Garbage Disposal Humming: The Most Common Reason

Garbage disposal humming is a cause for concern but often an easy fix.

Garbage disposals do a lot of heavy lifting. They pulverize leftover food and are a big help in kitchen cleanup. So when the garbage disposal stops working, it’s an inconvenience and can lead to bad smells of decaying food, which means you need to fix it fast.

If you’ve noticed your garbage disposal making humming sounds, here’s what to do.

The Main Cause of Garbage Disposal Humming: A Jam

Garbage Disposal HummingView in gallery

A humming noise from your garbage disposal indicates power is going to the unit, but the blades aren’t working. The most common reason – hard food particles are causing a jam and preventing the flywheel from turning.

How to Clear a Garbage Disposal Jam

If garbage disposal overheats while humming, it can lose power. To restore power to the unit, turn off the power switch on the wall and hit the reset button at the bottom of the disposal. If the power doesn’t come back on, check your circuit breaker box to see if the breaker blew. If so, flip the switch.

Then take the following steps to remove the jam:

  • First, turn the power switch off to your garbage disposal.
  • Locate the “key” your garbage disposal came with, which is most often a ¼ inch hex wrench.
  • Open up your kitchen cabinet and locate the hole in the bottom of the disposal.
  • Insert your hex wrench into the hole and move it back and forth to free the jam.
  • After you clear the jam, run the water for a couple of minutes to remove the debris causing the blockage. Turn on the unit to check if the garbage disposal humming sound is gone.

If your garbage disposal doesn’t have a hole for the hex wrench, you’ll need to clear the jam using a wooden dowel rod. Clearing it from the top does the same as using the hex wrench at the bottom. 

To clear the jam from the top of the sink, ensure power to the unit is off. Then insert the dowel rod into the sink, push against the impeller arm, and turn it counterclockwise. Once you’ve cleared the jam, allow water to run long enough to wash the debris down the sink.

Tip: Never put your hand in the garbage disposal – even if the power is off.

What to Do if Clearing the Jam Didn’t Work

If you cleared the jam and the disposal still isn’t working, or you were unsuccessful in your attempts, call a plumber. There are several reasons garbage disposals fail to work, and an experienced professional can identify and fix the issue.

How to Prevent Your Garbage Disposal from Humming

The number one cause of garbage disposal jams is hard pieces of food like seeds, bones, and potatoes. Only place soft or liquid foods in the garbage disposal. Hard foods and actual garbage should go in the trash.