Garbage disposals are wonderful, that is, until something goes wrong with them. The worst is when it jams or clogs right when you need it to work! No one wants a sink full of food scraps, nor the smell that comes with it! That’s why today we want to talk about the most common issues a garbage disposal can run into and how you can fix it yourself!

The First Rule of Thumb: Do NOT Reach into the Disposal

How many times has someone warned you about sticking your hand in a disposal? The belief is that you could lose a finger or two if the disposal were turned on while your hand was inside one. But the truth of the matter is, those blades would more likely give you some severe bruising. But while garbage disposal blades aren’t as sharp as we think they are, you should still NEVER reach into a garbage disposal. That isn’t a risk anyone should take, as you never know what could happen.

So, please, keep your hands out! Now let’s get started.

When the Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On

If you flip your disposal switch and nothing happens, most likely there is an electrical problem. Meaning that something is preventing your disposal from the electrical current it needs to work. Here are a few things you can check:

  • Is the disposal plugged in? (This is actually the top reason you may be having issues).
  • If the disposal is plugged in, check the red reset button. You will know the button has been “tripped” if it is popping slightly outward. Press the button back in to reset the machine.
  • If it wasn’t the machine itself that was tripped, the problem could lay in your circuit breaker. Reset the circuit the disposal is connected to and see if that works
  • If neither of those help, then there is either a wiring problem or the disposal itself is faulty.

If the Disposal Makes a Humming Sound But Isn’t Grinding

This most likely means that the disposal is jammed. This is caused by food or another object finding its way between the disposal’s impeller and the shredder ring. In most cases, either the reset button or circuit breaker will trip out after a brief period of time. It’s better to just shut off the disposal, as keeping it on will burn out the motor. Here are the steps to take if you want to troubleshoot this issue yourself:

  1. Fight the urge to stick your hand down the disposal to remove the lodged item.
  2. Go turn off the circuit the disposal is connected to, as a means to make sure the disposal can’t turn on. (Make sure the wall switch in your kitchen is off as well!)
  3. Use the offset wrench (that came with the disposal) to turn the hole in the bottom of the disposal clockwise. Don’t worry if you don’t have yours, you can either get one from a hardware store or use a large Allen wrench.
  4. As you turn the wrench clockwise, it should force the object free and the wheel should begin to turn freely.
  5. Use a flashlight to look down into the disposal. If you can see the previously jammed object, use pliers to pull it out.
  6. Once the disposal is free again, you can go turn on the circuit again but do not turn the disposal on just yet.
  7. Press the red reset button on the machine first.
  8. Run some tap water and quickly turn the switch on and off and then do so again. This should cause the inner wheel to spin and wash any remnants down the drain.

*Please note, some have found success using a wooden spoon handle (or something similar) as a lever to remove the jammed object.

Garbage Disposal Do’s and Don’ts

To avoid disposal disasters, there are a few rules you should follow. These tips will reduce the chance of clogs and other drainage problems, as well as elongate the life of your disposal.

The Dos’:

  • Disposal maintenance should be done regularly in order to preserve your disposal. Grind up lemon peels and ice periodically to do so.
  • Prevent odor by mixing a few handfuls of baking soda with half a cup of vinegar. Do not turn the disposal on, rather pour the mixture into the disposal. Once the mixture is done foaming, rinse it with water.

The Don’ts:

  • Never use a chemical drain cleaner with your garbage disposal. They do not work and in many cases, the chemicals will damage your disposal.
  • Do not use your disposal to grind up potato peelings. The starch creates a paste when ground up and will cause a clog.
  • Also, avoid putting coffee grounds and eggshells into the disposal. The tiny waste they create sticks easily and also cause clogs.

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting with Proudfoot

We know not everyone likes to get their hands dirty, especially when it comes to their garbage disposal. If that sounds like you, you can always call on Proudfoot Plumbing, Heating, and Air. We’ll come out and we’ll have the repair or replacement done quickly and with as little intrusion into your daily life as humanly possible!  That’s why we think you should choose us.  Call us at 1-412-461-2198.  We hope to see you soon; that is, only if you have a disposal disaster!

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