How to Fix a Garbage Disposal

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How to Fix a Garbage Disposal

Written by: Jackson Systems



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A quality garbage disposal can make life in the kitchen much easier. Unfortunately it’s pretty easy to overlook a piece of equipment that’s so well integrated into a cooking space. A product tucked away in a dark space, constantly in contact with waste and water, there’s so many opportunities for garbage disposals to malfunction. Let’s go over all the possible garbage disposal scenarios and give you a guide to garbage disposal repair.

How to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal

You have a few options when it comes to unclogging a garbage disposal but the first step is always to identify what is causing the clog. Once you’ve removed all visible garbage from the device, try one of the techniques listed below to finish the job.

Use a Plunger

Use a plunger to fix your clogged garbage disposal. A plunger will create a pressure vacuum to push resilient clogs down the discharge drain.

  • Fill the sink with enough water to create a seal around the plunger before firmly plunging the drain.
  • Remove any new visible items and run cold water through the drain while running the garbage disposal for a few seconds.

Still having trouble? Try a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. This natural remedy can cut through greasy/fatty oils and sticky substances.

  • Start by pouring baking soda down the drain, followed by white vinegar.
  • Let that concoction fizz for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Run hot water to wash away any remaining gunk and turn on the garbage disposal for a few seconds.

If both of these tricks don’t seem to be working, it’s time to call a professional. Contact your local plumber for further troubleshooting. It may be beyond repair and require a replacement all together.

You Garbage Disposal Smells

You can easily make your garbage disposal smell better with citrus

If you have some citrus fruits around the house, try cutting off some peels and throwing them into the garbage disposal one peel at a time while running cold water. Lemon, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are all great options.

The most effective method is to combine white vinegar with chunks of citrus fruits in an ice cube tray. Freeze the concoction overnight and blend into garbage disposal one by one, running cold water between cubes to stop chunks of fruit from sticking to the walls of the appliance. 

Garbage Disposal is not Working

If you’re having issues turning on your garbage disposal and you’ve ruled out the possibility of a clog, it might be time for a garbage disposal reset. Your garbage disposal has a garbage disposal reset button, but it’s always important to follow a few simple steps to keep yourself safe:

  • Start by unplugging the garbage disposal. You should see a plug running underneath your sink.
  • Remove the splash guard to check if the blades can still move freely. (Do not use your hand for this step. Find a long item like a broom handle or silverware.)
  • If you’ve ruled that possibility out, time to check if the reset button has been tripped. It’s usually located at the bottom of the garbage disposal.
  • If the reset button hasn’t been tripped, it’s time to check the electrical power switch. Go to your fuse box or circuit breaker and make sure nothing has been accidentally flipped.
  • If you’ve gone through all these steps and still have issues getting your garbage disposal to work, it’s time to call in a professional. Don’t risk further damage to your appliance or personal harm to yourself.

New Garbage Disposal is Stopping your Dishwasher from Draining

When setting up a brand-new garbage disposal, there’s a key step that’s easy to miss that could stop your dishwasher from properly functioning. If you’re attaching the discharge elbow to a drainpipe that’s connected to the dishwasher, you have to remember to knock out the garbage disposal plug before installation. If this step isn’t done, the dishwasher will not properly drain and could lead to water damage around the sink.

The easiest way to do this is taking a blunt instrument like a steel punch or wooden dowel and aligning it with the plug. Take a hammer or blunt object to knock the plug into the disposer. You can either reach in and grab the plug or leave it in the garbage disposal. The plug will naturally grind up as you use the device and will not harm your appliance.

Taking Care of your Garbage Disposal

Cleaning Your Garbage Disposal

Cleaning your garbage disposal can be a simple and fast process that will allow your appliance to run more efficiently. On top of that, it’s a great way to remove any unwanted odors coming from your sink. Like most of the tips above, you should always start by disconnecting your garbage disposal to avoid any dangerous scenarios.

  • After disconnecting the power cable, start by identifying any unprocessed food that might be trapped inside the sink. Use a flashlight and a pair of pliers (needle-nose works best) to start pulling out any unground food/unwanted items that might be visible around the flywheel. 
  • Drop 10-12 ice cubes down the garbage disposal with rock or Epsom salt. 
  • Then add a scoop of dry used coffee grounds, and a couple tablespoons of baking soda, and a tablespoon of vinegar to the disposal. 
  • Run the garbage disposal 3-4 seconds at a time, no more than 3 intervals. This combination of items will help clean, sanitize, sharpen the flywheel blades, and break up any hard water stains or buildup that could be happening.

Garbage Disposal is Leaking

If you’ve noticed your garbage disposal is starting to leak, there’s a few simple things you can check before calling a professional. Assessing where the leak is coming from is a great starting point. If you notice the leak at the top of the appliance, there’s a good chance the seating of the sink flange needs tightening. It’s usually a sign of a gasket not being properly aligned with the seal.

Leaks that are coming from the discharge elbow where ground waste is being flushed, can be attributed to improper tightening of the elbow flange screws. In those scenarios try tightening any screws in the surrounding area.

If your garbage disposal is leaking from the bottom, it usually means a seal break on the interior shell. It’s a sign that the motor potentially has water damage and could be deteriorating. There’s usually not much you can do in this situation besides replacing the appliance all together.

What Food Can You Put Down the Garbage Disposal

“Garbage disposal” is a name that shouldn’t be taken literally. They aren’t designed to handle anything but food waste, even then not all foods are appropriate to put down the drain. As a general rule NEVER put lye or chemical cleaners down the disposal. It can damage equipment and cause serious corrosion to metal parts.

Safe for Garbage Disposal

Not Safe for Garbage Disposal

There’s a few exceptions to this rule but most of the fruits and veggies that don’t have hard pits or thick stems are safe for garbage disposals

Fish bones are safe for garbage disposals in small amounts, just be smart and don’t try disposing of any bones larger than most fresh water fish.

Corn cobs are safe for the disposal but DO NOT try to grind the husks. Cut the cobs in smaller chunks for best results.

Cooked meat is safe to put down your garbage disposal but be weary of large chunks of meat.

Not only is ice safe, its great for cleaning and sharpening the blades of your garbage disposal.

Any leftovers that are under this category are safe

Fats and Oils can clog up the drains and cause long term damage to your garbage disposal.

DO NOT put anything with a hard shell down there. Oysters, Clams, Crabs are a no-no

No eggshells, the small bits of shell can get lodged in the equipment.

Artichokes are an outlier in the vegetable family. They don’t work well with garbage disposals. Steer clear

Avocado pits are very large and hard to break. A garbage disposal will have a tough time grinding them up

This might be a given but DO NOT put anything thats not food down the drain.

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