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Installing Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal units have revolutionized modern kitchen cleanup. With just a flip of a switch, you can watch as leftover scraps disappear down the drain, saving you from the unpleasant chore of scooping them into the garbage. However, as with any mechanical device, garbage disposals can encounter issues over time. Although it may be frustrating, there are some things you can do before calling in a plumber. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the common causes of garbage disposal problems. We’ll also provide effective solutions to get it back up and running and share essential maintenance tips to keep your disposal in peak condition.

Garbage disposal mechanics

Before we dive into troubleshooting, let's explore the mechanics of garbage disposals. Typically installed under the kitchen sink, a garbage disposal is a motorized unit with sharp impeller blades or rotating plates that grind food waste into tiny particles. These particles are then flushed down the drain with running water, making their way into the municipal sewage system.

Causes of problems

One of the most common reasons for a garbage disposal to stop working is a jammed impeller. This can happen when large or hard food particles get stuck between the impeller blades and the shredder ring. Another common reason is electrical issues. If your disposal is unresponsive, check for things such as a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse.

Overloading the garbage disposal with too much food waste at once can cause it to shut down as a safety measure. Over time, a garbage disposal's components can wear out too. This may lead to reduced performance or complete failure. If you accidentally drop non-food items in garbage disposals, such as silverware or bottle caps, you can cause blockages or damage.

Solutions to common problems

If the disposal is unresponsive, locate the reset button at the bottom of the unit and press it to reset the system. This might solve minor electrical issues. To address a jammed impeller, turn off the power to the disposal. Use tongs or pliers carefully to remove any stuck objects and manually rotate the blades to free them. Prevent overloads by gradually feeding small amounts of food waste into the disposal while running cold water. Make sure to throw away larger food waste items and never try to force them down.

If the disposal isn't turning on at all, check the circuit breaker or fuse box to ensure there are no electrical issues.

To help clean and sharpen the impeller blades, feed a mixture of small ice cubes and small pieces of cut-up lemon into the disposal and run it with cold water.

Maintenance tips

Regularly doing some maintenance will help extend the life of your garbage disposal. Periodically clean it by pouring a mixture of baking soda and vinegar down the drain. This will help remove odors and buildup. Always run cold water when operating the disposal. It solidifies greasy substances, making them easier to chop and wash away. Refrain from disposing of items like bones, shells or fruit pits, as well as fibrous foods like celery, which can wrap around the blades. To keep your disposal smelling fresh, grind citrus peels like lemon or orange. The natural oils will help combat unpleasant odors. While using the disposal, let cold water run for at least 15 seconds after grinding to ensure all food particles are washed away. You may also want to consider scheduling an annual inspection by a professional plumber to check for any hidden issues and perform routine maintenance.


By following these simple solutions and maintenance tips, you can prevent many common garbage disposal problems and ensure it remains a reliable kitchen companion for years to come. Remember, safety is paramount when dealing with a garbage disposal. Always turn off the power to the unit before attempting any maintenance or repairs. If you encounter a problem beyond your expertise, it's best to call a qualified plumber to avoid causing further damage.