7 Steps to Fix a Garbage Disposal

By June 14, 2018Blog

That moment when you are cleaning up from a big family dinner and you are at the sink, scraping food waste into your garbage disposal; you turn it on and hear an ear-piercing noise or no noise at all.

What are you going to do now? Maybe you should call the plumber, but first, let’s see if you can fix it yourself. Below are 7 simple things to look at in case you can save yourself a little cash!


Do you have power? Whenever there is an issue with an appliance, always check the power source first. Is it plugged in? If no, that could be your issue. Very simple to fix! It would be great if every fix were as simple as plugging in the unit. In the situations where the fix to your “broken” garbage disposal is not that easy here are a few ideas on how you, yes YOU may be able to fix it.


You checked that the unit was plugged in and all was well with the plug.  You flip the switch and still nothing.  The next place to check is at the main power source. Check to make sure that no breaker or fuse has tripped. If it has tripped, replace the fuse or switch the breaker back on and you are all set. Flip the switch and you should have power.


At this point, you have checked the plug, and the main source of electric and still nothing seems to be working. The next step is to make sure the unit is unplugged, or the breaker is off—this is for your own safety.

Open the cabinet under the sink and you should see the bottom of your garbage disposal. If you reach under it, on the very bottom of the disposal there should be a small button. This is called the thermal overload button.

This is sort of a reset button for the unit. Press this button down for a few seconds to reset the unit. Now you will want to try running water and turning the wall switch on. If unit is running smoothly you are good to go. If not…then keep reading.


Now you will need to check to see if there is a clog. First thing is first; you will need to make sure that the main source of electric is off. Again you will not want to risk injury to yourself. Going under the sink to try and fix the garbage disposal this time will be little more involved. The one tool you will want to take with you is the Allen wrench that came with the unit. If you don’t have the one that came with your unit you will be able to use a standard Allen wrench.

On the bottom side of the unit there is a hex shaped hole. You will want to use the Allen wrench and put it in the hole and manually turn the motor shaft counter clockwise a few times then clockwise a few times until the shaft spins freely. Once you remove the clog and the wrench, turn the faucet on to run water.  Then turn the switch on for your garbage disposal. If your unit is running smoothly you are good to go and you have fixed your problem. If not, there is still something else that you will be able to try.


If going in to try to fix the clog from the bottom did not work you can try from the top of the unit. Again you still need to make sure that all electricity is off to the unit for your safety. You will need to have a garbage disposal wrench.  This is a special tool that you will use to help you loosen the clog.

You can borrow this from a neighbor or pick one up at your local hardware store. Once you have the wrench you are going to put it down into the disposal from the sink. You will need to rotate the tool until the jaw like part of the tool locks into the cutter wheel of the disposal.

Now you will need to forcefully turn the tool counter clockwise a few times and then clockwise a few times. You may have to do this numerous times in order to clear the jam. Once the clog is cleared and the cutter wheel spins freely, remove the disposal wrench, restore the electricity, run water to confirm that the garbage disposal is operating smoothly.


Some of the most common foods that cause the garbage disposal to clog are grease. Even though it is slippery to the touch while warm, as it cools it solidifies and will get stuck in the disposal.

Other foods that will commonly cause your garbage disposal to clog are pasta and rice due to the fact that when added to liquid they will consume the liquid and swell therefore causing a clog. Fibrous foods such as onion skins, celery or cornhusks will also cause a jam in your disposal. In addition, eggshells are better off being put into the trash instead of the garbage disposal.

Another cause of clogs could be that the blades are broken or worn down, making it a difficult to chop up the food. Usually, running water through the system clears up the problem.   If it doesn’t, you’re probably due for replacement blades.


Your garbage disposal is working fine but seems to be leaking. Chances are the actual unit is not leaking but either the hose/pipes or the fittings are what is actually leaking.

These are all easy fixes. Make sure the power is off.  To find the leak start by checking the fittings and tightening them as needed. If this doesn’t solve the leak, you may need to replace the hose or pipe that runs from the sink to the garbage disposal.  If that doesn’t it work it could mean it may require a full appliance replacement, this is something you would need to hire a professional plumbing service to do.


If you take one thing from the article, please let it be that whenever trying to work with water or an appliance whose sole purpose is to emulsify your food waste that no electric is going to the unit. Not only is electricity a danger, but so are the blades that turn food into liquid. Don’t let your hand be the item that the disposal tries to break down! If none of these tips works, or if you know you are out of your depth, go ahead and call your plumber. A professional can be sure to fix it in no time and get your garbage disposal back in working order! 

Get in Touch With Hernandez’s Plumbing Today

Hernandez’s Plumbing serves Miami, Coral Gables, and the rest of the South Florida area. We are a Spanish and English-speaking company so call us now at 305-428-3782 to schedule your appointment or to inquire about our services.



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