Garbage Disposal Not Working? Fix It Yourself!

A malfunctioning garbage disposal can lead to a frustrating and unpleasant kitchen experience. Before you start shopping for a new disposal, consider that many common issues can be fixed with a little DIY know-how. This comprehensive guide will outline the most common problems with garbage disposals, the possible causes, and how you can fix them quickly and easily.

1. Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On

Check the Power Supply

One of the most common issues with garbage disposals is that they simply won’t turn on. Start by verifying that the garbage disposal unit is plugged in. Next, check the electrical switch and make sure that it is on. If it is plugged in, the electrical switch is on, and it still isn’t working, verify that the outlet is working by plugging another working device into the outlet and flipping the switch.

Check the Circuit Breaker

If the outlet works and the garbage disposal doesn’t work, check if its reset button has tripped. The reset button is usually located beneath the disposer and can be pushed by hand. If the button has popped out, your garbage disposal stopped working because it tripped the circuit breaker. You can resolve this error by pressing the reset button. If the button does not stay depressed, check your main circuit breaker and flip the switch to your kitchen if needed.

Consult a Professional

If your garbage disposal does not turn on after taking these steps and resetting it, you will need to call a professional plumber to assess the unit and fix the problem.

2. Garbage Disposal Hums but Doesn’t Turn

Overheating and Jammed Flywheel

If your garbage disposal is making a humming noise yet doesn’t do anything, it is likely that the flywheel within the disposal is jammed. If the disposal continues to run while there is a jam, the motor may burn out. The good news is that you can fix this problem yourself.

Fixing the Jam

First, ensure you turn off the power to the garbage disposal and unplug it to prevent accidents. Next, use the wrench that is usually included with your disposal. Insert it into the turning hole located at the bottom of the lower grinding chamber, and turn it clockwise to dislodge the jam. If the jam is dislodged, you will be able to freely turn the wrench.

Removing Foreign Objects

If using the wrench doesn’t work, you may need to use a pair of needle-nose pliers. Ensure that you are careful when using the pliers to prevent injury. Use the pliers to grasp and remove foreign objects that may be causing the jam and clean out any food that may still be in the drain. Once this is done, you can reset your garbage disposal and try again.

3. Garbage Disposal Doesn’t Drain

Clogged Drain or Blockage

If your garbage disposal stops clearing waste down the drain, it obviously isn’t working correctly. These clogs typically occur in the drain trap of an S or P-shaped pipe. To fix this problem, start by unhooking the drain trap from the disposal unit. Catch any excess water in a small bucket. Clean the drain trap with a cable or an auger to remove any food waste. You also might want to sharpen the grinder blades so they will chop food more effectively and prevent future clogs.

Test the Disposal

Once you’ve cleared the clog, reassemble the discharge tube line and drain trap, switch on the garbage disposal, and run water to test it. If it still doesn’t drain properly, you might need to call a professional plumber to help you get to the root of the problem.

4. Water Leak in Garbage Disposal

Identify the Source of the Leak

A water leak can cause your garbage disposal to stop working and may originate in one of the following places:

  • Gaskets
  • Drain lines
  • Crack(s)
  • Reset button

Start by locating the leak’s source and use epoxy to patch any small cracks. Make sure the pipe connecting the dishwasher to the drain pipe is sealed.

Replace Components if Necessary

If you find major cracks or broken pipes, you’ll need to replace them. This may require the help of a professional plumber.

5. Inefficient Draining

Medium to Large Blockages in the Drain

Medium to large blockages in your drain may be the reason your garbage disposal is not working. Food waste can clog your disposal, causing blades to stop working and water to bubble in the sink.

Clearing the Obstruction

To fix this problem, remove the waste left in your sink. With a few inches of water filled in the sink, use a cup plunger to see if you can clear the clog down the drain. After clearing the obstructing material, run water and turn the garbage disposal on to see if the obstruction is cleared and if it drains smoothly.

6. Strange Odors from Garbage Disposal

Causes of Foul Smells

Food waste that sits too long in your disposal starts to smell bad pretty fast. Fix this problem ASAP before the smell worsens.

Home Remedies for Odor Removal

Try one of these home remedies to clear the food waste and get rid of the smell:

  • Throw a few citrus peels down the disposal
  • Pour bleach or vinegar down the drain
  • Sharpen the blades with ice cubes

7. Garbage Disposal Smoke

Fried Circuit or Motor

If you experience the situation explained above, the garbage disposal may start to smoke and stop working. The smoke may have been caused by a fried circuit or motor frying. A fried circuit can be fixed, but a fried motor cannot be fixed and requires the replacement of the garbage disposal.

Repairing or Replacing the Disposal

If your garbage disposal smokes when you turn it on, immediately unplug the power and remove the lower cover of the disposal. Examine the wires that connect to the disposal for any burnt wires. If any of the wires have a burnt or fried appearance, cut them out with a pair of pliers and replace them. Replace the lower cover, restore power, and test your garbage disposal by running water through it.

8. Types of Garbage Disposals

Continuous Feed Garbage Disposals

Continuous feed disposals are the more common option. As long as they’re turned on, they grind food waste as you rinse it down the sink drain.

Batch Feed Garbage Disposals

A batch feed disposal works by turning it on, filling the chamber with food waste, and grinding the waste by inserting the drain cover in the hole.

9. Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips

Proper Use and Care

To avoid having to fix or replace a garbage disposal again anytime soon, learn how to maintain it properly. Remember, the machine works wonders grinding up soft bits of food that remain in the sink after meal preparation, but there are some things that you should never put down a garbage disposal.

Avoiding Clogs

Certain foods can create clogs in a garbage disposal. Avoid sending coffee grounds down the drain because they can build up in the drain pipe. The same goes for grease, oil, and fat, which can stick to the insides of pipes.

10. When to Call a Professional

Assessing the Situation

While many garbage disposal issues can be fixed at home with a little DIY knowledge, there are times when it’s best to call a professional plumber. If you’ve tried the troubleshooting tips outlined in this guide and still can’t fix the problem, it might be time to seek professional help.

Finding a Reliable Plumber

When looking for a plumber to help with your garbage disposal issues, make sure to choose someone with a solid reputation and excellent customer reviews. A qualified and experienced plumber will be able to quickly diagnose and fix the problem, saving you time and frustration.

In conclusion, garbage disposal problems can be annoying and inconvenient, but with a little knowledge and some DIY skills, you can fix many issues yourself. Keep this guide handy for when your garbage disposal stops working, and remember that sometimes it’s best to call a professional for help. Happy troubleshooting!