Garbage Disposal Not Working? Here’s What to Do

1. Safety First

Before attempting any troubleshooting, ensure your safety. Turn off the disposal by unplugging it or cutting off its power supply from the breaker panel. Never put your hand or any objects down the disposal.

2. Identify the Problem

  • No Power: If the disposal is completely silent when switched on, check if it’s plugged in properly. Reset the circuit breaker or press the reset button on the disposal unit itself.
  • Jamming: A common issue is when the disposal hums but doesn’t grind. This might indicate a jam. Avoid using your hand to clear it; instead, use an Allen wrench (usually provided with the disposal) inserted into the bottom center of the disposal to manually turn the motor and dislodge the blockage.
  • Leaks: Inspect under the sink for any leaks, which could be due to a damaged seal, loose connections, or cracks in the disposal unit.

3. Clearing the Jam

  • Turn Off the Power: Double-check the power is off to avoid any accidents.
  • Use an Allen Wrench: Insert the wrench into the bottom of the disposal and manually rotate it. This should help loosen any stuck items.
  • Utilize the Reset Button: After clearing the jam, press the reset button on the bottom or side of the disposal. This often resolves the issue.

4. Checking the Power Supply

  • Reset the Circuit Breaker: If the disposal is not getting power, check the circuit breaker or fuse box and reset or replace the breaker if necessary.
  • Reset Button: Press the reset button on the disposal unit. If it pops out, it indicates a tripped mechanism, often due to overloading or a jam.
10 Tips To Successfully Upkeep Your Garbage Disposal

5. Maintenance and Prevention

  • Avoid Overloading: Don’t overload the disposal with large amounts of food waste or non-food items.
  • Run Cold Water: Always run cold water while using the disposal and for a short time afterward to help flush out debris and keep the unit clean.
  • Regular Cleaning: Periodically clean the disposal by grinding ice cubes, citrus peels, or using specialized cleaning products to remove buildup and odor.

6. Calling a Professional

  • Persistent Issues: If the problem persists after troubleshooting or if there’s a major malfunction like leaks, grinding noises, or a burned-out motor, it’s best to call a professional plumber or technician to assess and fix the problem.

7. Replacement Considerations

  • Age and Condition: If the disposal unit is old, damaged, or frequently malfunctions, replacement might be more cost-effective than constant repairs.
  • Choosing a Replacement: Research different disposal models based on your needs, budget, and the features they offer. Look for energy-efficient options that suit your kitchen setup.
Garbage Disposal Not Working? Here's Why


1. Why is my garbage disposal humming but not working?

  • The humming sound often indicates a jam. Use an Allen wrench to manually rotate the disposal’s motor from the bottom center to dislodge any blockages.

2. What should I do if my garbage disposal is leaking?

  • Check for loose connections, damaged seals, or cracks in the disposal unit. Tighten connections or replace seals if necessary. If there are cracks, consider replacing the disposal.

3. How do I reset my garbage disposal?

  • Look for a reset button on the disposal unit (usually at the bottom or side). Press it to reset the motor. If the button pops out, it indicates a tripped mechanism. Reset it and check if the disposal starts working.

4. Can I put certain foods down the garbage disposal?

  • Yes, many food items can go down the disposal, including small fruit scraps, vegetable peels, and soft food waste. Avoid hard items like bones, fibrous foods like celery, and oils or grease, as they can cause clogs.

5. Is there a way to prevent garbage disposal issues?

  • Regular maintenance is key. Avoid overloading the disposal, run cold water while using it, and periodically clean it by grinding ice cubes or citrus peels to prevent buildup.

6. Should I repair or replace my garbage disposal?

  • It depends on the severity of the issue and the age of the unit. If it’s a minor problem that can be fixed easily, repair might be the way to go. However, if the disposal is old, frequently malfunctions, or has major issues like a burned-out motor, replacement might be more cost-effective in the long run.


A malfunctioning garbage disposal can disrupt your kitchen routine. However, most problems can be resolved with a few troubleshooting steps or by seeking professional help when needed. Regular maintenance and proper usage can extend the life of your disposal unit and prevent future issues.

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