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Garbage Disposal Not Working: 5 Reasons Why and How to Fix It

Is your garbage disposal not working? Uncover the 5 most common reasons why and how to fix it. This is one article you should save!

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The garbage disposal is one of the most useful items in any kitchen. It helps with waste management and generally saves you a lot of time. There are a lot of uses of garbage disposal and everyone who owns one knows that their kitchen wouldn’t be the same without it.

However, just like with any appliance, it can suddenly stop working without a clear reason. If that happens to you, there’s no need to worry because there’s probably an easy way to fix the issue. As long as you know the most common garbage disposal problems, you will also know the solutions.

So, is your garbage disposal not working? If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to find out the reason behind it because that way, you can easily find the solution. 

Don’t rely on guesswork. Instead, take a look at the most common reasons why your garbage disposer might not be working.

Garbage Disposal Not Working - Electrical

There’s an electrical problem

If you flip the switch that is supposed to turn on your garbage disposal but it’s not working at all and you can’t even hear the humming sound that indicates that the disposal motor is running, you’re dealing with an electrical problem. This will prevent your disposal from getting the current it needs.

First, you need to check if your disposal is plugged in because there’s always a chance you or someone else unplugged it by accident. But if it’s plugged in, the easiest way to fix an electrical issue is to press the red reset button that is located on the bottom of the disposal.

However, if this doesn’t work, it’s time for more drastic measures. The next offender on the list of why your garbage disposal unit is having electrical problems is the circuit breaker which might have tripped. To see if this happened, you need to check your disposal’s main service panel, and if that’s the issue, all you need to do is reset the lever on the circuit breaker panel.

Finally, if none of these fixes works, you probably have faulty wiring. Problems with wiring are slightly more complicated, but still not impossible to deal with.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Turn off the circuit breaker at the main service panel.
  • Disassemble your disposal’s switch and take a good look at the wires.
  • If you notice there’s a loose connection, tighten up the wires.
  • If the wires aren’t the issue, the switch itself might be broken, so try replacing the switch.
  • Turn the power back on at the service panel.
  • Turn on the disposal to see if the problem is solved.

There’s a jam in the disposal

Is your garbage disposal humming when you turn it on but doesn’t grind? If that’s the case, you have a jam in your inner flywheel.

A jammed garbage disposal unit usually causes the circuit breaker to trip or the reset button of the appliance to pop and this is something you should fix right away. Otherwise, you risk the disposal motor burning out completely. This issue usually happens when something gets lodged between the shredder ring and the impellers.

Before you fix this issue, don’t forget to turn off your garbage disposer at the electrical panel and the wall switch. 

Once you do that, here are the next steps you need to take:

  • Use the offset wrench you got with your garbage disposal and put it into the flywheel turning hole that is located at the bottom of the disposal. If you don’t have that wrench, you can also use a large Allen wrench or even a wooden spoon.
  • Turn the wrench in a clockwise direction to dislodge whatever item is stuck inside. Once you do this, you should hear the flywheel turning.
  • Use a flashlight to get a clear view of the inside of the disposal and locate the object that was causing the jam.
  • Once you spot the foreign object, remove it carefully with pliers.
  • Go back to your main service panel and turn the power on. However, don’t turn on the disposal yet.
  • Press the red garbage disposal reset button that is located at the bottom of the disposal.
  • Pour some tap water into your disposal. As soon as you do, flip the garbage disposal switch on and off quickly a couple of times.

The garbage disposal is leaking

Garbage Disposal Not Working - Leaking

Another reason why your garbage disposer might not be working is that there’s a leak from the unit. If that’s the case, you need to learn how to fix garbage disposal parts that are leaking.

To find out where the leak is, you need to dismantle your unit and check the following parts.

Sink flange

When a garbage disposal is used, it shakes, and this can loosen the components that link to the sink drain over time. Because of this, the mounting flange on the sink could drip or leak. 

If this is the issue, here’s what you need to do:

  • Use the fuse in the panel to disconnect the power.
  • Put your hand under the sink to reach the disposal’s mountain ring and rotate the disposer anticlockwise. This will allow you to remove it from the threaded metal ring.
  • Secure the mounting bolts that are keeping the flange secure to your sink. If you screw it tightly, a small piece of plumber’s putty will fall out.
  • Unscrew the bolts, take the sink flange, and move it a couple of inches above your sink’s top.
  • Take a fresh piece of plumber putty and put it in in-between the sink and the flange. Make sure the putty is covering all sides of the flat collar.
  • Screw in the bolts to create a secure attachment between the surface of the sink and the collar. If you notice any putty coming out, make sure to clean it thoroughly.

Dishwasher connection

If you have one of the newer garbage disposal models, it probably connects to your dishwasher’s drain pipes. This feature is important because it allows the dishwashing machine to take out the waste that gathers in it due to garbage disposal usage.

Unfortunately, this area is commonly affected by leakages, usually because of cracks that are formed on the dishwasher or a hose clamp that becomes loose.

To solve this issue, secure the dishwasher hose by tightening the clamp. This is the place where the tube connects to the pipe that supplies the sink garbage disposal. But if the pipe is still dripping, all you need to do is replace the hose and it should stop the leakage. 

Discharge drain pipe

Another place where leaks commonly occur is the discharge drain pipe, which is the area where your garbage disposal unit connects to the drain line. If you notice your garbage disposal leaking from the bottom, this is probably the place where your leak occurred, and you need to check the drain pipe.

There, you will find two lines. The first is the dishwasher discharge line and the second is the sewer discharge tube. Check the bolts on both of these fittings to see if they’re tight. If they aren’t, tighten them.

If this isn’t the issue, you should probably change the mechanical seal located between the tube and the disposer. Unscrew the bolts and tube, take out the old seal and replace it with a newly purchased one, and screw the bolts back in.

Something’s clogged in the disposal

Garbage Disposal Not Working - Clogged

Is your garbage disposal not working? For instance, is it draining slowly or not at all? Then you probably have some clogging that generally happens if you don’t clean your disposal regularly. If this is the thing you’re trying to fix, you need to disassemble the garbage disposal drain trap and discharge pipe.

Here are the steps you need to take:

  • Unscrew and remove the bolts connecting the discharge pipe to the garbage disposal.
  • Disconnect the drain trap so you can remove the discharge drain pipe and the trap.
  • Check if your disposal has any obstructions or clogs. Remove them and clean the disposal. If you’ve never done this before, first learn how to clean garbage disposal parts safely.
  • If you can’t find anything that might be clogging your disposal like this, the obstruction is probably in the drain line that is going into the wall. You can clear this obstruction with a sink auger.
  • Reassemble your train trap and connect the discharge tube back to the side of your garbage disposer.
  • Run the water (either cold water or hot water), turn on your disposal, and check to see if it’s draining the water properly.

If you want to prevent your disposal from clogging, you should maintain it regularly. Maintenance doesn’t have to be hard, all you need to do is grind up pieces of lemon peel and ice cubes at least once a month.

You also need to be careful about what food waste you throw down the disposal. For example, grinding up potato peelings, egg shells, and coffee grounds will easily create clogs.

The garbage disposal is overheating

If you use your garbage disposal often but don’t maintain it properly, it might overheat. You’ll know it’s overheating if you notice it shots off randomly while you’re using it. And if you let it overheat too much, you’ll end up with broken garbage disposal.

When the disposal overheats, the internal breaker can easily reset. To fix this, you need to press the reset button that is located at the bottom of your disposal and check to see if the breaker is tripped. Then, leave your disposal for some time to let it cool down before you use it again.

Hire professional services

Garbage Disposal Not Working - Pros

If you’ve tried all of the above solutions to common garbage disposal issues but nothing worked, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution. You simply might not be experienced enough to fix the issue at hand or you can’t figure out what the problem is.

And in that case, it’s time to call professionals and get some expert advice. Professional garbage disposal repair services will easily locate the problem and fix it quickly and efficiently.

The benefits of having a garbage disposal

Even though garbage disposals require a lot of maintenance and they can sometimes get clogged or give out bad odors, there are still a lot of benefits to having a disposal in your home.

They are very convenient

People who install garbage disposals in their homes do so for convenience. Not having to go to the trash can to dispose of some garbage can save you a lot of time in the long run.

Not only do they save you time, but they also provide convenience because they help you reduce waste. Food scraps are a big part of household waste and if you keep throwing them in the garbage, you’ll soon find yourself producing a lot of trash that needs to be taken out frequently.

You will protect the environment

It might not seem like you’re producing a lot of food waste, but when it’s all put together, you would be surprised how much food is buried in landfills all over the world. And when food is disposed of by being thrown in the garbage, it isn’t able to decompose properly.

This leads to food waste becoming a source of methane and contributing to environmental issues. But if you use a garbage disposal, you’ll significantly reduce the amount of food waste that is being sent to the landfills, and ultimately help protect the environment.

They protect your plumbing

When you throw food waste into a garbage disposal, it gets shredded into small pieces and then travels through the sewage pipes without having a negative impact on the water flow. If you don’t have a disposal and food particles end up in your sink by accident, it can have a negative effect on your plumbing and lead to clogs and excessive pressure on the walls of your drainage pipe.

Since your pipes will be protected when you have a disposal unit, you’ll have fewer pipe leaks and won’t have to call plumbers often to fix leaks, clogs, or even a burst pipe. This will save you money on costly repairs as well as supplies when you throw away garbage frequently.

You will have it for a long time

Even though every garbage disposal is different from the next, they are generally a very long-lasting appliance. They usually last for at least a few years, but with proper maintenance, they could even last for over a decade.

Of course, if you want your disposal to last for years on end, you need to maintain it properly and know how to use it correctly. As long as you follow the rules regarding what food is safe for your garbage disposal, everything should be fine.

How to use your garbage disposal

Garbage Disposal proper usage

With proper usage, your garbage disposal won’t have almost any issues. Here are all the tips you need to know for proper garbage disposal usage.

Don’t forget to use cold water

Whenever you’re using your garbage disposal, make sure to run a considerable amount of cold water as well. This will help thoroughly flush all of the food particles you’re throwing out and it will also prevent any odors from developing in your disposal.

Another thing important to remember is that you should keep the cold water running as long as the food is being ground up, and this also goes for the motor. Once you hear the grinding stop, you can turn off the motor, but keep the cold water running for approximately 15-30 seconds longer.

When you do this, the food particles can be thoroughly rinsed and the particles will surely go down the drain. This will allow you to decrease the change of any clogs or buildup of food waste.

Never sharpen the blades

Most people think that the shaper the blades, the better, but that’s certainly not the case for garbage disposals. On the contrary, the impellers are supposed to be blunt and there is no need to sharpen them at all. Your disposal will keep working well despite the dullness of its blades.

Know what foods you can throw down the disposal

There are certain dos and don’ts of garbage disposal usage when it comes to which foods you’re allowed to throw in. Never throw anything other than food in there. As for which food you’re not supposed to throw in, the list includes hard materials, fatty foods, fibrous foods, and starchy foods.

And it’s not just about the type of food you should throw in, the amount matters just as much. Avoid overfilling your disposal and remember that only small food scraps are appropriate for this type of disposal. Large amounts will cause your disposal to jam and ultimately malfunction.

Don’t pour harsh chemicals down the garbage disposal

If you think you need to use harsh chemicals such as drain cleaners to clean out your garbage disposal, think again. You should never do this because they can deteriorate the disposal’s inner mechanism and cause leaks and corrosions.

The bottom line

Being a homeowner requires a lot of maintenance, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it. A lot of people consider garbage disposal to be an irreplaceable and necessary part of their kitchen. If you’re one of those people, you need to take good care of it.

When you notice your garbage disposal isn’t working properly, you simply have to determine the reason why it’s not working and fix it by following the instructions you learned here. And if that fails, you can always call professional plumbers who will figure out the reason your garbage disposal isn’t working.