Garbage disposal problems commonly occur if the disposal isn’t receiving power, or if it’s clogged, leaking, or jammed. First, ensure your disposal is receiving power from its outlet properly. Next, unplug the disposal and check for leaks or clogs with a flashlight. Finally, insert a hex wrench to unjam the flywheel manually.
Luckily, each of these common garbage disposal problems can be surprisingly easy for homeowners to both diagnose and fix. All you need is a few tools and some good old fashioned DIY knowhow. You supply the tools, we’ll supply the knowhow. Here’s everything you need to know about garbage disposal maintenance, including what’s wrong with yours and how to fix it.
Why is My Garbage Disposal Not Turning On?
Nothing is more frustrating than when your disposal simply refuses to work. Unsurprisingly, disposals usually refuse to turn on because they aren’t receiving power. There could be a problem with the circuit, the outlet, or within the wiring of the unit itself. Check each one in turn.
How can I fix it?
Follow these steps to figure out why your garbage disposal isn’t receiving power and (hopefully) restore that power right away:
- Hit reset. There should be a reset button at the bottom of your disposal unit. This is a built-in safeguard that shuts off your disposal if it jams or overheats. If your reset button has popped out, press it back in. That may be all you need to do! If not, proceed to the next step.
- Make sure it’s plugged in. Your disposal should be plugged into the outlet under your sink. The plug may have been pulled loose when you rummaged for that new bottle of dish soap. It’s a common accident. If your disposal is already plugged in, test whether the outlet is working by plugging in another item.
- Check the Circuit Breaker. If your disposal is properly plugged in and you’ve checked reset, it’s time to check the breaker. Your circuit might have been overloaded, especially if multiple appliances were running at the same time. Find the appropriate switch in your electrical panel and flip it off and then back on again to restore power.
- Report the time of death. If it’s definitely receiving power and your garbage disposal still won’t run at all, then it’s probably dead. Your best option in this case is to install a new unit. Repairing a broken garbage disposal isn’t cost effective, and in the long run, a new disposal will serve you best.
Do I have a Broken Garbage Disposal?
If you’re getting power but your garbage disposal is not turning on, or your disposal turns on normally but makes weird sounds, then something may be jamming it. A jam occurs when something lodges itself in the flywheel, which is the rotating plate that grinds your waste.
How do I fix it?
You can manually turn the flywheel to dislodge whatever’s obstructing it using a hex wrench. Here’s how to do that:
- Turn off the power to your garbage disposal. Unplug the unit and/or turn off power at the circuit. Never put your hand in the disposal. If you need to pull items out of the disposal, always use a tongs or needle-nose pliers.
- Insert the hex wrench. There should be a small opening at the bottom of your disposal where the wrench fits. Simply insert one end and jiggle the wrench back and forth. This turns the flywheel manually and, hopefully, loosens whatever was jammed in it until it falls out.
- Restore power. Turn your unit back on. If it works, run cold water through it for a minute to make sure all debris is flushed away. If it’s still jammed repeat the first two steps. It may take a couple of passes.
Why is My Garbage Disposal Not Draining?
If your garbage disposal can’t drain, then it’s probably clogged. Clogs prevent water and waste from continuing down the drainpipe and into the sewer. Instead, all that wastewater sits on top of the clog inside your drain or drain pipes until both the water and the clog start to stink.
How do I fix it?
If your garbage disposal won’t drain, it may not even be the garbage disposal that’s clogged, but the drainpipe below it. Either way, an unfixed clog can seriously damage your disposal, so you should definitely fix it fast. Here are the three first things you should try:
- Plunge in. A plunger might loosen a clog and clear the drain path. If your sink doesn’t have water in it already, fill it with a few inches and place your plunger firmly around the drain opening. Plunge the drain for 30 seconds to a minute, repeating if necessary. It may take a few rounds before things start moving. If your plunger isn’t doing the trick, move on to step two.
- Clean out the drain. Disconnect the drainpipe from your disposal and clean it out along with the trap. The trap is the curved pipe under your sink that prevents your wedding ring from disappearing into the municipal water system. It’s also where debris accumulates. Once you’ve cleaned the gunk out and rinsed the trap, replace it and reconnect all the pipes tightly.
- Snake it. If your garbage disposal is still slow to drain, the clog may be deeper down your sewer line. A plumber’s snake is the tool to reach these more challenging obstructions. A professional plumber can also perform this task to ensure all your clogs are properly vanquished.
Why Is My Garbage Disposal Leaking?
Garbage disposals typically leak from four places: the sink flange, dishwasher hose, drainpipe, or bottom. Each leak happens for different reasons: the flange wears out with time, the hose could disconnect or tear, the drain pipe’s connections may wear out, or the seal of the disposal itself could crack.
How do I fix it?
Just like they happened for different reasons, you’ll have to fix each type of leak a different way. First, figure out which leak you have, then fix it. Here’s how to do both:
The sink flange.
The area between the drain in your kitchen sink and your disposal is called the flange. To test if this is the source of your leak, stop up the sink and fill it with an inch or two of water. If you see dripping or detect moisture with a dry cloth in the area beneath the drain, this is your culprit.
When you’re sure it’s your flange, unplug your disposal and loosen the mounting screws on the underside of the sink. Pop the drain up and check the plumber’s putty around it. Plumber’s putty tends to deteriorate over time, which may have caused your leak. Replace the putty if necessary and tighten the bolts to seal the drain and the area where the leak was. This should do the trick!
The dishwasher hose.
If you have a dishwasher, you’ll see a small hose that connects it to the side of your disposal. This is where water drains out of the dishwasher and down into your drain pipe. The connecting hose is held on with a metal clamp. Simply check that the screws holding the hose on are tight or replace the entire hose if it’s cracked.
The other, larger, pipe on the side of your disposal is the drain pipe. This is where water and waste exit the disposal and travel to the sewer system. The drain pipe is usually connected by screws to the side of the disposal. Loosen these and check the rubber gasket within. Replace the gasket if it’s worn and tighten all the screws again.
The garbage disposal bottom.
Sometimes your garbage disposal will develop a cracked seal. Unfortunately, this is likely not worth repairing. If your garbage disposal is cracked, then you’ll probably have to replace it. Before pronouncing it dead for good, however, double check to make absolutely sure the leak is coming from the unit and not one of the three other locations.
What is The Right Way to Use My Garbage Disposal?
We’ve shown you how to diagnose your garbage disposal problems and fix them. Let’s wrap with a few tips on how to properly use your disposal so that it will last a long – clog and leak-free – life.
- Always run cold water. Running water helps flush all waste through the disposal and down the drain. Cold water prevents fat and grease from liquifying and gumming up things later.
- Use it frequently. Even if you aren’t disposing of a lot of waste, turn your disposal on frequently to prevent it from rusting and corroding.
- Only dispose of soft foods. Never put hard items like bones or seeds into your disposal. Avoid fibrous foods like potato peels and celery that are difficult to grind up, as well.
- Clean your garbage disposal regularly. Run some ice and rock salt through it to create an abrasive cleanser. Then grind citrus peel to eliminate odors. This will keep your disposal clean and fresh for years to come.
The Solution to All Your Garbage Disposal Problems
Hopefully, this page helped you diagnose and repair your garbage disposal problems. If you’re still experiencing clogs or leaks, or if your disposal just isn’t working, your local Dallas area punctual plumber is happy to help. We can either repair your existing unit or install the best new unit for your home and budget. Call or contact Ben Franklin today.