5 Common Garbage Disposal Problems (Plus Quick Fixes)

Your garbage disposal has become indispensable, correct? When it develops a problem, your sink could clog, smells can start to emerge from the sink, and mealtime clean-up can take a lot longer. Here's 5 quick fix solution for common garbage disposal problems that might come in handy somewhere down the road:

    1. Jammed garbage disposalMake sure to flip the switch and listen for the hum, which signals that something's gotten caught between the impellers and the shredding ring. Step 1 - Turn off power at electrical box. Step 2 - Insert an offset wrench into the unit's bottom slot and turn it first clockwise, and then counterclockwise to try to dislodge jam. If it's freed up, it's unjammed. Step 3 - Run a thick dowel rod or a broom handle down the disposer to try to free up impellers (remember, never stick a hand into the disposal). Step 4 - Turn power back on, push the reset button once, turn the water on, and flip disposal off and on a few times to get rid of the guilty culprit that caused the jam.
    2. Leaking garbage disposalStep 1. Turn off the disposal. Step 2 - If a top flange is leaking, remove your disposal with a clockwise turn from the bottom. If mounting bolts are tight, take them off and either replace plumber's putty with new putty or use a drop of silicone caulk instead. Replace flange and disposal, power up the unit and see if it's still leaking. Step 3 - If the leak's at your dishwasher connection, tighten the hose clamp that's connected to your disposer's dishwasher inlet. Replace the hose if it's leaking or damaged. Step 4 - If the leak is by the discharge that's connected to the drainpipe, tighten all bolts around it and run a small bit of water. If the discharge is still leaking, replace the gasket between disposer and pipe, and then put the pipe back together.
    3. No power: Step 1- Make sure no buzz or hum is coming from the jammed disposal. No noise means no power. Step 2 - Make sure plug hasn't been loosened. Step 3 - Check reset button at the bottom of the unit. If it has popped out, push it. Step 4 - Check circuit breaker - it might need to be reset. Step 5 - If your garbage disposal still isn't running, you have either a damaged disposal or a bad switch. Step 6 - The switch needs to be replaced. If you're not comfortable working around electrical equipment, it's time to call the electrician.
    4. Clogged drain: Step 1 - If your garbage disposal won't drain, or is having some trouble draining, disconnect your drain trap (the S or P shaped plumbing line that follows the disposer's discharge) and remove it from discharge drain. Step 2 - Clean out any obstructions or clogs. Step 3 - If there are no clogs inside the trap, it's likely that a clog exists inside the line that connects to the wall. Step 4 - Try using a plunger and see if clog can be dislodged with force and water. Step 5 - Remove the sink stopper and extend a sink auger cable down into the drain. Crank the auger handles until you can feel the clog. Keep applying gentle pressure on the clog until you've worked through it. Step 6 - Repeat as necessary until all the clog is removed. Make sure to flush pipes using hot water once you've cleaned the drain.
    5. Garbage disposal blades aren't moving: Step 1 - If you've removed the blockage, and the disposal's blades still aren't moving, you'll need to check the flywheel. (This could be the reason if you've noticed some leakage down at the disposal's bottom). Step 2 - Make certain that the circuit breaker, as well as the garbage disposal, is turned off. Step 3 - Find the machine's hex hole and use a hex wrench to detach flywheel. Once it's disconnected, clean out any accumulated debris. Step 4 - If you think there's a problem with the blades, disconnect all the hose fittings and remove any debris that is in the impellers. Step 5 - Take a look at the garbage disposal manual to see if there's a possibility that you can sharpen the disposer's blades. If the manual says OK, go ahead and sharpen them; it will prevent some future clogging. Step 6 - It's time to reassemble your garbage disposal and retest.

Some problems shouldn't be fixed by a DIYer. First, if the breaker hasn't tripped and your reset button isn't popped out, that could mean that the switch is damaged. We don't recommend that you try to replace the switch yourself unless you have electrician experience. Second, older garbage disposals can develop holes or cracks in the case when a wall wears down, or when a foreign object like a spoon gets into it. In this instance, it's better to call a professional. Third, if a foul stench is emanating from your garbage disposal and won't leave, regardless of how many time's you've rinsed it, it might be the sign of a serious problem that should be addressed by a plumber.

Justin Curtis

I am not a professional plumber, but I do feel like I am pretty handy :). I would love to hear your comments about this post or others. Thanks for reading!

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