How to Fix Your Garbage Disposal

How to Fix Your Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal is somewhat of a luxury in the modern world of kitchen plumbing. Instead of clearing your food scraps into the trash where it will decay and stink, you can toss it into the sink where it will be ground up and whisked away. It can make clean-up a breeze and prevent your home from smelling like a landfill. Although this wonderful tool makes our lives easier, it also can fail us. If you’re having trouble with your garbage disposal, there are things you can do to get it grinding once again.

Problem 1: Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On

Make sure it has power. Check the plug underneath the sink. Some outlets have switches. If it’s switched off, flip it back on. You can also press the reset button on the bottom of the disposal to see if that does the trick. If the outlet doesn’t have a switch, you can check your main circuit breaker to see if the circuit is tripped. If that doesn’t work, you’re out of luck! It’s time to install a brand new garbage disposal.

Problem 2: Garbage Disposal Hums

If your disposal is humming or buzzing but the blades won’t grind, the inner flywheel is probably jammed. There is likely a food blockage or foreign object preventing the blades from turning. First, unplug the garbage disposal. You can then stick a wooden spoon handle (or similar) down the drain and attempt to manually dislodge the clog or fish out the object. Do not under any circumstance stick your hand down the drain! 

If this doesn’t work, find the offset wrench that came with the disposal or purchase an Allen wrench that fits. Insert it into the flywheel turning hole, located underneath the unit. Turn clockwise until you no longer feel any significant resistance. Turn it back on and test to see if the blades grind again.

Problem 3: Garbage Disposal Isn’t Draining

When there is standing water in your sink, even while the garbage disposal is running, you likely have a clog on your hands. The easiest way to unclog your unit is with a plunger. However, severe clogs will require a drain cleaning. You’ll need to disconnect the drain pipes underneath the sink and clean out the gunk. If the clog is deeper in your pipes, you can use a plumber’s snake or auger to reach further.

Problem 4: Garbage Disposal is Leaking

If the leak is coming from the bottom of your unit, bad news: it’s beyond repair. However, if the leak is coming from other areas around the unit, there is hope. Here are a few different culprits behind the garbage disposal leak:

Sink Flange

When that little area between your sink drain and disposal starts to leak, your sink flange is probably low on plumber’s putty. The putty breaks down over time but it’s an easy fix. Unplug your unit and unscrew that mounting screw that connects it to the sink. Pull the drain out and add some fresh plumber’s putty. That’s it!

Dishwasher Hose

If you have a dishwasher, the hose is probably connected to the garbage disposal. When a leak forms around this area, you may need to tighten the metal clamp that secures the host to the unit. If the hose is damaged, replace it with a new one.


All of the wastewater exits into the sewer system through the drainpipe. Locate the larger pipe on the side of the garbage disposal. Is this where your leak is? It’s probably the gasket. Unscrew the pipe and replace the gasket if it looks worn out. Make sure to tighten the screws well when you reattach the drainpipe.

Trust Stephens Plumbing to Fix Your Garbage Disposal

We always recommend preventative care to keep your garbage disposal functioning properly. Run cold water to prevent gunking, avoid grinding hard or fibrous foods, and clean your unit regularly by grinding ice, rock salt, and citrus peels. If you do experience the occasional clog, jam, or leak, Stephens Plumbing is at your disposal. Serving areas around Orange County and the South Bay, our licensed plumbers are available 24/7 for all your plumbing needs.