Troubleshooting Common Garbage Disposal Problems

June 11, 2018

Garbage disposals are one of the few kitchen appliances that are hidden out of sight. We only know they’re there when it’s time to grind up dinner’s food scraps. But when the garbage disposal isn’t working properly, we’re suddenly very aware of how important the appliance is. Troubleshooting your garbage disposal isn’t hard, it just takes a little problem solving, common sense and the right tools. Before beginning, however, it’s worth pointing out potential safety hazards. The garbage disposal can be incredibly dangerous. It’s meant to grind up food scraps. Imagine what those blades can do to your hand. That said, never put your hand down the garbage disposal drain unless the unit is unplugged or the circuit breaker is turned off. After you’ve followed this easy step, then you can begin to troubleshoot the most common garbage disposal problems.

Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On

You flip the disposal switch and nothing happens. The easiest way to diagnose this problem is to start at the disposal itself by making sure the reset button hasn’t popped out. If it has, press it back in and check to see if the disposal is working. If not, then go to the circuit breaker and see if the breaker has tripped.

If the breaker has tripped, turn it back on and test the garbage disposal. If it trips the breaker again, then it means there’s probably a short somewhere in the electrical motor of the disposal. Because this problem can have so many causes, the disposal will need to be taken out and examined more carefully by a professional.

But if the reset button hasn’t popped out and the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped, then it’s likely that the disposal will need to be replaced.

Humming Noise and/or Won’t Spin

Strange noises coming from any kitchen appliance is always a concern. If your garbage disposal is making a humming noise when you turn it on, but not actually spinning, then it’s still getting power. But there’s something preventing the blades from spinning. In other words, the disposal is probably jammed.

Again, keep it simple and check the most obvious place first – in the disposal drain itself. Before sticking your hand down there to feel around, turn the circuit breaker off. Then carefully feel around the inside of the disposal drain. If something is in there, remove it and test the disposal. If the drain is clear, then the jam can be in a different spot.

Another solution is to try and loosen the flywheel. There is a small hole on the outside bottom of the disposal unit. Take a hex (Allen) wrench, stick it in the hole and move it back and forth. This should get the flywheel moving freely and your disposal should start spinning normally again.

Something Stinks!

With all the food being shoved down the disposal drain it shouldn’t be a surprise that eventually something is going to start to smell. Foods with strong odors like onions and garlic can make your disposal smell especially bad. While a stinky garbage disposal is probably one of the more unpleasant problems, it’s also one of the easiest to fix.

The first step is to take a small amount of your favorite dish soap, apply it to a scrub brush and then scrub the visible part of the disposal. Concentrate on the area where the flange and sink basin meet. Bacteria and mold can build up in this area which can cause many foul odors. Doing this regularly (about once a month) will keep the disposal drain clean and help prevent smells from building up in the first place.

Another easy way of getting rid of garbage disposal odor is to drop a few small slices of lemons into the disposal and grind them up. You can also use a lime if you have one laying around. Not only will this freshen up the drain, it will also give your kitchen a nice citrus scent. Ice cubes can also be used to neutralize odors.

Your Disposal Won’t Drain

The garbage disposal grinds up your food scraps and sends them on their way down the drain when the disposal is functioning properly. But sometimes it either drains very slowly or worse, it doesn’t drain at all.

Chances are there is a clog somewhere in the drain line. To fix this problem, look under the sink and find the drain line. Before unscrewing anything, place a bucket or other container on the ground to catch the water that will come out of the pipe. Remove the drain line from the disposal and then check to see if there’s a clog. If so, remove the clog and screw the drain line back into place. Turn on the water to ensure the disposal drain is working properly.


If it’s wet under your kitchen sink, then you probably have a leak somewhere. Luckily, there aren’t that many places water can be leaking from. The four most common places for water leaks are:

  • The flange (where the drain and sink connect)
  • The dishwasher hose (where the hose and garbage disposal connect)
  • The drain (where the drainage pipe connects to the disposal)
  • The bottom of the disposal itself

The easiest way to detect where the link is coming from is to use a little food dye. After turning the power off to the disposal at the circuit breaker, place a bucket underneath the disposal to catch the draining water. Then put the stopper in the drain and fill the sink up a little under halfway. Squeeze a few drops of food dye (the color doesn’t matter) into the water. Check the four places listed above for leaks. You’ll know you’ve found it because of the colored water dripping out.

Troubleshooting Your Garbage Disposal Is Easy

Troubleshooting your garbage disposal doesn’t have to be hard. The problems listed above are very common and are the ones you’re most likely to encounter as a homeowner. Further, the repairs for these problems are very simple, often needing minimal tools (if any). But if you run into a problem that you don’t feel comfortable trying to repair yourself, always call a licensed plumber in Colorado Springs to do the job. The last thing you want to do is make the problems worse.

If you are searching for the Colorado Springs appliance repair company that calls you back then you are in the right place. Call 719-522-1577 anytime 24/7.