up to 30 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes, pour a tiny amount of bleach into the drain and rinse.

6. The Garbage Disposal Leaks From Top

A leaking garbage disposal might occur gradually over time. The vibrations produced by grinding food waste might cause the mounting flange that secures the device to the sink drain hole to become loose.

The garbage disposal may possibly be leaking from the top due to an old sealant. When you see indications of the unit leaking, follow these actions. Before the problem worsens, you’ll need to understand how to fix a leaky disposal.

  • Power off the garbage disposal and disconnect the unit. If the disposal is connected to the house, turn off the circuit breaker at the panel that controls it.

  • Inspect the garbage disposal under the sink with a flashlight to find the cause of the leak. If the leakage is flowing from the top, it is typically from the metal flange right inside the drain pipe.

  • Look under the sink for the garbage disposal mounting ring. To loosen and remove the disposal from the mounting flange, turn it counterclockwise.

  • Loosen the bolts that secure the flange to the basin. Remove the flange from the sink’s top.

  • Scrape away the old plumber’s putty and wipe away any leftover residue using a cloth.

  • Apply a little quantity of plumber’s putty around the flange’s top. Insert the flange into the drain hole in the sink.

  • Screw the mounting bolts again. Reinstall the garbage disposal and reconnect it to the power source, or reset the circuit breaker.

7. The Garbage Disposal Leaks From the Bottom

A disposer leaking from the bottom suggests a failing seal or that the unit’s shell has broken. If the leakage is coming from the bottom, the disposal must be replaced.

Follow the instructions below to learn how to disassemble a garbage disposal:

  • Turn off the electricity to the garbage disposal by flipping the switch at the breaker box.

  • Place a bucket beneath the connector between the garbage disposal and the drain pipe. Turn the connection counterclockwise using one of your adjustable wrenches.

  • Loosen the screw that holds the clamps on the pipe to the dishwasher (if you have one). Put the pipe in the container to capture any leftover water.

  • A mounting bracket attaches and secures the disposal to the sink drain. Insert a screwdriver or hex key into one of the metal loops, or use a wrench or any tightening tool to turn the unit counterclockwise. The disposal will become loose and separate from the sink.

  • Remove the bottom cover plate and loosen each wire nut connector to separate the wiring from the disposal. Pull the wire out.

How to Avoid Garbage Disposal Problems

Everyone has been there. A sluggish, loud, or ineffective garbage disposal is inconvenient, especially if it is a recurrent offender.

When your garbage disposal stops operating or becomes blocked, it can cause sanitary difficulties and an extremely unpleasant odor to permeate the kitchen.

However, keeping your garbage disposal in good working order does not have to be costly, time-consuming, or stressful. If you follow a few basic guidelines, you may expect your garbage disposal to last for years!

1. Adhere to the Food Guidelines

While it would be nice to be able to throw anything down the disposal, there are some items that must never be tossed inside.

In general, hard things such as nuts, kernels, or seeds should never be thrown away. Animal bones, eggshells, and banana peels should also be tossed away or composted rather than thrown into the disposal.

Fibrous foods are beneficial for your health, but not so much for your disposal. You should use it as a rule if you’re uncertain whether something can be thrown away.

These fibrous food products might cause the disposal blades to clog or slow down. One of the greatest methods to keep your disposal functioning well is to follow the guidelines about what goes and what does not go into it.

You should also avoid dumping glue, paint, or any other non-food objects down the garbage disposal. Such sticky art supplies might clog the disposal’s blades and jam it.

2. Use a lot of cold water

You might be operating your garbage disposal wrong without even realizing it! Whenever you put food scraps in the garbage disposal, start by running a continuous stream of cold water as you add the food waste.

Continue to run the cold water while the disposal grinds the food particles. Pay attention to any change in the sound of the garbage disposal from a grinding to a gentler, whirling sound. After the sound changes, turn off the garbage disposal but leave the cold water flowing for about 20 seconds.

Running cold water will aid in the removal of all bits of food from the disposal. The reason for using cold water is that hot water can melt oil and fat, causing them to pile up on the garbage disposal blades.

If there is a water backup in the sink, use cold running water to enable the disposal to suck away the extra standing water.

This cold water method will help you avoid trash disposal repair over time.

3. Reduce the size of the food

If you intend to dispose of objects through the garbage disposal, chop them into smaller pieces first. Your disposal may appear to be quite sturdy, but it has limitations.

Food scraps, vegetable peels, fruits, and anything else that goes down the garbage disposal should be cut up to lessen the risks of clogging and buildup.

If you have a great volume of food scraps to dispose of, feed it slowly and in little bits. Instead of dumping everything into the disposal at once, be patient.

Following these guidelines can help your garbage disposal last longer and save you time and money on repair or replacement.

4. Keep Your Garbage Disposal Clean

Did you realize your waste disposal has to be cleaned on a regular basis? You need to clean the interior of the disposal every now and then to keep it working smoothly.

There are several methods for cleaning your disposal. To clean the sludge that naturally accumulates in the disposal blades, put baking soda inside the garbage disposal, followed by vinegar.

Even while cleaning the disposal, never put your hand inside. Reaching into the disposal can be dangerous.

You may also clean the garbage disposal by grinding ice cubes in it. When putting ice down the drain, use a drain cover to prevent little bits of ice from rocketing from the sink. You may also add salt to this procedure to aid with trash cleaning.

5. Schedule Routine Maintenance

Your disposal, like your automobile, needs routine maintenance to ensure that the lines are clear so that there are no problems with the appliance.

You may contact a plumbing company to do disposal service maintenance once every two years. They would be able to snake the drains to ensure that no accumulation or obstruction had formed in the pipes.

Don’t forget to ask about the status of the waste disposal and any other suggestions they may have for maintaining the pipes and disposal. Routine disposal servicing is relatively affordable, especially when compared to the expense of continuously repairing disposal problems.

Frequently Asked Questions for Fixing Garbage Disposal

Why Is My Garbage Disposal Not Working?

As stated earlier, a garbage disposal consists mainly of a motor with a shredding system that spins to cut up waste and a drain pipe.

There are two possible causes for your disposal not working: a jam in the disposal or a blockage downstream in the drain line. The bulk of jams is caused by improper dumping of non-food rings, spoons, or other objects. Because your dishwasher and disposal share the same drain pipe, putting items like oil in your disposal might cause a backup in your drain line.

How may future problems be avoided? Don’t throw inappropriate objects down the garbage disposal,

What Should I Do If the Allen Wrench Does Not Turn?

Having trouble turning the Allen wrench when repairing the garbage disposal is not unusual. All you need is a strong force to turn it.

In most cases, it doesn’t turn easily and feels as if it won’t turn at all when you’ve inserted the Allen wrench. This is because it could be difficult to remove the obstruction. Even though you would think that trying to force the Allen wrench to rotate will break it, that won’t happen.

The Allen wrench is made to withstand a lot of strain and dislodge even the hardest jams and obstructions. So, if it doesn’t turn, don’t be afraid to use all of your strength to turn it. Just make sure you are spinning the Allen wrench firmly while providing a sturdy support for the garbage disposal unit.


A garbage disposal is useful in the kitchen. A failure necessitates troubleshooting on your side, but the fix is pretty straightforward. Do you require a new garbage disposal? Check our comparison of Moen vs Insinkerator

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