Garbage Disposal Not Working: Learn How To Fix It Without Calling A Plumber

When a warning light reads “garbage disposal not working,” there’s no need to panic. If you don’t know how to repair a broken garbage disposal, you’d be surprised how easy it is. If you’re serious about the DIY aesthetic, then learning how to repair a broken garbage disposal is fun.

garbage disposal not working

If you know how to fix advanced appliances, like garbage disposals, you’ll save money and time. However, before you try to repair a garbage disposal, you need to learn about its essential components and understand how they function.

What Is A Garbage Disposal? 

A garbage disposal is a device that’s installed under a kitchen sink that grinds up food waste so it can be washed down a drain. It’s essentially a food waste shredder.

How To Repair A Broken Garbage Disposal

How To Repair A Broken Garbage Disposal

There are many reasons why a garbage disposal stops working. Common issues include food getting stuck Accepting that it won’t work again is the only thing not to do.

Most garbage disposals have a reset button. If yours stops working, the first thing you should do is push the button and try again. If this doesn’t work, make sure the garbage disposal has power and is plugged in. If it has power, reset the breaker on your home’s electrical panel and try using it again. If it still doesn’t work, try to unclog it.

Insert a 1/4-inch hex wrench or Allen wrench into the hex-shaped hole on the bottom of the garbage disposal. Crank it a few times to try to clear the propeller. Be careful if you use anything except for the hex wrench intended. 

How Does A Garbage Disposal Work?

How Does A Garbage Disposal Work?

To get a better idea of how to fix a garbage disposal, you need to find out how a garbage disposal works. When you turn on the disposal, a spinning disc spins quickly, pulling food into the grinding chamber.

This grinds the food up and allows it to be small enough to pass through the pipes with water from the sink. Garbage disposals are powerful, though, despite popular belief, they do not have sharp blades. 

They grind the food with discs that aren’t sharp enough to cut someone but nevertheless, can be dangerous. Primarily because of the force used paired with the fact that most garbage disposals plug into an outlet. 

Garbage Disposal Parts

Each garbage disposal is a little different than other garbage disposals. Some have dishwasher attachments, while others are fairly basic. But these are common parts that come together to make this food-grinding machine. 

  • Stopper – the plug of the disposal. 
  • Flanges – to strengthen the position of the hopper.
  • Hopper – the chamber where food is ground. 
  • Stopper Switch – controls the stopper. 
  • Shredder Ring – contains the impeller and helps to grind food.
  • Impeller – pulls food down to be ground up. 
  • Drain Opening – houses water and food to be drained.
  • Shredding Housing – holds the drain chamber and is the lower part of the hopper.
  • Sink Drain – the drain that allows food to pass through to pipes. 
  • Power Supply – this will usually be a wall switch into the outlet to power the garbage disposal. 
  • Reset Button – resets the garbage disposal as the first reaction to troubleshooting problems.  

Garbage Disposal Repair 

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting 

If the above tips didn’t help you fix your garbage disposal, then you may find the following tips useful.

Here are some common problems and how you can fix them.

Not Responding

This means the garbage disposal isn’t getting any power to the unit. If you suspect this is the problem, check your home’s electrical panel. If you hit the reset switch, make sure the outlet has power. Unplug the garbage disposal and plug in something else.

Garbage Disposal Humming

When you hear a humming sound, it means your garbage disposal is jammed. Unclog the device with a hex wrench. Before you do anything, unplug the disposal. If you can’t get through the disposal, you may need to use small tongs to clear the drain.


This can mean that the garbage disposal drain has a problem. If this is true, it’s more of a plumbing problem than a disposal problem. You need to take the disposal out to fix this problem.

After you take it out, you can fix the pipe that isn’t draining and put the garbage disposal back in without a problem.


When there’s a leak, look for water dripping from the pipes or base. Finally, look at the bottom of the garbage disposal.

If you’ve determined that you have a leaking problem before you can fix it, tighten any loose areas. If there is a loose area but you can’t tighten it, there could be a broken screw. Take it off and find out which piece needs to be replaced. 


If your disposal isn’t grinding well, try running extra water through the thing. Many people don’t use enough water when grinding their food. Never be afraid of using too much as this won’t cause problems. 

Tips To Prevent Garbage Disposal Problems

Just like anything else in your kitchen, you want to take care of your disposal. Here, we’ll provide you with a few tips that will keep your disposal healthy.

Tips To Prevent Garbage Disposal Problems

Run Cold Water During Usage

Hot water can melt grease and cause problems with the food going down the garbage drain. Use cold or warm water while your disposal is running. It’s just as important to run water after using the device. The last thing you’d want would be to burn your motor and then have to pay for a replacement.

Don’t Overstuff

Do not put too much food in your disposal as large food items can get stuck in it. You don’t want to hire the services of a professional plumber for something as minor as a large piece of chicken, for example.

If you have a lot of food to process, do it slowly. Simply pushing food down your disposal drain with a long stick would not be a good idea. You should only grind food up into little pieces. You can also use a sink auger to clear your drain line and sink drain opening.

No Chemicals

Chemicals can harm your disposal. They won’t jam it up but corrosive chemicals could harm the discharge pipe or discharge tube. Never pour bleach or drain cleaner down the same drain trap as your disposal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What Should I Do If My Garbage Disposal Makes Noise?

A garbage disposal humming sound is, the first thing you need to do is disconnect it. Turn it off and don’t turn it back on. See if you can fix the problem first. If not, you’ll need to call a professional.

When Was The Garbage Disposal Invented?

The garbage disposal was invented in 1938 by John Hammes in Wisconsin. It wasn’t until after WWII that disposals became a permanent fixture of the American kitchen.

How Much Is A Standard Garbage Disposal?

When you need to replace your garbage disposal, the cost will range between $150 to $950. Now, if you know how to install a new garbage disposal, you could spend as little as $75.

How Long Do Garbage Disposals Last?

If you should consider replacing your disposal every ten years. Most will last for about a decade before you’ll need to replace the unit. You’ll know that your unit needs replacing when it begins to clog more often than usual.

Can Garbage Disposals Hurt You?

Garbage disposals are dangerous and should only be operated by adults. The units have sharp blades that can cut your fingers off if you put your hand down the drain trap. Almost 1,000 people every year are sent to hospital emergency rooms due to lacerations caused during garbage disposal repair or normal usage.

Why Are Garbage Disposals Banned In Europe?

Most European countries have a ban on garbage disposals because they feel the devices encourage food waste while also placing a burden on water-treatment systems. Before the garbage disposal became popular, people would use food waste as compost for their backyard gardens.

Garbage Disposal Not Working Conclusion

When you know how to fix your garbage disposal, you won’t have to worry about calling garbage disposal repair services. Garbage disposal replacement is not complicated, but it’s something you need to learn how to do before you do it. In other words, it’s not one of those things that you can make up as you go along.

The most common problems among disposals usually involve plumbing issues. Common culprits often include chicken bones or foreign objects. To prevent problems, use the device properly. For example, you should only put small pieces of food in your disposal or it could get jammed. If you hear something, like a humming sound, there could be problem with your unit’s equipment. If that’s the case, flip the switch on your circuit breaker to make sure the device stays off while you figure out the problem.

If you have a foreign object jammed in your drain, you could probably remove it yourself instead of hiring a plumber. You could always use a stick to remove large items from your sink that clog or get stuck in your drain. Before you use your disposal, inspect it and test it out on some ice cubes or eggshells to see if it’s working properly.