how to fix a garbage disposal appliance

Easy Fixes at Home: How to Fix A Garbage Disposal

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to handle one of the more daunting household tasks—fixing your garbage disposal. 

Have you ever questioned why your garbage disposal isn’t working properly? Is the drain line jammed or not turning on?  Before you call a plumber or wave the white flag, know that many common issues with your garbage disposal can be safely and easily resolved at home.

Key Takeaways

  • A garbage disposal not working often involves checking for an electrical problem and looking for jams. To fix the issue, make sure the unit is properly plugged in and the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. Use the right tools to clear any visible obstructions or jams.
  • You can use a garbage disposal wrench or a standard ¼-inch Allen key to manually remove jams. Insert the tool into the bottom of the unit and crank it to free up the disposal blades. Remember to turn off the power before attempting this!
  • If your problem is still unresolved, the reset button often does the trick. For persistent issues like frequent drain pipe clogs, strange noises, or regular resets, it’s best to seek professional help.

Troubleshooting Your Garbage Disposal: Where to Begin

To troubleshoot your garbage disposal, check the power connection and look for any jams. This is important as these are the most common disposal issues homeowners encounter.

power connection for garbage disposal

Power issues can range from a loose plug to a tripped built-in circuit breaker. On the other hand, a jammed garbage disposal is identified by humming sounds or a lack of blade movement. Although these issues sound intimidating, dealing with them is simpler than you think, and we’re here to walk you through each step.

Verify Power Connection to Circuit Breaker

We’ll begin with the fundamental aspect – power. Is your garbage disposal plugged in properly? If yes, the next thing to check is your circuit breaker. A tripped breaker can cut power supply to your disposal, causing the system to stop working. It sounds simple, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective ones when dealing with a garbage disposal issue.

Before you check the power connection, unplug your garbage disposal or turn it off at the circuit breaker and look at the power cord for any damage. Safety always comes first when dealing with electrical appliances!

Inspect for Signs of Jammed Garbage Disposal

A jammed garbage disposal can be quite a nuisance, especially when you’re in the middle of preparing a meal. So, how do you know if your disposal is jammed? Listen for a humming sound when you turn it on or look out for water backing up into the sink.

garbage disposal stopped working and clogged drain

If you suspect a jam, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do a little detective work. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Use a flashlight to inspect the sink opening.
  2. Turn the power off to the system and use needle-nose pliers to remove any visible obstructions.
  3. Don’t stick your hand in the disposal – you don’t want to risk getting severely injured.

The Essential Garbage Disposal Wrench: Your First Line of Defense

After making sure it’s not the power or any blockages, grab the garbage disposal wrench. Also known as a Jam Buster wrench, this tool helps fix tough jams in your garbage disposal.

jam buster wrench under sink beside garbage disposal
Jam Buster wrench

Designed for InSinkErator garbage disposals, this handy tool can be a real lifesaver when you’re dealing with a stubborn jam. By inserting the wrench into the base of the disposal, you can loosen the clog and get your disposal up and running in no time.

How to Use the Jam Buster Wrench

Using the Jam Buster wrench is simpler than it seems. First, remember to turn off the power to the disposal before starting. This not only keeps you safe but also prevents accidental damage to the disposal.

jam buster turns freely to fix a garbage disposal

Once you’ve done that, follow these steps to fix a jammed garbage disposal:

  1. Insert one end of the wrench into the center hole located at the bottom of the garbage disposal.
  2. Continue working the wrench back and forth until it completes one full turn. This will ensure proper tightening of the bolt.
  3. This action can unclog the jam and allow your disposal to run smoothly again.

Alternative Solutions: The Allen Key

If you’re having trouble finding your Jam Buster wrench, an Allen key is a viable substitute. A ¼-inch Allen wrench can unjam your garbage disposal similar to a Jam Buster wrench.

allen key to fix a garbage disposal
¼-inch Allen wrench

To use an Allen key, insert the hex wrench into the socket located at the bottom of the disposal unit. Then, move the wrench back and forth to release the jam or until the obstruction dislodged.

Resetting Your Garbage Disposal Safely

Occasionally, even with your strongest efforts, your garbage disposal may continue to malfunction. In such cases, resetting your garbage disposal might be the solution. The reset button on a garbage disposal offers a quick fix when the unit shuts off due to jams or other issues.

Resetting your garbage disposal is a simple process, but it’s important to do it safely. Before you press that reset button, ensure the appliance is turned off. Then, locate the reset button on the bottom of the unit. Before pressing the reset button, make sure to remove your Jam Buster wrench or Allen key from the base. Otherwise, the wrench can damage the system or cause serious injury.

Once the wrench is removed from the unit and you’ve found the reset button, press it until you hear or feel a click.

Locating the Reset Button

Locating the reset button on a garbage disposal is simple! It’s a small red button typically located on the bottom side of the unit, or in some models it may be on the side near the base.

reset button located on bottom of garbage disposal

To find the reset button, look for a small door at the bottom of the disposal where the white wire connects. Once the door is opened, you can access the reset button.

Safety Precautions When Resetting

When resetting your garbage disposal, safety is key. Make sure the power is off at the wall switch and the wrench is out of the base before starting.

safety checklist to fix a garbage disposal not working

It’s also a good idea to avoid inserting your hand or any objects into the disposal. Not only can this potentially damage your disposal, but you can severely injure yourself. Prioritize your safety and the longevity of your disposal by taking essential precautions.

When to Call the Experts: Rescue Plumbing Services

While it’s certainly possible to fix minor garbage disposal issues yourself, sometimes it’s better to get help from the pros. Here are some signs you may need professional help:

  • Persistent odors
  • Abnormal noises
  • Frequent clogging
  • Regular need for resets

Additionally, listen for louder sounds, rattling noises, or grinding. These sounds indicate significant issues with your disposal and should be addressed to prevent further damage.

plumber near me servicing broken garbage disposal

If you notice any of these signs, reach out to our expert team for top-notch assistance!

Rescue Plumbing’s Expertise in Garbage Disposal Repair

Our dedicated team of certified and experienced plumbers at Rescue Plumbing is here to assist you with any garbage disposal problems you face. From diagnosing the issue to unclogging jams, rest assured we have the skills and knowledge to effectively address all your plumbing needs.

You can rely on us for top-notch service and peace of mind when it comes to your plumbing concerns.

Preventative Measures and Maintenance Tips

The key to a long-lasting and efficient garbage disposal lies in consistent and proper maintenance. By establishing a regular cleaning routine, you can significantly reduce garbage disposal clogs and other issues.

To extend your garbage disposal’s lifespan, avoid putting certain items and foods down the drain. Taking this simple precaution can prevent damage and ultimately spare you costly repairs.

Regular Maintenance Routines

Maintaining your garbage disposal is crucial for smooth operation. Keep it in top shape by running it weekly to avoid waste build-up. After use, let cold water flow for about 60 seconds to flush out any remnants.

Additionally, cleaning your unit every two weeks with ice cubes and rock salt can flush out any excess buildup. For a deeper clean, consider using products specifically formulated for garbage disposal maintenance.

Do’s and Don’ts for Garbage Disposal Care

In terms of maintenance, there are several crucial practices to adhere to and avoid. For optimal performance, remember to run cold water while using your disposal. This helps food waste flow smoothly down into the blades. Cold water solidifies fats and oils, making chopping easier and preventing clogs.

Avoid putting the following items down your garbage disposal:

  • Pasta
  • Bones
  • Oatmeal
  • Eggshells
  • Onion skins
  • Excess putty
  • Coffee grounds

These items can clog up your system, shorten the lifespan, and create frustrating limitations. While this is a drawback of owning a garbage disposal, it’s essential to learn how to properly maintain it.


Maintaining and troubleshooting your garbage disposal is not a daunting task. By understanding the basics, taking necessary precautions, and employing the right tools, you can handle most minor issues with ease.

Regular maintenance and mindful usage can go a long way in preventing major issues. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to call in the experts at Rescue Plumbing at (773) 799-8848. After all, a well-functioning garbage disposal is an essential part of a happy and hassle-free home!


The easiest way to fix a garbage disposal is to first check the power supply and reset the garbage disposal. Make sure your power is cut off from the circuit breaker before beginning this process. If the problem persists, consult a professional for further inspection.

At Rescue Plumbing, our dedicated team of expert plumbers is available round the clock, ready to promptly address and resolve all your plumbing needs!

Your garbage disposal may stop working if it gets jammed, overloaded, or has electrical problems from foreign objects or tough food scraps blocking the blades. Always be mindful of what you put down your garbage disposal.

If you notice persistent odors, frequent clogging, regular need for resets, or abnormal noises in your plumbing, it’s time to call a professional plumber. These signs indicate potential issues that require professional attention.

Choose Rescue Plumbing for your garbage disposal needs and experience the assurance of top-tier service and reliable long-term solutions for your home.

To maintain your garbage disposal, it is recommended to run it once a week and let cold water flow for 60 seconds after each use to prevent waste build-up. This routine helps keep your disposal in good working condition.

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