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How to Fix Your 'Garbage' Disposal

Trying to figure out how to fix your “garbage” disposal? The reason we place the word “garbage” in quotes is because there’s a common error many homeowners make: treating the kitchen disposal like a garbage can instead of a receptacle for food waste.

The truth is, this built-in-your-sink kitchen appliance is not designed to handle garbage and is often the reason the disposal quits working optimally.

In your attempt to get your garbage disposal operating like it should, it’s important know what is okay to put down the receptacle and what needs to go in the trash can instead. Below, we cover that, and give you some tips regarding quick DIY garbage disposal repair.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Garbage Disposal Use

A malfunctioning garbage disposal is a major inconvenience. However, most issues are completely avoidable by simply using the appliance correctly. Handle your disposal with care, and it will work well for you for years to come. Here are the “Do’s and Don’ts” of what goes down the garbage disposal, so you can ensure you get the longest lifespan possible from the appliance.

These items DO go down the disposal:

  • Any biodegradable food items – this includes food scraps, such as pieces of fruit, veggies, bread, or meat.
  • Cut-up pieces of larger food items – ideally, throw them in one piece at a time to avoid clogging the disposal.
  • Cold running water – running cold water from the faucet while the drain operates causes any residual oil or grease to solidify so the grinder can chop it up before it enters the trap of the disposal.
  • Dish soap – squirting a little dish soap down the disposal, running the cold water, and letting it run for a minute is an easy way to clean the receptacle.
  • Citrus – grinding up orange peel or half of a lemon or lime leaves your disposal smelling fresh and clean.

The following items DO NOT go down the disposal:

  • Glass, metal, plastic, or even paper products – if a glass breaks in the sink, do not try to grind down even the smallest shards).
  • Cigarette butts or anything combustible.
  • Large animal bones.
  • Coffee grounds – while not a problem for the garbage disposal itself, the grounds may accumulate inside the pipe and lead to clogging.
  • Large amounts of fat, oil, or grease – these can solidify and accumulate, potentially clogging your drain.
  • Fibrous food items – fibers from items like cornhusks, onion skins, artichokes, and celery stalks can get tangled in the blades and motor or clog drains.
  • Fish skins and eggshells.
  • Too many potato peels – while a small amount should be okay, too much produces starch that transforms into a thick, sticky paste that prevents the blades from working correctly.
  • Expandable foods, including rice and pasta – when you add water, these items expand, which can lead to clogs within the disposal and pipes.
  • Harsh drain cleaners and chemicals – these damage the disposal blades and pipes.

Simple Steps for Fixing Your Garbage Disposal

  1. Simply hit the “reset” button: after turning off the disposal, press the red or black “reset” button on the bottom of the appliance.
  2. If pressing “reset” doesn’t work, check to see if a fuse is blown or the circuit breaker is tripped. If so, move the lever to reset the breaker.
  3. If there appears to be a jam within the disposal, some disposals have an accessible area on the bottom to use a hex wrench to free a jam by spinning the grinding chamber. An alternate method is to use a broom handle from inside the sink to spin the grinding chamber to clear the jam. Be sure the electric switch is in the OFF position before attempting either of these methods.
  4. Learn how to unclog a garbage disposal.

For painless garbage disposal repair, trust Mr. Rooter's local plumbing technicians to get the job done right. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to fix your garbage disposal yourself or need professional assistance, we’re here for you. Call (855) 982-2028 to schedule an appointment or request an estimate online today.

If your garbage disposal caused water damage to your kitchen cabinets, take this as an opportunity to upgrade your kitchen! Mr. Handyman has an excellent resource for selecting the right cabinets for your kitchen. Just like Mr. Rooter, Mr. Handyman is part of Neighborly’s community of home service professionals. You can count on Mr. Handyman for quality handyman services and home improvement advice.