How to Fix a Garbage Disposal

by: Dale Cox

photo a garbage disposal in sink view

If your garbage disposal stops working in the middle of operation, it may have become jammed and/or the built-in circuit breaker may have tripped. These are the most common reasons for a disposal failure.

To Reset the Breaker

drawing demonstrating where the reset button is on a garbage disposal

A garbage disposal has a built in circuit breaker to protect against overload on the motor from material too hard for it to handle.

To restore power in case of a tripped breaker, turn off the wall switch to the disposal. Let the motor cool for about 5 minutes and clear all debris from the grinding chamber.

Push the reset button located on the bottom of the disposal housing and operate the wall switch to turn the disposal on.

To Fix a Jammed Disposal

drawing demonstrating how to use a hex wrench to fix a jammed garbage disposal

If the reset button doesn't restore power to the disposal, the grinder may be jammed. To loosen it, use a hex wrench to turn the motor shaft from the bottom of the housing. A wrench is usually included with the disposal, but if yours has gone missing, a standard hex key set should have a wrench that will fit.

Look under the disposal to locate the motor shaft access hole. Insert the wrench firmly into the hole and move it back and forth until the jam loosens and you can turn the motor one complete revolution without resistance.

Try turning the disposal on. If it doesn't operate, turn the switch back off and hit the reset button on the bottom of the housing. If the reset doesn't restore power, check the service panel to see if the breaker for the disposal circuit has tripped and reset it if necessary.

Eliminate Garbage Disposal Odors

Food particles can buildup in the grinder chamber of a garbage disposal causing persistent odors. To eliminate these annoying smells you can use vinegar, baking soda, lemons, and ice to clean it out.

Pour a cup of white vinegar into one ice tray and top off with water, freeze. Start the disposal and drop cubes into the chamber one or two at a time. Grind all the cubes and rinse with clean water.

To use baking soda, place a stopper in the drain and fill the sink half way with warm water. Add ¼ cup baking soda and mix it in thoroughly. Start the disposal and pull the stopper to let the water and soda wash out the disposal grinder.

Cut a lemon into 6 or more small pieces and have a couple cups of ice cubes ready. Turn the water on and activate the disposal. Slowly add equal parts of lemon pieces and ice, letting the disposal work until the grinding chamber clears. Add more ice and lemon pieces, a little at a time, until you've used them up.