How to Fix a Garbage Disposal | HomeTips
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How to Fix a Garbage Disposal

Garbage Disposer Parts Diagram

Is your garbage disposal jammed, clogged, or leaking? This illustrated step-by-step guide offers expert advice for repairing these and other related garbage disposal repairs.

Indispensable in the modern kitchen, a garbage disposal (also called a garbage disposer) helps make food preparation and cleanup easy and fast. Attached to the underside of a kitchen sink’s drain, it works by chewing up food scraps fed down the drain with a heavy flow of water.

A shredder breaks the food down in the grinding chamber, and then an impeller arm and plate force the liquid and particles down the drain. Dishwasher drain water also runs through the garbage disposal so that any large particles are chewed up and drained away.

A good garbage disposal can last a decade or more with proper care and usage. Simple problems are easy to fix; with a serious problem, you’re usually better off replacing the entire unit.

If you need help repairing your garbage disposal, call a pre-qualified garbage disposal pro.

Garbage Disposal Jammed

You’ll know your disposal is jammed or clogged when the motor hums but the disposal doesn’t grind, is overly noisy, or runs and then stops before you turn it off.

The problem is often a piece of bone, a fruit pit, or the like stuck between an impeller blade and the drain hole. Don’t continue to run the disposal when it’s jammed as this can burn out the motor.

Be sure to turn off the electrical circuit that powers the garbage disposal before making any repairs.

To clear a jammed disposal:

1Unplug the unit and check the instructions in your owner’s manual.

 

Use the reset button or a hex wrench on the underside to free-up a stuck garbage disposer.

2Under the sink, look at the bottom of the disposal for a hex-shaped hole. If you see one, look for a hex wrench that fits the hole (it’s often attached to the disposal). Fit the hex wrench into the hole, and force it back and forth in both directions to free the impellers. (Note: Some models have a reversing switch that accomplishes the same action.)

3If your disposal doesn’t have a hex hole or you can’t find a hex wrench, put a short broom stick into the disposal (with the switch turned off!), force it down against one of the blades, and try to rotate the impeller.

4If something has been put in the disposal that shouldn’t have—such as metal, rubber, glass, or fibrous food waste such as artichoke leaves or banana peels—use tongs or pliers to pull the material out. Never use your hand.

Disposal Grinds Poorly

Drain plunger's bell-shaped end folds up for sinks. Photo: Neiko

Drain plunger’s bell-shaped end folds up for sinks. Photo: Neiko

If your disposal grinds poorly, make sure that you are running enough water while operating the unit and that you are not grinding matter that you shouldn’t.

If you can hear the garbage disposal running but it is not grinding, the blades may be broken. It’s usually easier and cheaper to just replace the entire unit. See How to Install a Garbage Disposal.

Disposal Drain Is Clogged

When water stands in the sink, it means the drain is clogged either in the disposal or further down the drain line. This isn’t a garbage disposal problem but rather a plumbing problem. See How to Plunge a Clogged Drain.

Garbage Disposal Leaks

If you notice leaks below the disposal, pinpoint the source of the leak, and tighten the offending connection. If necessary, replace the drain gasket or the unit’s mounting screws.If the unit is unreasonably noisy, check that something hasn’t entered the unit that shouldn’t have. If all is clear, you may need to replace the blade, impeller, or motor; this should be done by a pro. Because these types of repairs can be costly, it’s often cheaper, faster, and wiser to replace the entire unit.

Featured Resource: Find a Local Pre-Screened Garbage Disposal Pro

Garbage Disposal Care

Garbage disposals work best if you follow these basic rules:

• Use cold water when grinding food (hot water can melt fats and clog the mechanism and the pipes)

• Do not overfill

• Do not pour bleach, drain cleaners, or other chemicals into the unit

• Do not grind overly fibrous materials, bones, or coffee grounds (check the owner’s manual) or such materials as glass, metal, or rubber

• Run water before and after you use the disposal

If something has been put in the disposal that should not have been, use tongs or pliers to pull the material out. Never use your hand.

To clean a garbage disposal of built-up sludge and debris, fill it with ice cubes and a cup of rock salt and then run it for about five seconds. If your garbage disposal smells bad, you can deodorize it by running warm water down it while you grind a quartered lemon.

Featured Resource: Find a Local Appliance Repair Pro

Call for free estimates from local appliance pros now:
[telnumlink] 1-866-342-3263[/telnumlink]

About Don Vandervort
Author Image
Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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92 Comments

  1. The disposal seems to work okay. It grinds okay and water passes through it when it is running.
    When the disposal stops there is a rush of water running backwards back into the sink.

    What would cause this? How could I resolve this issue?

    Reply
  2. Disposal works great, but now when I run my dish washer, the drain water comes out the air gap. how do I fix this?

    Reply
  3. Have reset, turned off breaker and used the hex wrench, NOTHING. No noise or any sort.

    Reply
    • I’m assuming you turned the breaker back on after using the hex wrench. If there is no noise at all (such as a hum), it’s likely the unit isn’t receiving power.

      Reply
  4. Thanks for this video. Very helpful!

    Reply
  5. Thanks! Incredibly helpful!

    Reply
  6. Hello, my disposal wil run for about 2 seconds and then it trips the breaker, anyone have an idea?

    Reply
  7. Hi, my garbage disposal is leaking from the under side. It still runs, but if I just run water in the sink, it leaks. What’s happening?

    Reply
    • If it’s leaking from the hoses or pipes under there, fixing it is usually just a matter of tightening fittings. If the bottom of the disposal is leaking, you’ll probably need to replace it.

      Reply
  8. I’m having the same issue…can’t seem to find anything on the internet pertaining to this particular problem.

    Reply
  9. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Glad we helped!

      Reply
  10. This was very helpful, especially the video!!! Thank you so much!!

    Reply
  11. Ok so my garbage disposal won’t work. It hums when you switch it on but won’t do anything else Please help.

    Reply
  12. My garbage disposal is leaking from the bottom – I’ve verified it’s not the hoses or pipes. I’ve been told I could replace an inside gasket but it will begin leaking again within a year. We bought the house 1 year ago and the disposal looks pretty new. I’ve replaced 2 garbage disposals previously and it’s not hard but if i don’t need to replace i’d rather not, THOUGHTS?

    Reply
  13. Thanks, this fixed my problem.

    Reply
  14. I have a weird one, and I can’t find any answers. I put some coffee grounds down my disposal this morning, and it worked fine. I ran the dishwasher, and noticed an awful smell coming from the disposal, so I turned on the disposal. It hums, but doesn’t spin. Here’s the thing, though. The blade is free-spinning, not jammed. It just isn’t turning, even though it’s not jammed, and is getting power. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • U figure it out? Same prob here!

      Reply
      • Me too??!!

        Reply
    • Mine does the same and another source suggested that the motor was faulty. Unfortunately, one has to really scour the net for some info. I am now headed out to buy a new disposal as this one is about ten years old anyway.

      Reply
      • I wish. It mysteriously started working again. I don’t understand it. We’re refraining from using it at all, at this point, so that we don’t have to call the apartment management. I hate having them over to fix things.

        Reply
        • Water had leaked into the motor and froze it up. I replaced the whole unit and found a crack in the plastic housing. This unit was 14 years old so we got our use out of it!

          Reply
  15. I need help! We had a power outage in neighborhood. When lights came on garbage disposal stopped working. I tried GFI switch, circuit breaker but nothing would turn it on. I hit reset button and that worked. Now it won’t turn off. It’s turning (so it’s not just humming) but it literally won’t turn off unless I unplug it from the wall. The wall switch is in the “off” position and it’s still on.

    Reply
  16. Wondering if someone can help with this one: there was significant leaking under the sink, and we discovered that the dishwasher discharge hose had gotten disconnected from the disposal. I saw, though, that the dishwasher inlet in the disposal — which I see from the manual is supposed to be protruding from the disposal – was shorn right off of the disposal. The discharge hose is still connected to the disposal’s dishwasher inlet, but the inlet is broken off from the disposal. Has anyone seen this before? Is there any way to repair this? Disposal is pretty old (Insinkerator 777ss, built in 2003); I understand if i have to replace it but want to make sure there is not an easy repair.

    Reply
  17. to turn on my sinkerator I have to turn the stopper all the way to the left or right, as expected, but then I have to gently push down on the stopper handle before the motor starts. Any ideas?

    Reply
  18. The garbage disposal in our vacation home has been unused for about a year. Now when I turn on the switch there is just a hum. I ran water from the faucet for quite awhile but no luck. The reset button is not popped. Any ideas?

    Reply
  19. Let the disposal do the work for you!!!!!!!!!!!!! Plumber trick they dont want you to know… the disposal is a pump so let it uclog your drain for you…. All you need to do is block the sink opposite the disposal really tightly and turn the disposal on while running water into it and wait…. it might take a minute but it will work my wife clogs our sink regularly and i have to do it all the time

    Reply
  20. Went through the steps and got my humming disposal to work again! Thank you! Using the hex tool freed up a stuck metal pop cap

    Reply
  21. I went to Home Depot just tonight to buy a replacement. They were charging $200 for their cheapest model plus $200 for installation but they were too busy so I left. I went home and googled for service and accidentally stumbled on your site. All I had to do was push a reset button and that got things running. I didn’t even realize there was such a button. Thank you sooooooo much. You saved me $400.

    Reply
    • Woohoo! We are thrilled when we can help save a bunch of money and hassle!

      Reply
  22. My disposal is working (turns and drains) however, the food isn’t leaving it. I have bits of food that remains in the bottom. Tried flooding the sink with lots of water but the food particles (rice in size) will not leave and is starting to smell!

    Reply
  23. one of my blades is coming off and makes a really loud scratch…..is there a way to replace the blades or do i have to buy a new disposal…my disposal is 13+ years old lol

    Reply
    • See above.

      Reply
  24. one of my blades is coming off and makes a really loud scratch…..is
    there a way to replace the blades or do i have to buy a new
    disposal…my disposal is 13+ years old lol

    Reply
  25. my disposal is cracked along the side… small leaks of water. is there anything I can use to seal it or do I need a new one? probably 20 years old.

    Reply
  26. The reset button on my disposal has become unattached from the unit. Any way to fish it out and reattach it?

    Reply
  27. You are awesome!!!!! I knew of the Reset Button but not about the the Hex Wrench. Thank you so much. You saved people hundreds of dollars.

    Reply
    • Sheryl,
      You are awesome, too, for writing this nice note! We really appreciate visitors who appreciate our hard work!

      Reply
  28. Thanks for showing how to easily remove the unit from the sink. Yes, I had to go that far to get an infant feeding spoon out!

    Reply
  29. susan F used the new wrench to unstick the motor but know it is leaking from what appears to be the reset button. what to do?

    Reply
    • Susan, unplug the disposal or, if it is hardwired, turn off the breaker that controls it. Water and electricity don’t mix. Water coming out of the bottom of a disposer usually indicates corrosion, which means it’s time for a new disposer. See our garbage disposal buying guide: http://www.hometips.com/buying-guides/garbage-disposals.html

      Reply
  30. I had a hum, but the disposal didn’t work. Followed the instructions with the power, hex wrench, etc., nothing. Killed the circuit breaker, removed the disposal, couldn’t find anything jamming it. Put everything together and now my pipe’s leaking no matter how many times I’ve loosened and re-tightened the ring. Gone from bad to much worse here.

    Reply
    • Wow, it’s disappointing to go through all of that and have a bigger problem. That hum usually indicates a peach pit or similar object is jamming the disposal—but not always. Sometimes it means the motor has burned out. And it sounds like the big rubber washer at one of the joints in the trap is either missing or defective. Getting a new disposal is the best option if the unit isn’t jammed with an object. When you buy the new one, consider buying a new ABS drain trap for a few bucks so that you’re not fighting the leaks. Hope the replacement goes better!

      Reply
  31. Is it possible for a disposal to leak when it isn’t running? I had a leak at the disposal to drain connection that I tightened up and seemed fixed. It was leaking when I ran it, and then didn’t after tightening. Then yesterday a puddle of water was found on kitchen floor and under sink. Leak from same area but disposal was only run for short times (less than 5 seconds) twice during the day. No leaks when it was run then. Dishwasher was run after this leak was found and everything drained fine for that. What is going on?

    Reply
    • Absolutely. The disposal is like a big container in the middle of the sink’s drain line. Any water flowing through it can leak out of its drain, whether or not it’s running. The dishwasher connects to its drain, but usually a little further along. So the leak is probably happening before the dishwasher connection.

      Reply
  32. I put a little uncooked regular rice down a friend’s disposal. It clogged up immediatly i try to plunge for an hour even got blisters. The water rose from both sides We eventually took pipes under sink off and drained but I couldn’t reach the rice clog with my fingers. I offered to work on it next day . It was an accident. She won’t talk to me and said she paid $275 to fix it. It’s old pipe and I see it’s white now and I shouldn’t have to pay the whole thing when she never even asked me or gave me an opportunity to get someone who could unclog it.

    Reply
    • Hey, so sorry to hear that this accident strained your friendship. Sounds unfair to me that she spent a bunch of money without giving you the chance to help solve the problem. You might have been able to clear it with a clothes hanger or with a drain auger as we show on this page: http://www.hometips.com/repair-fix/drains-clearing-clogs.html
      Sounds to me by the cost of the drain cleaning service that there was a bigger preexisting problem, but it’s hard to know. Normally some uncooked rice will wash down the drain unless there is a bunch of grease in the drain pipe. When you say “she won’t talk to me,” it makes me think that there was a preexisting problem there, too. If something like this derails the friendship, I’m not sure that you’ll ever be able to count on it.

      Reply
      • Very good repair advice and relationship advice. You do it all around here, very informative. I’m trying to remove my disposal using the angled allen key but it won’t budge. Do you have any advice on how to turn the stuck collar while trying to stop the unit from turning too? Thank you.

        Reply
  33. Thanks so much. Fixed it! Took it down and ratcheted down and Unjammed it. Wife was impressed and will do something special for me now haha.

    Reply
  34. We just bought a house and the garbage disposal works but when it is stopping, it makes a moaning sound then shuts off. Is the disposal on it’s last leg? Please help, do I need to add this problem to the walk-thru list?

    Reply
    • Sounds like the bearings might be giving up.

      Reply
  35. I used the wrench to free the blades and can get it to work briefly then it seems to jam again. I flushed it with water, I even used a shop vac to suck out any small particles I could miss visually but it still only runs for a few seconds then jams. I have not taken it out and taken it apart yet. Does it sound like something I need to do?

    Reply
    • It isn’t easy to take apart a garbage disposal (though you can pull it out, turn it over, and try to dislodge a possible clog). It’s usually better to completely replace it.

      Reply
  36. Thank you so much! I fixed my disposal with your help. You are awesome!

    Reply
    • So glad it worked. Please visit HomeTips often!

      Reply
  37. The impellor disk (not the 2 metallic pieces that are attached to it) on mine is rusted away and allows food onto the pipe before it gets processed. Any way to just replace the blade?

    Reply
    • Bijoy, you’re better off just replacing the disposal.

      Reply
  38. Thank you! Was able to take down my disposal with your video and found a olive pit stuck behind/under one of the blades. Unfortunately, it still only hums so thinking burned out motor and just get a new one? Is there anything else you would try first?

    Reply
    • Dawn, If there isn’t anything else in there jamming it, you’ll probably need to replace it.

      Reply
  39. Super easy taking the disposal down thanks to this article! It looks like one of the grinders on the impellor rusted in place and the impellor itself is rusted away. I live in an apartment but I’m thinking about just replacing it myself. Thank you!

    Reply
    • You’re very welcome. Please come back to HomeTips soon!

      Reply
  40. Mine makes a terrible clanking metallic noise like the blades are loose or something. There is nothing stuck in it. Fix or replace?

    Reply
  41. excellent. It worked. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Great!

      Reply
  42. I just finished fixing my garburator. The garburator was so jammed that I couldn’t move it back and forth with the jambbuster, I almost took the garburator out. As a last resort I held the jambbuster or 1/4 hex and hit it softly on the end with a hammer, until it finally moved

    Reply
    • Congrats. Persistence wins out!

      Reply
      • You’re not kidding! I have a socket set with that hex so I used it but it took an hour of back and forth before it gave up the all important screw for the coffee roaster container. Two fixes with one wrench!

        Reply
  43. Same issue here, kind of. Mine was jamming up and humming quite a bit. I could loosen it up with the hex wrench, but it would inevitably jam up again. Took it out this weekend, found an old banana peel in between the flywheel and inside ‘wall’. Once I took that out, it was good-for almost a day. Took it off again, but can’t see anything. I can manually spin the plate, but you can tell something is slowing it down. Once I turn it off, it will stop spinning abruptly, so something is still in there. Where else can it be and how can I get in there to get it out? It’s only about 2 years old.

    Reply
    • With the repeat jams, the motor might have burned out. If you can’t find anything clogging it, you’re probably best to just replace it. Check Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2qORQ0h

      Reply
  44. I tried to grind a small bag of chopped salad. Now there is nothing going through the disposal. Water is standing in the sink. When I turn the disposal on, it just regurgitates the water and tiny pieces of lettuce/cabbage. The blades turn freely. Any suggestions? Do you think it is the drain line? Thanks

    Reply
  45. The old saying, “It’s the little things that get you” is so true. All I needed to do was press the little button under the garbage disposal and bang..instant fix! Thanks for your easy DIY guide. Saved me a bundle on replacement and repair costs.

    Reply
    • Great news! Thanks for getting back to us with your comment!

      Reply
  46. thanks for the video. found piece of potting gravel in the disposal. didnt chop my hand off thanks to good advice on power issue. wins all around. a+

    Reply
    • Thanks!

      Reply
  47. Thanks for the video, I followed your instruction, took the whole thing apart and fixed it. Works great now. So easy!

    Reply
    • Excellent!

      Reply
  48. My garbage disposal suddenly started making a humming sound. I unplugged the garbage disposal and try to rotate the blades using the 1/4 inch hex wrench as suggested in your tips. Then I try to plug the power chord back in the receptacle and there was a short circuit. I bought a new double receptacle and connected the wires. Now when I plug the disposal to the receptacle, the garbage disposal makes humming noise even when the power switch for the garbage disposal is off. Don’t know what is causing the garbage disposal to make humming sound even if the power switch is off.

    Reply
    • First, it sounds as though the garbage disposal is completely jammed— or shot. With the power off, you can try freeing it up with a broom handle stuck down into its interior. If that doesn’t work, you’ll probably have to replace the disposal (see http://amzn.to/2qORQ0h). Second, it sounds like the original receptacle was controlled by the switch, but this one may not be. Test it with a small appliance or a voltage tester and make sure you wired it properly. Be aware that only half of it may be controlled by the switch if a dishwasher or some other device plugs into the other half. For more, see this page: https://www.hometips.com/how-it-works/wiring-electrical-outlets.html

      Reply
  49. Great! Glad to hear we helped!

    Reply
  50. my garbage disposal sounded like something was in it and I got it where it will turn now but the water isn’t draining and it seems like it’s going the opposite direction now what should I do

    Reply
  51. Thank you!! This saved me a whole lot of worry and grief, and gave me confidence as I am terrible at home repair and also final destination-style afraid of garbage disposals. Was able to fix it myself quickly.

    Reply
    • We love to hear that!

      Reply
  52. Excellent video! I changed my disposal before but this makes it much easier to fix or remove.
    Thank you for posting.

    Reply
    • Please visit HomeTips again…soon. :)

      Reply
  53. I used my hex wrench to drain the water but when I turned the disposal back on, it was quiet for a bit then the unit started to smoke and gave off a burning smell. I immediately unplugged it. Is the motor for sure burnt out now or is it worth taking the unit off to look for a jam? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Probably not worth the effort to try to save it. I suggest replacing it.

      Reply
  54. Water seems to be coming from the reset button on the bottom of the unit. (Insinkerator Badger 5). The unit runs fine but leaks water from the reset button. Is there a fix for this or do I need to replace the unit?

    Reply
    • Sounds to me like corrosion or leaking seals. You’re probably best off to replace the unit.

      Reply

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