Your Garbage Disposal Isn’t Broken: Five Ways to Get It Working Again


You’ve just finished making a salad and you’d like all those extra veggie bits to go down the garbage disposal. But when you turn on the switch, your garbage disposal either makes a humming noise or nothing at all happens. Try these five easy fixes before calling in a repairman.

Check the obvious. Be sure that nothing is stuck in the garbage disposal such as a dropped piece of jewelry or a small kitchen utensil. Next, make sure that the disposal is plugged all the way in to an electrical outlet.

  • Reset the garbage disposal. Locate the red reset button on the bottom of your garbage disposal and press it. Try turning on your garbage disposal again. If you’ve been trying to run your garbage disposal several times, you may need to wait a few minutes for the motor to cool down before trying to reset it.
  • Loosen the garbage disposal blades. First turn off the garbage disposal and unplug it. Then find the wrench that came with your garbage disposal or locate a ¼-inch hex key. Insert the wrench or hex key into the center opening on the bottom of the disposal. Rotate the wrench back and forth (clockwise and counterclockwise) several times to release the jammed blades. Plug the garbage disposal back in to the electrical outlet and try turning it on again.
  • If your garbage disposal still isn’t working. Turn off the garbage disposal and unplug it again. Insert the end of a wooden broomstick or the handle of a plunger into the garbage disposal through the drain opening in the sink. Use the end of the broom handle to rotate the grinding plate on the bottom of the disposal to release the jam. Rotate the garbage disposal wrench once more. Plug the garbage disposal back in to the electrical outlet and try turning it on again.
  • Check the circuit breaker. Go to your circuit panel and open the door. Locate the kitchen circuit breaker that supplies power to the disposal and switch it off. Turn the breaker back on to reset it. Go back to your garbage disposal and check to make sure that the reset button has remained pushed into the disposal. If not, press it. Then try the disposal again.
  • Check the wall switches. As a last resort, hold a noncontact voltage detector against the wall switch with the switch in the on position. You can unplug the garbage disposal while doing this. If electricity is running through the wall switch, the voltage detector will beep and flash. Leave the switch in the on position and hold the voltage detector against the outlet beneath the sink. If the voltage detector does not detect electricity at either outlet, you may have a faulty switch meaning that electricity can no longer reach the garbage disposal motor to trigger it. You’ll need to have the non-working switch replaced.

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