Garbage Disposal Not Working? Common Mistakes You May be Making

What to Do When Your Garbage Disposal Is Not Working

Garbage disposal not working? You might think it’s time to replace the unit, but oftentimes it takes just a simple repair that you can handle yourself. At Reno’s Appliance, we’re garbage disposal experts and we wanted to offer these troubleshooting and repair tips to help you get your disposal up and running again.

You Turn on the Disposal and Nothing Happens

Start with a power check. Whenever your garbage disposal isn’t working, the first thing to do is to check is whether it’s still plugged in. While this step might sound overly simplistic, think about the under-sink area in your home. If you store cleaners or a wastebasket under your sink, the garbage disposal plug can easily get knocked loose or pushed out of the outlet. Plug it back in and the problem is solved.

If the power cord is securely plugged in, check if the reset button has tripped. When the unit is working too hard and it starts to overheat, the reset button will “pop out” and disable the disposal. You can typically find the reset button on the side or the bottom of the garbage disposal. When you find it, press it firmly and release. Your garbage disposal should be working again. If your garbage disposal is still not working after pressing the reset button, then check your home’s main electrical panel to see if a circuit breaker tripped.

You Hear a Humming Noise

If you hear a hum coming from the disposal after you switch it on, something could be jamming the blades. Turn the power switch off and unplug the garbage disposal from the outlet. Once you are certain there is no power getting to the unit, you can reach into the garbage disposal and feel around for a small object that could be jamming the plates—forks, spoons, rings, and other small non-food items are the most common culprits.

Most blockages can be removed by hand, but if not, there’s another solution. On the bottom of the garbage disposal, in the very center, is a small depression that receives a ¼-inch hex-head wrench. Fit the wrench in the depression and twist it back and forth firmly to rotate the blades and dislodge the stuck item.

Your Garbage Disposal is Leaking

Garbage disposal leaks occur most often in one of three places:

  1. At the sink flange: The sink flange is where the disposal connects to the bottom of the sink. To fix this type of leak, unplug the unit and twist the disposal to the left (counter-clockwise from bottom). This will loosen and remove the unit from its mounting flange. Check the three mounting bolts that are holding the flange to the sink. If they are loose, then tighten them. If the bolts are already tight, the leak may be caused by failed plumber’s putty. Loosen the bolts and push the sink flange slightly above the surface of the sink. Force a bead of new plumbers putty between the sink flange and the sink, going completely around the flange. Retighten the bolts, wipe away any excess putty, and reinstall the unit.
  2. At the dishwasher connection: The rubber hose that funnels waste water from the dishwasher to the garbage disposal is also a place where leads frequently occur. To fix this type of leak, tighten the hose clamp on the dishwasher hose connected to the dishwasher inlet on the disposer. If that doesn’t fix the leak, then you’ll need to replace the hose.
  3. At the discharge drainpipe: A plastic pipe carries waste water from the disposal to the sink drain trap, and this fitting can leak when the gasket gets old. To fix this type of leak, check the bolts holding the discharge pipe to the disposal, making sure they are tight. If you tighten the bolts and the leak still occurs, remove the bolts and the pipe and replace the gasket seal between the pipe and the disposal.

Slow Draining Garbage Disposal

Sometimes, your garbage disposal is not working properly because it’s slow to drain. The simple fix is to disassemble the drain trap and discharge pipe and remove any food waste that may be clogging the pipes. If no clogs are found, then the blockage may be further down the pipe. You can try snaking the drain, or calling a plumber.

Warning: Never use chemical drain cleaners with a garbage disposal. These chemicals often damage the garbage disposal and void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Once the drain is clear, here are some tips to keep it from clogging again:

  • Don’t grind up potato peels. Peelings form a starchy paste similar to mashed potatoes when ground up.
  • Don’t grind asparagus or celery. These stringy vegetables can wrap around the blades.
  • Don’t put coffee grounds or egg shells in the disposal. They create very tiny bits of granular waste that will quickly create a clog.
  • Do periodically grind up ice cubes to keep blades sharp.
  • Do stop garbage disposal odors by grinding lemon peels periodically or pouring a ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of vinegar down the drain each month.
  • Do run the disposal with cold water only.

If your garbage disposal isn’t working, then take comfort in knowing that there’s probably a simple solution. However if your garbage disposal still won’t work after exhausting all your options, it might be time to consider a new garbage disposal. Reno’s Appliance has a full line of garbage disposals from top brands like GE, Insinkerator, and Waste King. Stop by our showroom in Paterson, New Jersey to find the perfect garbage disposal unit for your home.

Reno’s Appliance was founded in 1951 as Reno’s Radio & TV. Since then, the shop has grown to become the one-stop home appliance source trusted by thousands. Reno’s sons continue to carry on the tradition set forth by their father and exhibit exceptional customer service.