How to Troubleshoot a Garbage Disposal

Most of us have gotten used to the convenience of having a garbage disposal in the kitchen. From minimizing odors in the sink to easier post meal clean up, garbage disposals provide numerous benefits to your home. However, if it stops working it can really disrupt your typical routine in the kitchen, but there are a few steps you can take before calling a plumber. 

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

A garbage disposal is a small appliance located under your kitchen sink that grinds food scraps so that they can easily flow through the pipes. When you turn on your garbage disposal, a motor powers the impeller, which is the grinding mechanism inside the appliance. It spins rapidly and grinds up the food particles into tiny pieces before they are mixed with water and flushed down the drain. It is important to remember that not all food scraps are safe for a garbage disposal. For a list of unsafe foods, click here. Also, make sure to remember to keep the water running while the disposal is in use!

Benefits of a Garbage Disposal

One of the main benefits of a garbage disposal is the convenience of not needing to scrape every bit of food off dishes before they go in your sink. If you have a garbage disposal, you can rinse off most small food scraps in the sink and let the impeller grind up the scraps before they go down the drain. This also helps eliminate clogs in your kitchen sink. While a garbage disposal will not prevent all clogs, the ground up food particles will flow through pipes much more easily. 

What to do if Your Garbage Disposal Stops Working

When your garbage disposal stops working, it can be a huge inconvenience if it is something you rely on in your kitchen. If you find yourself with a disposal that does not work, here are a few things you can do to troubleshoot before calling a professional. 

Check the Power

When your garbage disposal stops working, the first thing you should do is check the power supply. Look under the sink and make sure that it is plugged in correctly. You should also check your breaker box to make sure that the fuse controlling the disposal has not tripped. 

Reset Button

Most garbage disposals have a small, red reset button on the bottom. Sometimes if the disposal overheats or is jammed, it will need to be reset. If you look underneath the appliance and the red button is poking out, go ahead and press it to reset the appliance. If the disposal is jammed, you may need to take steps to resolve the jam before resetting the appliance.

Check for Jams

If your garbage is making a humming sound and not spinning, it is likely jammed. Sometimes manually turning the garbage disposal can resolve a minor jam. To do this, make sure the garbage disposal is unplugged. Then, find the manual turning socket on the bottom of the unit. It will be a small open or socket located in the center. Most disposals come with a disposal wrench that you can use to turn the socket and rotate the impellers. If yours did not come with one, you can use a wooden spoon, or something of similar size inside the socket. As the impellers are rotating, you may hear a grinding sound or feel some resistance as the jam is being cleared. If you are able to successfully clear the jam, restore power to the unit and it should start working properly again. As mentioned above, you may also need to press the red reset button if it is poking out. 


Sometimes a garbage disposal will not work properly if there is a clog in drain line. Many serious clogs will need to be cleared by a professional, but you can try pouring baking soda down the drain followed by vinegar to help clear the clog. If it is a minor clog, this should help dissolve the buildup. 

If none of the attempts to troubleshoot your garbage disposal seem to resolve the issue, your next step would be to call a professional. A licensed plumber will have the proper tools and experience to be able to diagnose the issue and provide a solution. The solutions listed above are all able to be done by a homeowner without any plumbing experience, but any further troubleshooting should be left to a professional. Without the proper training and skills, you could run the risk of damaging the unit. If the disposal is over 10 years old, it may be time for replacement.  

Garbage Disposal Repair or Replacement in Austin, TX

Stan’s plumbers are here to help with all your garbage disposal needs in Austin, TX! Whether you need repair or replacement, we will diagnose the issue and provide you options at an affordable price point. If replacement is needed, we will work with you to find the best garbage disposal for your home. Contact Stan’s today for fast, reliable plumbing service in Austin, TX

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