Believe it or not, the average American tosses more than 5 pounds of trash into the landfills each day. A lot of that waste goes in unnecessarily. We’re talking about food waste. Food waste is easy to deal with when you have a garbage disposal and using that unit can dramatically decrease the amount of trash you generate each day. That’s assuming your unit is working properly.

The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide to Fixing Garbage Disposal

With lots of daily use, garbage disposals can and will act up. When they do, you need to know how to troubleshoot the issues to fix the problem quickly. Here are a few tricks to help you get started.

Your Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn on

When you turn on the switch to activate your garbage disposal, you expect it to turn on immediately. Unfortunately, there are times that the system just won’t turn on, no matter how many times you flip the switch. Before you start panicking, take a deep breath. This is the most common problem people have with their disposals. Turn the switch off and check the power cord for the disposal. It may have gotten unplugged.

If this is the case, plug it in and flip the switch again. If nothing happens, check the reset button on the bottom of your disposal. If the button feels popped out slightly, push it back in. You should hear a click similar to flipping a breaker in your circuit breaker box. If nothing happens, head to your breaker box and make sure the circuit for the disposal isn’t tripped. If everything looks the way it should, call your plumber and let them take a look.

The Blades Won’t Rotate

Sometimes, you’ll turn the switch on, hear a humming noise, and discover that the blades just aren’t turning. When this happens, it’s easy to assume that you’ll need to find appliance parts to fix what’s broken, but the blades could just be stuck. Turn the motor off at the switch and then cut power to the garbage disposal by either unplugging it or flipping the circuit breaker for the outlet—whichever is easiest. Then, use a hex wrench at the bottom of the unit to turn the blades by hand.

This should dislodge whatever is clogging the blades and keeping them from turning. Once the blades move freely with the wrench, restore power to the outlet. Run some cool water down the drain for a few seconds and push the reset button on the bottom of the disposal. Then, turn the disposal on. It should work normally. If not, get a pro to inspect the unit.



The Unit’s Leaking

Few things illicit more panic than leaks around the sink. Water damage, when left unrepaired, can lead to serious issues like mold and mildew growth. The sooner you can find the cause of the leak, the better. Start by checking the hoses to your garbage disposal. If they’re the cause of the leak, you’ll feel water along the hoses. If you do, check the fittings around the hoses. Chances are, the leak is coming from those areas. Tighten the connections and you should be good to go.

If the water is coming out from the disposal casing itself, you’ll want to check the mounting screws. If they’re loose, water can seep out. If they’re tight, you may need to remove the disposal and add putty to create a tighter seal. For leaks that come out right at the drain connection, the problem is likely a damaged gasket. Loosen the connection, remove the old gasket, and replace it with a new one. Once the connection gets tightened all the way, you should have a water-tight seal. Should the leak keep happening, contact your plumber. They’ll be able to find the root cause of the issue and fix the problem for good.

The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide to Fixing Garbage Disposal - exploaded view

It’s Clogged

Clogged drains happen frequently and they’re one of the easiest things to fix, even when they happen in your garbage disposal. If you notice that water is draining slowly, even after running the disposal, turn the water off. Then, use a plunger to try to force the clog to move. You’ll hear a sucking noise once it’s dislodged. If plunging doesn’t work, remove the drain trap beneath the sink and clean it out. Use a soft-bristled scrub brush if needed to push any clogs through the pipe. Once it’s clear, reattach it and try your disposal again.

You’re Hearing Strange Noises

You know what your garbage disposal should sound like, so you’re able to notice any odd sounds as soon as they happen. If you hear something strange like a weird humming or grinding noise, turn the unit off and press the reset button. This is often enough to fix whatever was causing the noises. If you continue hearing the noises, contact your plumber. It could be an issue with the garbage disposal’s motor and that needs to get fixed by a professional. Fixing it on your own could end up voiding the manufacturer’s warranty, leaving you to pay the full price for any repairs, even if the damage isn’t your fault.

Stay Ahead of the Game

When it comes to keeping your garbage disposal in good condition, preventative maintenance is key. Be careful about what you’re putting down the drain. Fibrous foods like banana peels, celery stalks, and ginger should always go in the trash. Never put used cooking oil or grease down the disposal, and always avoid tossing coffee grounds down the unit. This will help you keep your system working properly and greatly reduces the amount of wear and tear your disposal sees each day.

Keep Your Disposal Working

Your garbage disposal is one of the most important appliances in your kitchen. Use these troubleshooting tips to help you keep it running properly. Remember, if you feel that you’re in over your head or just aren’t comfortable taking care of certain repairs, call your plumber. They’ll be able to fix the problem quickly so you can get back to using your kitchen as normal. Looking for more helpful tips to keep your home appliances in great condition? Check out our latest posts.