Troubleshooting Your Garbage Disposal

350705_garbage_disposal.jpg  You know this time that you didn’t drop a spoon or knife into the garbage disposal, but it seems to be stuck or simply not working anyway.  There are so many parts and areas that could be the root of the problem that you aren’t sure where to start.  Troubleshooting your garbage disposal can be a simple process, if you have a checklist of items to evaluate.



When troubleshooting your garbage disposal, it is important to remember the cardinal rule of repair – never stick your hand in the hopper (into the drain where the disposal is).  This is the most important safety precaution for the entire process.


If your garbage disposal is not turning on and is making no noise whatsoever, you probably have some sort of electrical issue.  Start by pressing the reset button on the bottom of your unit (all garbage disposals have them).  If that doesn’t work, you may need to verify that the circuit breaker has not been tripped back at your main electrical panel.  If neither of these are the issue, you have either a faulty disposal or a bad switch.  Find the switch powering your disposal, then turn off the circuit breaker that powers it.  Replace your switch and return power, testing the switch to see if it functions properly now.  If the unit still won’t turn on, you will have to replace the unit.


If your garbage disposal won’t run and you hear a humming noise upon flipping the switch, you should turn the switch off as soon as possible.  If you leave it on, you will quickly either cause the reset button to pop out and stall the disposal or trip either the fuse or circuit breaker itself.  Typically, this means you have something stuck in between the impeller or impellers and the shredder ring, causing the flywheel to be stuck.  To repair the damage, turn off the circuit breaker, use the offset wrench that came with the unit, inserting into the flywheel turning hole on the bottom of the unit, and turn it clockwise to dislodge the stuck impeller or flywheel.  If you would rather, you could use a wooden broom handle or other long, thin device that is similar to try and free the object through the drain at the top of the unit.  Remember, never stick your hand inside the drain.


If your disposal leaks, there are several problem areas to check.  If it leaks at the sink flange, you should check that the bolts are tight enough.  If this is not a problem, you may have a leak in the plumbers putty that needs to be repaired.  If the leak occurs at the dishwasher connection, tighten the clamp on the hose or replace the hose itself if it is leaking.


If you have a problem with slow drainage, you should check for clogs and obstructions.  Never use a chemical cleaner to clean out the garbage disposal; try giving it more time to grind up the garbage, or remove it and clean out the blockage.

40 Comments For This Post

  1. Reem Says:

    I was able to successfully unblock my garbage disposal by loosening the bottom screw. I did this while garbage disposal was still installed in the sink. Now the garbage disposal is clear and it works. However, I can’t tighten it back now. Seems like I have to hold the bolt that is on top of the disposal if I wish to fasten the grip from the bottom.

  2. Scott F Says:

    The reset button and offset wrench worked for me, thanks!

  3. Kristen Says:

    What could it be if the leak is coming from a hole in the side of the garbage disposal casing (which apparently was manufactured there intentionally)? When I run water through the disposal without the power being on, no leak; but as soon as I turn on the disposal, water spurts out this hole.

  4. Landon Says:

    Thanks for the fix. My Flywheel was stuck due to something lodged between. I rent an apartment where the offset wrench wasn’t available and the Maintenance team here is really below average. So, I used a broom handle and it worked like a charm. Thanks Again.

  5. Nathan Says:

    Used the broom method and my disposal now works like a charm. Thanks for a succinct tips.

  6. Ike Says:

    The broom handle worked great for me! Thanks!!!!
    I was already thinking of calling a handyman tomorrow! My wife didn’t believe it will work, but it worked like a charm!!! God bless you!

  7. suzanne thiele Says:

    How easy was that! We moved in, never received the manual for the garbage disposal – thank goodness for the Internet! Now I don’t have to spend one dollar and have someone come out.

  8. eric Says:

    kenmore 3/4 hp disposer. will not drain. I checked the trap and it is clear. it must be in the disposal. do i need to take it out and clean it?

  9. Sadi Says:

    My garbage disposal turns and hums , but it still won’t operate. Any suggestions?

  10. billp37 Says:

    Our Kenmore 1/2 disposal hums but does not run.

    The impeller wheel spins freely.

    I can find the bottom part of the offset wrench.

    Any ideas of what is wrong?

  11. billp37 Says:

    At another site I read,

    Most garbage disposers have a port at the bottom, which you can use to insert a 1/4″ Allen wrench (usually supplied with the disposer) and free up the disposer by turning the wrench back and forth.

    I was a able to move the shaft freely. But the disposal still hums and will not run.


  12. Jackie Says:

    My 1/2 white -westing -House garbage disposal will only hum. I pushed the rest button to rest the jam, but it still hums. I can not find the fly wheel hole for this model to free the jam. It is not located on the bottom for this model. What do I need to do?

  13. Dee Dee Says:

    I used the broom method. Thank GOD for the internet and the people on here that is willing to give out this information for free. GOD Bless!!!

  14. sean Says:

    my disposal just broke , thought the wife got a spoon stuckin it , but it was a piece of rubber , but cant figure which part it came off , any suggestions , thanks , its sunday morn , and all i want is peace

  15. cris Says:

    Thanks for the great post. Worked very well. Mine didn’t have a bottom screw so I had to keep working on trying to turn the wheel with the end of a wooden spoon. I was scared to put a lot of pressure in case I broke something, but I kept trying to get good angles against the opening and it finally moved. It took me several turns to make it run freely, but it finally did! I never found what was lodged there, but it works. Thanks so much!

  16. S giulaini Says:

    I cannot turn the allen wrench back and forth when inserted in the bottom, it will only turn in a circle. Is my disposal toasted?

  17. Ana Says:

    Used the advice and worked worked worked! My disposal was making a humming noise so I stuck a long screwdriver in there and turned saw a Popsicle stick and cube. Thanks kudos… Great advice thanks!

  18. Natasha B. Says:

    This was SOOO helpful. My husband is deployed and this advise was a LIFESAVER!! I would have never looked for a reset button without this article, thank you.

  19. Mike Says:

    My Kenmors garbage disposal did not drain – I used a plunger – now it drains. Except now when we run water thru it it leaks at the electrical connection – where the Romex connects to the disposal. The disposal runs – and drains properly – except it now leaks. It didn’t leak before this incident. It also leaks when the disposal is not turned on. Please help.

  20. JP Venezia Says:

    I read these comments and was critical of the broomstick option. I tried evertthing to fix my disposal that hummed when I turned it on. I went to my garage and got a broomhandle and gave it three good hits. IT WORKED! **Note, make sure the broom is clean, I got stuff all over the kitchen and got yelled at by the wife. Eh, she’ll get over it.

  21. Marlon M Says:

    You are a heaven sent!
    The broomstick and switch thing worked!

  22. Mohan B Says:

    I bought a home and kenmore 3/4hp garbage disposal was intalled by previous landlord. I know how to turn on but I don’t how to turn off. I have not found any instrution in manual or internet for trun off.
    Have any one idea how to turn off this equipment.

  23. Ron Says:

    disposer. will not drain. I checked the trap and snaked out 25 ft. and can run the singk beside it leading me to believe the drain is clear. it must be in the disposal. do i need to take it out and clean it?

  24. Bob A Says:

    I have a Kenmore disposal. The impeller plate is loose and nolonger seems to be level.

    Motor runs fine but is noisy.

    Can this be repaired or should we replace it, The unit is 15 years old.


  25. Brian T Says:

    I have a Kenmore 3/4 hp disposal that’s worked flawlessly for nearly 14 years, with exception of the occasional accidental spoon dropped in or overload of potato peels, etc. It still runs fine, however recently when using it there’s a small plume of smoke that comes out of it and smells like hot rubber / burning clutch sort of smell, it continues to smoke for about a minute or so even after running it. I’m not seeing anything lodged in there, all appears normal inside. Is this something that can be easily repaired or is it time for me to start shopping around for a new disposal?

  26. R. Townsend Says:

    I have a batch feed insinkerator garbage disposal. It runs fine; the problem is when I turn the magnetic stopper to release, it does not shut off; it keeps going; how do I solve this problem?

  27. Gil Says:

    I installled my disposal and now have a strem of water coming outof the bottom of the disposal.

  28. Sachin Says:

    I am glad I visited your website and fixed my issue.
    As a product manager in the appliance industry I know how difficult it is to direct consumers to do the right thing without injuring themselves and this instruction was simple and clear in helping me to get the job done.

    Thank you and congratulations to the team that wrote this.

  29. Paul Ryan Says:

    Thanks for the simple instructions. I used the reset button and broom handle trick and this thing works for the first time in three years.

    I was actually looking for instructions on how to remove i and replace it but the unit works just fine now.

    Thanks again for taking the time to pass on your words of wisdom.

  30. wayne Says:

    Maytag disposer works like a dam……..till we plugged with corn husks.Allcleaned out and up, now……but a square designed hole [above Maytag decal] leaks at times,….appears to be a purpose?? for hole??can we just plug up??……….thanks Wayne

  31. Allison Says:

    We just moved in our first house and “accidently” lodged a spoon down the disposal. After many tries we finally dislodged it but now the disposal is making the humming noise and is not running. What else can we try since we already removed the object that was stuck?

  32. Andy Says:

    I just installed a new garbage disposal. I initially forgot to knock out the plug for the dishwasher hose and obviously the dishwasher wouldn’t drain. Since I knocked the plug into the disposal it has been making a “metallic” sound when switched on. The fly wheel is working fine and no obstruction is apparent. Any ideas?

  33. Mr. Doityourself Says:

    This is a great post….my disposal was not working for about a week I was really just going to say the hell with it until I saw this… it was humming abd doing nothing else…. I simply looked in it and saw the bottom of a shot glass, my best shot glass at that then I knew the rest hand to be inside…..i turned the flywheel in the center of disposal at the center bottom and I heard the glass craking and breaking…..it took all of five minutes….. it works like new now!

  34. Paula Says:

    Thank you! I started to use my garbage disposal and when I went to flip the switch to my surprise it was aleady in the “on” posiion. I tried turning it on and off several times but the disposal was completey dead. I also tried pressing the GF button and checked the curcuit breakers. Still dead. The disposal was an expensive one that was purchased less than a year ago. It is one of the extra quiet ones and I assumed I had turned it on and forgotten to turn it off and burned out the motor. As a last resort I decided to check the Internet to see if there was anything else to try. I got lucky and found this site right away. (thanks, Google!) Happily, I learned about the reset button and now all is well. Yaay! Thank you!

  35. sc Says:

    disposal wont shut off

  36. Steve Fisher Says:

    Whenever a clothes dryer takes way to long to dry a whole lot of laundry, it’s usually not the clothes dryer that’s responsible but is a dust clog. When the dryer is running and you are not obtaining dry clothing inspect the dryer vent and duct work. You’re prepared to get in touch with a repairman if you feel awkward carrying out this maintenance yourself. Get in touch with these guys if you would like service as well as are in the regional area: Boston Appliance Repair Pros 11 Concord Square #1-A Boston, MA 02118 (617) 600-6308

  37. Debbie Says:

    We just installed a new disposal and water is going straight through the disposal to under the counter.

  38. Luis gonzales Says:

    Simply but excelent tip. Solve my problem

  39. Shannon Says:

    We just installed a new garbage disposal and it is pouring water from the bottom. Did we miss a step?

  40. appliancejournal Says:

    Shannon, check the seal between the disposer and the sink. Maybe not enough plumber’s putty was used or the mounting bolts were not tightened good enough. If your disposer only leaks when the dishwasher is on, then check the drain hose connection to the disposer. Hope this helps.

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