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Garbage Disposal Not Working? Here Are 11 Solutions To Try

Garbage Disposal Not Working

Garbage Disposal Not Working? Here Are 11 Solutions To Try

Sometimes, a faulty garbage disposal needs a push to get it working again. Other times, the solution is more complicated. Try these solutions before calling a technician.

After dinner, I rinsed the dishes in the sink like I always do and flipped the garbage disposal switch to grind up the food scraps. The garbage disposal was not working. How can I fix the garbage disposal, or can it no longer be fixed?

Do you need to turn on your garbage disposal? While there is a slight chance that you will need to replace the disposal, it is unlikely. The problem is something you can fix, often in just a few minutes. These troubleshooting tips ranked roughly from easiest to most complicated, should help you get your garbage disposal working again.

If you’ve ever had to clean up after dinner, you probably know how valuable your garbage disposal is and how inconvenient everything becomes when said garbage disposal stops working. Although a malfunctioning garbage disposal may be a sign that it needs replacing, it could also be a simple problem with an easy fix. Here are some of the most common problems with garbage disposals and some troubleshooting tricks you can try.

Safety reminder

Never reach into a garbage disposal. You can be seriously injured by the sharp blades inside the disposal unit, especially if the unit is turned on accidentally. Any maintenance and troubleshooting should only be performed once the unit has been turned off (unless power is required). The only way to safely ensure that the garbage disposal is completely turned off is to unplug the power cord or turn it off at the circuit breaker. For other model-specific safety precautions, be sure to consult your manual.

OK, there are a number of reasons why your garbage disposal won’t work.

  1. There is too much food trapped in the disposal.
  2. The motor is burned out.
  3. Someone unplugged the disposal.
  4. The circuit breaker is open.
  5. There is a utensil stuck in the disposal.
  6. Someone could have dropped their car keys at their disposal.
  7. The switch is broken and needs to be replaced.
  8. The garbage disposal came up missing because you had a jealous neighbor who wanted it.
  9. The garbage disposal is too old and needs to be replaced.
  10. Finally, the garbage disposal said, “Hey, I am not a dumpster; you just can’t put anything in me. Straighten up, or I quit.”

These suggestions can help you. Also, I hope you have a sense of humor; it was fun compiling that list for you.

1. Take preventive measures

First, the easiest way to prevent your garbage disposal from malfunctioning is to make sure you follow recommended usage guidelines and practice good habits. It will prevent your garbage disposal from becoming clogged, smelly, and worn out. At their most basic, these habits include things like:

  • Let the water and the garbage disposal run for several seconds after food waste has been fully ground to make sure that everything has passed through the drain.
  • Only grind small quantities of soft and easy-to-process food scraps (e.g., soft vegetables and fruit).
  • Avoid large quantities of solid food waste (e.g., meat, bones, rice, pasta, and coffee grounds) and cooking fats or oils.
  • I am using a drain strainer.
  • Deep clean your garbage disposal every two to three weeks with baking soda and vinegar (or another safe alternative method).

2. Check the power source.

If your garbage disposal won’t turn on, there may be a problem with the power source. Make sure your disposal is plugged in correctly and the switch is in the “on” position. You can also check to see if the circuit breaker in your electrical panel has tripped, in which case a simple reset will usually fix the problem.

There is also a reset button, which is usually located on the bottom of the garbage disposal (check your model’s manual for the exact location). If the button sticks out, you may have tripped the unit’s internal circuit breaker. Pressing the reset button until it stays pressed (which may require more than one try) should resolve the issue.

To avoid this problem in the future, be sure to keep your garbage disposal manageable. If your garbage disposal still isn’t turning on, the motor may have burned out, or the unit may have broken down completely. You may also need to examine correct or faulty wiring or switches, which require the expertise of an electrician to repair.

3. Check the output

If your garbage disposal doesn’t turn off, it may be plugged into an “always on” outlet. As the name implies, this means that power is constantly passing through the outlet and is not controlled by a switch. Plugging your disposal unit into a switch-controlled outlet should solve the problem.

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4. Try Waiting, Resetting and Cleaning

If you hear a humming noise, but your garbage disposal does not grind up any food scraps, it means that the motor is running, but the blades are not rotating inside the unit. Overheating and clogging are the most common reasons for this problem. Please turn off the garbage disposal and give it some time to cool before trying again.

You can also reset the unit using the button usually found at the bottom. Try cleaning the garbage disposal with baking soda, vinegar, and hot water to remove clogs. Typically, after doing one or more of these things, the garbage disposal will start working again.

Manually rotating the impeller plate and blades is also a solution you can try. Make sure your garbage disposal is turned off, and then follow the guidelines for each procedure as outlined in its manual. If you need clarification, consult a professional. It can be a hazardous repair process with disastrous results if not done correctly.

If the problem persists, the grinder may be worn out. It could be due to worn or old blades or simply a motor that needs to be fixed. In this case, you will likely need to replace your garbage disposal entirely or send it to a repair shop to have the motor checked or replaced.

For safety reasons, we do not recommend attempting to unclog the garbage disposal with your fingers or another appliance, as this may cause injury or damage.

5. Clean the drain tube

If your garbage disposal drains slowly, there is likely a blockage or obstruction in the drain pipe. Turn your unit on and off several times while the water is running. It will force water into the pipe and clear most small clogs. You can also try the vinegar and baking soda cleaning methods described above.

For more giant or more persistent clogs, you will need to try at least one of the solutions described below.

  • Use a plunger. Plunge with medium pressure.
  • Remove visible blockages: Turn off your garbage disposal, unplug it, or turn the circuit off at the breaker, and carefully use a long tool—like tongs or a pair of pliers—to retrieve any apparent blockages from the disposal unit.
  • Check the drainpipe: Turn off your garbage disposal and unscrew the pipe from the unit itself in order to do this. It will allow you to clear out the pipe directly and can also be an excellent opportunity to check the disposal’s drain trap as well. Note that doing this will require some basic plumbing knowledge and your manufacturer’s manual, so if you are not comfortable, contact a professional.

6. Secure connections

When you suspect that your garbage disposal is leaking, the first step you should take is to identify the source of the leak. If the leak is at a connection (for example, between the dishwasher and the sink or the discharge drain pipe and the disposal), tighten or add the appropriate bolts, clamps, or flanges. You can also replace the hose or pipes if you suspect the leak may be at these connections.

For leaks from the top of the sink, you will need to replace the seal (usually the plumber’s putty) around the sink flange. Turn off and remove the garbage disposal, scrape off the old caulk, reseal the area, and plug the unit back in.

If the leak is coming from a small crack in the disposal housing (or the outer casing that covers the disposal unit), you can use epoxy to seal the break. Larger cracks or leaks in the reset button indicate that it may be time to replace your unit with a new one.

7. Call a professional

If you’ve tried all of the above solutions but your garbage disposal still isn’t working, it may be time to call the plumber or get a replacement. A simple repair will cost about $100 or less, while a completely new unit will cost between about $80 and $500. Although both options may seem expensive, garbage disposals are an excellent long-term investment for your kitchen and can last up to 10 years if properly maintained.

8. How do I fix an unresponsive garbage disposal?

At the garbage disposal, press the reset button located on the bottom of the unit. Run cold water down the drain for a few minutes while flipping the wall switch on and off in short bursts. It should wash material left in the chamber down the drain and out of the garbage disposal.

9. Why is my garbage disposal humming but not spinning?

If your garbage disposal hums but doesn’t turn, you know that the appliance is receiving power; it’s just not operating correctly. Often, a clog or jam in the motor is the cause when you experience such symptoms.

10. Why is the garbage disposal not draining?

Pushing too much food into the disposal at once could cause it to jam. Grinding the wrong foods: While garbage disposals can handle most foods, others can cause issues. Avoid sending eggshells, coffee grounds, potato peels, or banana peels down your disposal, as these items tend to cause clumps that can clog pipes.

11. Why is my garbage disposal not working but not jammed?

A Faulty Motor: If you’ve determined that your disposal isn’t jammed, you most likely have a disposal motor that needs to be repaired or replaced.

When I flip the switch on my garbage disposal, it will not turn on. What is wrong with it?

I’m going to assume that your disposal makes no noise at all when flipped on. Here are some possibilities. The disposal has become jammed with something that could not be ground and beaten to pieces small enough to pass through the grinder. In these cases, the locked rotor of the motor pulls much current.

Either the breaker for the disposal circuit has tripped, or the motor has its breaker, and it tripped. On disposals that have an overload breaker, there is a button on the side of the motor. You push it back in to reset it.

The breaker for the circuit will be in the breaker panel somewhere in your home. Breakers have indicators showing they are tripping. You reset them by pushing them entirely off, then flipping them to the on position. Some have red indicators to show they are tripping.

Check those and reset them if they trip. If they immediately stumble again, then, with the breaker off, look down the drain into the grinder area and visually inspect it for anything that might be keeping the rotor from turning. Yes, you can put your hand down inside to remove the obstruction, as long as you have ensured that the circuit is de-energized.

It takes a bit of bravery for most people to see how they can graphically imagine what your hand would feel if the disposal were to turn on while your hand is inside. If the rotor is not locked up and getting power, it is time for a new disposal.

How to maintain a garbage disposal

To avoid fixing a garbage disposal in the future, remember this: It works wonderfully at grinding up soft pieces of food left in the sink after food preparation, but it is not designed for chewing certain foods. Avoid putting animal bones, nuts, and certain shells, seeds, and potato peels into the garbage disposal. Even fibrous pieces of food scraps, such as raw celery, carrots, or cabbage, will wear out the impellers or strain the garbage disposal’s motor.

Some foods can also create blockages. Avoid sending coffee grounds into the bean, as they can build up in the drain tube. The same goes for grease, oil, or grease, which can stick to the inside of the pipes.

Instead of throwing food into the garbage disposal, place most of these scraps in the trash can or, better yet, if they aren’t meat scraps, in the compost pile.

Always run the garbage disposal with plenty of cold water and let the unit run a few seconds after food grinding is complete to remove food debris that may cause odors.


If it hums, the overload breaker (the red button) hasn’t tripped off, so pressing it in wouldn’t make a difference. Even if the breaker tripped, the button would only reset the breaker when you pushed it in; it wouldn’t stay locked in. The button, when pressed, would make a small click and return to the same position. Also, the breaker may need to cool off for several minutes before it will reset.

When turning the machine with the Allen wrench, it should hang easily; the motor on a disposer is feeble when it first starts up; if there is something even partially jamming the machine, it won’t start and will hum the way you described. Something like a small piece of plastic may have gotten jammed in the machine in a way that can’t be cleared by turning it with a wrench. If that is the case, the next step is to reach down through the sink drain to try to feel and remove what is causing the jam.

As long as the power is off, you can safely put your hand down inside the drain to feel around for something jamming the spinning disc 6 inches or so below the sink bottom; there are no sharp edges inside the chamber. Feel all around the edge of the disc where it comes close to the perforated edges of the round grinding chamber; that is where the jam typically occurs. 

The spinning disc has two pivoting weights on it that should move freely. If you can’t find and pull out whatever is causing the jam, then the only fix is to remove the disposer and disassemble it. I had to do this recently and found a piece of plastic debris that couldn’t be reached from above.

Disposers lead a tough life; the motor may be worn beyond repair if it is several years old. If you have to remove it anyway, it is often safer at that point to replace the unit rather than try to unjam it.

Garbage Disposal Not Working? Here Are 11 Solutions To Try