How to Fix Garbage Disposal: Clogged, Leaking, or Not Working

- January 13, 2019

Our garbage disposal units are the answer to all our prayers. They are also one of the most underappreciated and most overworked appliances in our homes. This means they get little to no maintenance all year long; but when our garbage disposal stops working, it certainly stinks — literally.

Here are a few DIY garbage disposer tips you can use to fix it:

How to Unclog A Garbage Disposer

In our haste to throw food scraps into the garbage disposer, we may, unknowingly, toss something in which shouldn’t be in there. Hard items, like fruit pits or utensils, may get stuck in the impeller and damage the blades. If this happens, your disposer will make a lot of noise when it’s turned on, regurgitate water, or refuse to work at all. Here’s how to fix it.

Safety first. When dealing with an electric appliance, always cut off its power supply.

Take a flashlight and shine it through the hole in your sink. Fish out any stuck object with a thin pair of pliers.

Get under the sink and check the hexagonal hole at the bottom of the disposal. With the help of a hex screwdriver or an Allen wrench, loosen the base and spin the disposer grinding unit. Some loose debris might fall off.

Get up again, and insert a long dowel or a screwdriver handle into the disposal chamber to move the grinding arms back and forth. Remove any loose material.

Turn on the power supply and then check if the water is going down smoothly.

If the water is still coming back up, this means there is bigger clog further down the pipe and a professional plumber is needed to fix it.

How To Fix Garbage Disposal Leaks

If your unit is leaking, the first step is to find the source of the leak and then fix it.

Unplug your disposer from the main power line and plug up your sink drain with a tight seal.

Fill the sink with a few cups of water to identify the leak. If necessary, you can dye the water with food coloring so the leak is easily noticeable.

If the leak occurred on top of the disposal unit under the sink, this means a seal has corroded or been knocked out of place. This can be fixed by removing the disposer unit and applying a liberal amount of sealing putty to the flange.

If the leak is located at the bottom of the disposer unit, it means an internal seal has cracked or broken down. If the problem is tiny, you can fix it with some putty seal. If the cracks are large, it indicates other seals are also running out of time and you may need to replace your disposal unit.

How To Fix A Garbage Disposer That Won’t Turn On

You are just about to wash the dishes when you realized your garbage disposal stopped working. Here’s what to do:

Try pressing the reset button on your garbage disposer. Sometimes, when the disposer becomes overloaded, the reset button can trigger an automatic shutdown of the unit.

If this doesn’t work, your disposer might have an object stuck between the blades or the impeller.

Similar to how we unclogged the disposer, you will have to check the hole for any hard objects.

Then, go down the sink, loosen the base of the hexagonal hole and rotate it a few times to ensure debris is shaken loose.

Go up again and remove any other debris from the disposal chamber.

Turn on the unit switch and see if the disposer works.

If it doesn’t, this means there is something wrong with your electricity connection.

If the power supply is fine, you may need to get your disposer replaced.

One of the best ways to ensure your garbage disposer remains in tip-top shape is to only throw soft food into the drain. Hard pits, bones, and utensils can damage the blades and motor or knock seals out of place. Also, regularly run down cold water down the drain to clean it out. Lastly, schedule a routine appointment with a professional for maintenance.  Having a properly functioning garbage disposal system starts from the beginning.  Here's why you should have a pro install your unit so you can avoid the headaches of improper installation.