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9 Tips for Trouble Shooting Garbage Disposal Issues


Troubleshooting Garbage Disposal Issues

To some, the garbage disposal is one of the most frightening kitchen appliances. It’s a must-have when it’s working well, but when it breaks, you imagine all sorts of horrific scenes about what could go wrong.

What do you do when your garbage disposal doesn’t work, or it starts making a humming noise? The idea of sticking your hand down into the disposal is a horror movie ready to happen.

Your garbage disposal can be a hazard when mishandled. When it’s time to fix a problem, follow these tips for troubleshooting garbage disposal issues.

Why Does It Hum?

Most often, your disposal hums when something obstructs the blades.

Either too much food is overloading the unit, or a foreign object (like a spoon) fell into the disposal.

If your garbage disposal hums when you turn it on, it does have power.

Follow these three critical steps before Before doing anything to check for an issue or make repairs:

  1. Make sure the switch is off.
  2. Unplug the disposal. Make sure it can’t turn on by accident while using hands and tools in or near the disposal.
  3. Never put your hands into the disposal.

You’re ready to proceed with caution to avoid injury when following these nine tips.

1. Check for a Clog

Like any drain, a clog can keep your disposal from working correctly.

With the disposal unplugged from the power source, use a flashlight to look inside the disposal. If you can see food or other debris, chances are you have a clog.

Using tongs or pliers, remove the debris from the garbage disposal.

Make sure everything (including your hand) is clear of the disposal. Plug it in. Run water into the unit. Turn it on.

If the blades still don’t spin and the disposal still makes a noise, turn it off and unplug it.

2. Clean the Trap

This calls for a little plumbing know-how, but it’s not difficult.

With everything turned off (including the water), loosen the curved part of the drain pipe underneath the sink.

Make sure you have a towel and bucket handy–this gets messy. When you’ve removed the piece of pipe, water (and maybe some debris) will fall out.

Clean out the detached piece of pipe, then reassemble. Run water through the sink to make sure no debris remains.

3. Use the Wrench

Next, using the offset wrench that came with the garbage disposal, insert it into the flywheel turning hole.

These wrenches come with all garbage disposals. However, if you don’t have one, try a large Hex wrench or find a replacement at your local home improvement store.

You’ll find the flywheel turning hole at the bottom of the unit. Manually turn the wheel using the wrench. Sometimes a few turns help dislodge any remaining debris to get the blade going again.

After a few turns, try the disposal again.

4. Keep Turning (From Above)

If the wrench didn’t help, try turning the blades from above. Use a wooden spoon handle (not your hands!).

The spoon handle acts as a lever to get the blades moving. Give them a few good turns, remove the spoon handle, make sure everything is clear of the disposal.

Run water and turn on the disposal.

5. Hit the Reset Button

Turning machines off and on again is one of the universal fixes for many problems. Your garbage disposal has a reset button for this function.

Find the button on the unit underneath your sink. With the power off, press the reset button. Run water, then turn on the disposal.

6. Check for Leaks

If you had a significant clog, it’s a good idea to check for leaks after the disposal is back to working order.

  • Run water through the disposal and turn it on.
  • Check for leaks around the seal at the sink drain. If you notice any leaks, you’ll need to turn off the disposal and unhook it from the sink flange. Add a layer of plumber’s putty, then reassemble everything–tightly.
  • Look for water leaks in the pipes coming from the disposal. Tighten bolts and connectors between pipes.

Your disposal depends on free-flowing water to help move food through the blades and down the drain pipes. Make sure water can flow through the device without leaks.

7. Practice Batching

When you’re disposal runs well again, practice batching when it comes to putting food down the garbage disposal.

To batch feed your garbage disposal, send small amounts of food down the disposal. Allow time (and water) between each batch.

This allows the garbage disposal to grind smaller amounts of food and clear without clogging.

8. Run Plenty of Water

Water helps flush debris out of the disposal and down the drain. Running plenty of water helps your garbage disposal work.

  1. Tun water first.
  2. Turn on the disposal.
  3. Put small batches of debris into the disposal–while the water runs.
  4. When the debris is gone, keep the disposal running with water flowing for 30-60 seconds. This clears out the disposal.
  5. Turn off the disposal, then the water.

Without water, your disposal motor can burn up. Food is also more likely to clog the disposal and the drain.

8. Avoid Certain Foods

It’s tempting to send everything down the disposal. But, like some diets, be sure you avoid certain foods that can damage your disposal.


  • Eggshells
  • Grease and cooking oils
  • Pasta
  • Stringy vegetable or fruit
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Beans
  • Rice

These foods can tangle or damage the blades and internal parts to the garbage disposal.

Get Help When Troubleshooting Garbage Disposal Problems

Be safe when working with your garbage disposal, especially if you are installing a garbage disposal yourself! If the idea of a runaway garbage disposal or dealing with plumbing isn’t a pleasant thought, call a professional to diagnose and repair your disposal.

Talmich Plumbers Colorado Springs can handle any garbage disposal or plumbing situation.

Contact us for a free quote or to schedule us to take the horror out of dealing with temperamental garbage disposal.

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