Garbage Disposal Problems
NEVER put chemical drain cleaners in a garbage disposal unit. Besides these chemicals rarely working, they leave you with a sink full of toxic chemicals. Even worse, these chemicals may often damage the garbage disposal and also void the manufacturer’s warranty.
NEVER reach into a garbage disposal.
Before you begin
It is a good idea to check power to the switch using a voltage meter after you unplug the unit. This can point you to a possible tripped or faulty breaker or GFCI.
There are different types of garbage disposals, so try to identify the type you are using. Batch feed units need to have the cover placed over the drain opening to activate the disposal. Continuous units have a switch to turn the unit on and off. Air switch models use air to activate the disposal. What they have in common is that the power feeding the unit should come from an outlet under the sink, however, it is possible for some older models to be hardwired.
– It’s leaking.
Garbage disposal leaks can happen in various places on a garbage disposer. Common places can include: the sink flange where the disposal connects to the bottom of the sink, the hose that connects the dishwasher to the disposal, and the hose that eliminates waste from the disposal into the drain system.
Let’s look at each one of these leak issues:
Sink Flange Leaks – The constant vibration of garbage disposal operation, can loosen the mounting apparatus that holds the appliance to the sink drain opening over time. This sink mounting flange is a very likely culprit for leaking. Try these steps:
1. Shut off power to the disposal at the electrical service panel by turning off the circuit breaker that controls it.
2. Find the disposal mounting ring under the sink, and turn the disposal to the left (counter-clockwise from bottom) to loosen and remove the unit from its mounting flange.
3. Then tighten down the (3) mounting bolts holding the flange to the sink.
4. If the bolts are already tight, the leak might be caused by faulty plumber’s putty. Loosen the bolts and push the sink flange slightly above the surface of the sink.
5. Next, apply a bead of new plumber’s putty between the sink flange and the sink making sure to go completely around the flange.
6. Re-tighten the mounting bolts from below while drawing the sink flange tight to the sink surface. Make sure to clean away the excess putty.
7. Lastly, reinstall the disposal and turn the power back on at the service panel.
8. Now you can check for leaks as you run the water in the sink. If this doesn’t fix the leak, proceed to the next possible leak issue.
Dishwasher Connection Leaks – The rubber hose that funnels waste water from the dishwasher to the garbage disposal is another place where leaks may occur. Try these steps:
1. Tighten the hose clamp on the dishwasher hose which is connected to the dishwasher inlet on the disposal itself.
2. If the hose continues to leak it may need replacing.
Discharge Drainpipe Leaks – When the gasket gets old, another plastic pipe fitting that carries direct waste water from the disposal to the sink drain trap can leak. Try these steps:
1. Tighten the bolts holding the discharge pipe to the disposal, making sure they are tight.
2. If this does not fix the problem, remove the bolts and the pipe and replace the gasket seal between the pipe and the disposal.
3. Reinstall the bolts and tighten them down.
– The garbage disposal will not power on.
If the disposal will not turn on when you flip the switch and you do not hear the humming sound of the motor, that might indicate an electrical problem that is preventing it from getting power. To identify the problem and fix it, first start with the most likely problem which would be the easiest fix and progress to more difficult steps if necessary.
Try these steps for power issues:
1. Verify that the disposal is plugged in. This might seem obvious, but many appliance customer service representatives report that unplugged appliances are by far the most common source of power problems.
2. Next, press the red reset button found on the bottom of the unit. This button operates as a built in circuit breaker, and if the red reset button has tripped, it will be popped slightly outward. Push the button back to reset the unit.
3. If that didn’t work, try checking the main service panel to see if the circuit breaker has tripped. Reset the circuit breaker’s lever if necessary.
4. If you still aren’t getting power, then a wiring problem with the switch controlling the disposal could be the culprit, or possibly the garbage disposal itself is faulty.
5. Locate the switch that powers the disposal unit which should be located on the wall or under the sink.
6. Turn off the circuit breaker that powers the disposal circuit at the main service panel.
7. A loose connection might be the cause of the problem, and the solution could be as simple as tightening the wire connections. Disassemble the switch controlling the disposal, inspect the wire connections and tighten if necessary.
8. If the wire connections are secure but you still have no power, replace the switch.
9. Now turn on the power at the service panel and check the disposal for operation.
10. If the disposal still does not power on and the motor makes no noise, replace the garbage disposal. It cannot be repaired.
– It does not grind but it does make a humming sound.
If the garbage disposal motor makes a humming sound but won’t turn on when you flip the switch, it indicates that the inner flywheel is stuck or jammed. This usually causes the appliance’s red reset button or circuit breaker to trip. You must remedy the problem immediately as it can burn out the disposal’s motor if the reset button or circuit breaker does not shut it off. There is a very likely chance that food or a foreign object is jammed between the impeller and the shredder ring inside of the disposal unit. ( See a garbage disposal anatomy guide for more information on the inside parts of your unit.)
* CAUTION: Never put your hand into the garbage disposal grinding chamber (hopper).
Try these steps for jammed disposal units:
1. Turn the power to the garbage disposal off at the electrical service panel on the circuit breaker. Be sure to also turn off the wall switch controlling the disposal.
2. Use the offset wrench that came with the disposal unit and insert it into the flywheel turning hole (in the bottom of the unit). You can find one at a hardware store that sells your garbage disposal in the case that it isn’t available or maybe a large hex (allen) wrench will also work.
3. Turn the offset wrench/hex wrench clockwise to dislodge the jammed flywheel or impeller. If done properly, you will feel the flywheel turn freely.
4. Alternatively, you can try a wooden spoon handle or a similar wooden object to reach down into the disposal through the drain opening. Try using it as a lever to free the stuck flywheel. You will feel the flywheel begin to turn freely if done correctly.
5. Look inside the disposal with a flashlight to see the object that caused the jam. Some possible foreign objects like meat bones or dining utensils can require pliers for removal.
6. Once the foreign object is removed and the flywheel is free, turn the power on at the main service panel.
7. Before turning on the disposal, press the red reset button on the bottom of the unit.
8. Finally, run some tap water into the disposal while quickly flipping the switch on and off for a little burst. Again, turn on and off quickly, which should cause the flywheel to spin and dislodge any debris to be washed down the drain.
-It drains slowly.
Slow draining is usually caused by similar types of clogging that can slow any sink drain. Disassembly of the drain trap and discharge pipe to remove any food waste that may be clogging the pipes will typically fix this problem.
Try these steps for a slow draining disposal unit:
1. First, remove the bolts holding the discharge pipe to the disposal.
2. Disconnect the drain trap and remove the trap, and then remove the discharge drain pipe.
3. Look for clogs or any obstructions and remove them.
4. If there are no obstructions, the clog may be in the branch drain line going into the wall. Inspect and clear the obstruction with a sink auger.
5. Next reassemble the drain trap and reconnect the discharge tube to the side of the garbage disposal.
6. Finally, run the water and turn on the garbage disposal. Verify that the water runs freely.
Tips for Reducing Problems
Prevent odors by treating your disposal every month by mixing about two handfuls of baking soda with a half cup of vinegar. With the unit turned off, pour the mixture into the disposal hopper. After it’s done foaming, Use running water to rinse the drain.
Grind up pieces of lemon peel and ice cubes with your garbage disposal to maintain it on a regular basis.
Avoid putting coffee grounds or egg shells into your disposal. They may create tiny bits of waste that will stick to any sludge in the pipe and quickly create a clog. Avoid grinding up potato peelings. Peelings can form a starchy paste like mashed potatoes when ground up, which will clog your drain.