Garbage Disposal Won’t Work? Try This First

Mar 29, 2023

“My Garbage Disposal Won’t Work, What should I do?”

Garbage disposals are a convenient kitchen appliance that makes clean-up a breeze. However, they can sometimes break down, leaving you with a smelly mess in your sink. If your garbage disposal isn’t working, don’t fret. Sometimes a professional is required, but here are a few manufacturer-recommended solutions to try to troubleshoot the problem and get it working again. 

Always unplug, turn off the power at the breaker panel, and turn the wall switch to the off position before attempting to troubleshoot or repair your garbage disposal to reduce the risk of injury. Only turn the power back on when all tools and articles are cleared from the disposal. 

Step 1: Check for clogs

The first step in troubleshooting your garbage disposal is to check for clogs. If you notice that the water is backing up in your sink or the disposal blades are spinning but making strange noises, it may be clogged. Often the clog can be cleared by using a standard plunger designed for sinks. For more difficult-to-clear clogs, other techniques included chemical treatments, snaking, or manually clearing the accessible pipes coming directly from the drain. Especially for these more invasive techniques, always consider consulting a professional. Never attempt a repair you are not comfortable with, and thoroughly review your owner’s manual to avoid injury, damage to your system, or actions that are prohibited or not advised by the manufacturer. 

Step 2: Reset the Disposal

If step one does not successfully resolve the issue, try resetting the disposal. To do this, simply turn off the power to the disposal, this press the reset button. The reset button is usually distinctly colored and located on the underside or side of the unit under the sink. After pressing the reset button, restore power to the unit to test.  

Step 3: Manually turn THE blades

If the reset button doesn’t resolve the issue, you may need to manually turn the blades to get them working again. To do this, you’ll need a hex key or specialty wrench. Make sure the power is turned off to the disposal, then insert the wrench into the keyhole on the underside of the disposal. Turn the blades clockwise to get them moving again. Consult your owner’s manual for the specification on safely troubleshooting your machine.   

Step 4: Test the Disposal

After restoring power, turn on the water then switch on the garbage disposal. If it still doesn’t work, repeat the procedure for clearing the jam and resolving the issue.

If your efforts to troubleshoot the problem don’t work, it may be time to call in a professional. Consult your owner’s manual if you believe the issue could be a manufacturing or installation defect, and follow any appropriate repair inquiry procedure.

Tips to Keep your garbage disposal working well

  • Never put grease, fat, or oil down the disposal. These substances can solidify and clog the disposal and drain.
  • Always run water into the open disposal when in use to help flush the debris down the drain.
  • Avoid putting fibrous foods, like celery, or hard foods, like bones, into the disposal.
  • Clean your disposal regularly with a manufacturer-recommended cleaner to remove build-up.


Homeowners should never attempt a repair that they are uncomfortable with, that is unsafe, or that may cause more damage. Always consider contacting a professional.