Top Garbage Disposal Issues – How to Fix Them Yourself

How To Fix the Most Common Garbage Disposal Problems

Garbage disposals are a convenient and valuable appliance in any kitchen, but they can also experience various problems that will cause them to stop working. So, how do you Fix Common Garbage Disposal issues?

In this Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting Guide, we will explore the Top Six issues associated with garbage disposals not working – and provide step-by-step instructions on how to repair each problem.

Before we start, it may be worth checking the manufacturer date on your garbage disposal before making any significant repairs or hiring someone to assist you.

According to Rooter Hero, a garbage disposal should last only 8-10 years. If yours is much older than that, it may be time to replace it with a new one vs. repairing the old one.

How to Fix a Stuck Garbage Disposal 

1.  How to “Unclog” Garbage Disposal

How to Unclog Garbage Disposal
How to Unclog Disposal –

Identifying a Garbage Disposal Clog

  • Signs of a clogged disposal (e.g., slow draining, unusual noises)

Of all the typical reasons garbage disposals stop working, the number one issue is a clog caused by food (i.e., turkey or chicken bones) or something dropped into the sink and disposal that isn’t supposed to be there.

Signs of clogged disposals include slow water draining, unusual noises like grinding or clicking, and water backing up into the sink.

Identifying a clog in a garbage disposal involves conducting a simple visual inspection. 

To identify a clog, turn off the disposal’s power and shine a flashlight into the drain opening. Look for visible blockages, such as food particles, utensils, or other debris that may obstruct the disposal’s blades.

Listen for unusual sounds or vibrations indicating a deeper clog within the disposal unit.

If the clog is not visible from the drain opening, further investigation and removal of the obstruction may be required using tools like a plunger or an Allen wrench.

Clearing the Disposal Clog Safely: How to Unclog

  • Turn off the power to the disposal.
  • Use a flashlight to view the inside of the disposal for obstruction, and remove the obstruction if visible.
  • If you suspect the drain below the disposal is clogged, use a sink plunger to remove clogged debris and clear the drain.
  • Run water to be sure the clog is cleared.

Should you Use liquid “Drain Cleaner” With a Garbage Disposal?

While drain cleaners may effectively clear clogs in typical drains, they should not be used in garbage disposals. Here’s why:

  1. Chemical Reactions: Many drain cleaners contain potent chemicals that react with substances causing drain clogs, such as grease, oils, and food particles.
  2. The combination of lye and aluminum found in drain cleaners can react with water, leading to a temperature increase close to boiling. This reaction can create cracks in pipes and joints, eventually resulting in the breakage of PVC pipes.

2.  How to Fix “Jammed” Garbage Disposal

fixing a jammed garbage disposal
How to Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal –

How to Recognize Garbage Disposal is Jammed

When a garbage disposal is Jammed – that issue indicates something has fallen into the sink and disposal, preventing the blades from turning.

  • Indications of jammed disposal (e.g., humming sound, disposal not working)
  • Precautions before attempting to fix the jam

Fixing Jammed Disposal:

  • Turn off the disposal’s power
  • Visually inspect to find and clear obstructions (Silverware, Chicken Bones, etc.)
  • Use an Allen wrench (Hex Key), usually included with the disposal, to access the Key Slot at the disposal’s bottom. Then, crank the disposal over, manually turning the blades, confirming that the obstruction has been removed.
image of unjamming a garbage disposal with allen wrench
Use Allen Wrench to Turn Garbage Disposal Blades –
  • Remove any additional debris you spot that is causing the jam.
  • Run water for at least 1 minute through the garbage disposal
  • Test the disposal to ensure it’s working properly

3.  How to “Reset” Garbage Disposal:

reset button on garbage disposal image

Understanding the Garbage Disposal Reset Feature

  • Why do disposals have a reset button

Is your garbage disposal Not Turning On? Check the reset button located at the bottom of the garbage disposal.

The reset button is a safety feature designed to protect the motor from damage caused by overloads or jams.

When the disposal encounters a blockage or exceeds its electrical capacity, the reset button automatically trips, cutting off power to the unit. This prevents the motor from overheating or becoming damaged. 

  • When to use the reset button

The reset button should be used whenever the disposal stops working abruptly, emits unusual noises, or fails to respond to regular operation.

Pressing the reset button restores power to the disposal. It allows it to resume normal functioning, provided that the underlying issue causing the malfunction has been addressed, such as clearing a jam or reducing the load on the disposal – that should fix the problem.

Resetting the Disposal

  • Locate the reset button on the disposal unit
  • Press the reset button firmly
  • Test the disposal to see if it starts working again

4.  How to Fix “Leaking” Garbage Disposal

Image of leaking disposal

Locating Leak in Disposal

  • Where do Leaks Occur in Garbage Disposals

Leaks in garbage disposals commonly occur at several key points, including the sink flange, the dishwasher connection, the drain pipe, and the disposal unit itself.

Sink flange leaks can occur due to worn-out gaskets or loose mounting screws, while leaks at the dishwasher connection may result from a faulty hose clamp or damaged seal.

Drain pipe leaks typically stem from loose or deteriorated connections, and leaks within the disposal unit can be caused by cracks in the housing or damaged internal components.. 

How to Identify a Leaky Disposal

finding leak on a garbage disposal
Finding Leak on Garbage Disposal –

To identify leaky disposal, visually inspect these areas for signs of water accumulation, dampness, or corrosion. Check for water dripping or pooling beneath the disposal unit, around the sink flange, or along the drain pipe.

Note: Garbage Disposal leaks can come from:

  • Loose garbage disposal (tighten bracket at sink connection)
  • Loose Pipes or fittings going into or out of the Disposal
  • Cracked Garbage Disposal

Run water through the disposal and observe for any visible leaks or water escaping from areas where connections are made..

Listen for hissing or gurgling sounds that may indicate a leak within the disposal unit. Addressing these leaks promptly can prevent water damage and ensure the proper functioning of your garbage disposal.

How to Fix Leaking Garbage Disposal

  • Tighten Any loose pipes or connections with a wrench or screwdriver
  • Replace Any worn-out seals or gaskets
  • Check for cracks in the garbage disposal unit and replace the disposal with a similar unit.

5.  How to Fix “Electrical Issues” with Disposal

image of electrical connections on garbage disposal
Electrical Connections at Garbage Disposal –

Checking the Power Supply

  • Verify that the disposal is plugged in securely
  • Look for any Loose Wires; if discovered, make sure the power is off before proceeding. 
  • Push the Reset button, then test by turning the disposal on 
  • Test the outlet that the Disposal is plugged into – with another device, such as a corded drill or lamp, to ensure the outlet is working

Resolving Disposal Electrical Problems (Additional Steps)

  • Reset the circuit breaker if tripped at the service panel
  • Inspect the disposal’s wiring for damage and replace if necessary
  • Call a professional electrician if the issue persists

6.  Fix “Overloaded” Garbage Disposal:

image of an overloaded garbage disposal - best home gear
Overloading Garbage Disposal –

How to Avoid Overloading a Garbage Disposal

  • Guidelines for proper disposal usage to prevent overloads

It’s crucial to follow good usage guidelines and avoid garbage disposal overloads. Firstly, avoid putting any large or hard items like bones, fruit pits, and hard shells down the disposal, as these can damage the blades and jam the motor.

Instead, cut larger food waste into smaller pieces before disposing of them. Additionally, avoid pouring fats, oils, and grease down the disposal, as these substances can solidify and cause clogs.

Run cold water before, during, and after using the disposal to help flush out food particles and prevent them from accumulating.

Lastly, the disposal should be used regularly to keep it in good working condition, but avoid overloading it with too much waste at once.

Following these guidelines can extend the lifespan of your garbage disposal and minimize the risk of overloads and malfunctions.

Dealing with an Overloaded Disposal

  • Turn off the disposal immediately
  • Remove excess food waste from the unit
  • Use a hex key to rotate the disposal’s blades manually
  • Gradually restart the disposal and avoid overloading in the future

Importance of Disposal “Preventative Maintenance”

garbage disposal maintenance photo
Maintaining a Garbage Disposal –

Proper maintenance is vital to prevent issues with your garbage disposal. Follow these essential tips to keep your disposal in optimal condition:

  • Regular Cleaning: Clean your garbage disposal regularly by running cold water and a few ice cubes or citrus peels through it to remove buildup and odors.
  • Avoid Grease and Oil: Refrain from pouring grease, oil, or fats down the disposal, as these substances can solidify and cause clogs.
  • Use Cold Water: Always use cold water when running the disposal to help solidify food waste, making it easier to break down.
  • Cut Food Waste: Cut large food items into smaller pieces before disposing them to prevent overloading and jamming the disposal.
  • Run the Disposal: Use the disposal regularly to prevent rust and corrosion, but avoid overloading it with excessive waste.
  • Check for Leaks: Periodically inspect the disposal for leaks, tighten any loose connections, or replace worn-out seals as needed.
  • Avoid Non-Food Items: Never put non-food items like utensils, glass, plastic, or metal objects into the disposal, as they can damage the blades and motor.

By following these maintenance practices, you can prolong the lifespan of your garbage disposal and reduce the likelihood of encountering issues such as clogs, jams, and leaks.


By understanding the common problems associated with garbage disposals not working and following the step-by-step repair instructions provided in this DIY garbage disposal repair guide, you can troubleshoot and effectively fix any issues with your disposal.

Regular maintenance and proper usage can also help prevent these problems from recurring, ensuring the smooth operation of your garbage disposal for years to come.

Additional Reading and References:

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear, and uses his 25+ years experience in Commercial and Residential Construction Management to author and publish the work for this website. In addition to publishing Best Home Gear; Kevin enjoys the outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, and completing DIY projects at his Home and Garden.


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Author and Publisher for Best Home Gear

Kevin is the Owner, Author, and Publisher @ Best Home Gear, which he began In 2018.

As a Professional in Construction, Real Estate and Property Management, Kevin uses that experience to publish Useful Articles, and help homeowners improve (DIY) their own homes, lawns, and outdoor spaces.

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