Troubleshooting a Garbage Disposal Problem
We don’t know about you, but we love our garbage disposals. It is a true workhorse in the kitchen. However, repair issues and other problems are not uncommon because our garbage disposals see so much use. When this happens, it can make a real mess. So, what should you do? Below, we look at some of the most common garbage disposal issues and what you can do to prevent them from happening.
Common Garbage Disposal Issues
Have you ever turned on your garbage disposal only to hear a horrible sound or find water backing up into your sink? This may make you cringe or, in the case of a backup, turn the disposal off in a panic, wondering what the heck you just put down the disposal. In most cases, the problem is just something that fell down the drain that shouldn’t be there.
When this happens, that sound triggers us to turn off the disposal and fish out the offending item before any real damage occurs. (Note: always make sure your disposal is off before you attempt to remove foreign objects from the drain and never stick anything in the disposal while it’s running in an attempt to remove a jam, like a wooden spoon or other utensils) Yet, over time, if you are having this problem regularly, it may be a sign that there is something more seriously wrong with the disposal. Knowing the symptoms of a garbage disposal problem can help you tell the difference.
Signs you may have a garbage disposal issue:
- Strange sounds when you run the disposal
- The motor makes noise but isn’t grinding
- Frequently clogged sink drain
- You see signs of leaking under your sink
- Your drain smells, and you can’t get rid of the odor
- The garbage disposal doesn’t turn on at all
If you see any of these signs, you may be having issues with your garbage disposal. So, what should you do? Below we provide a few troubleshooting tips for fixing a broken garbage disposal. Keep reading to learn more.
Tip #1: Check for Foreign Objects
If your garbage disposal is making a lot of strange sounds or sounds like something is knocking around when you turn it on, you may have lost a foreign object down your drain. Many things may fall down a kitchen sink that cannot be ground up by your garbage disposal, both organic and inorganic. When this happens, they can damage your disposal’s blade and create a horrible sound every time you turn it on. They may also cause clogs in your drain and other damage to your sewer line.
Common objects that can block up a disposal include:
- Small kitchen utensils
- Lids to jars or cans
- Fruit pits
- Small bones
- Tough vegetable skins, like potato skins
- Coffee grounds
Additionally, it is not uncommon for toys and other objects to end up in your drain if you have small children, such as pacifiers, children’s utensils, and bottle parts.
Tip #2: Check for Power
Though your garbage disposal is hooked up to your plumbing system, it relies on electricity to run. You likely have a switch on your wall or countertop that controls the garbage disposal. The disposal itself may also have an on-off switch. If your disposal isn’t turning on, the first thing you should check is that you have power going to the disposal. If the switch is in the on position and there is no power, you may need to flip the power switch on the disposal itself. If you’re still not getting power, check your circuit breaker. Finally, if you have determined that the circuit breaker isn’t the issue and you should be getting power to the disposal, you may need to hit the reset button on the disposal.
Relatedly, if you are having intermittent power issues with the disposal, there may be electrical problems with the switch or the appliance itself. In these cases, it is always recommended that you work with an experienced electrician. Remember, electrical systems are complicated and potentially dangerous, especially if you are working on electrical wiring in an area with water present, such as your kitchen.
Tip #3: Keep Your Disposal Clean
Regularly grind up ice cubes and citrus peels (such as lemon peels) to help keep your disposal clean and smelling fresh. You can also treat odors with a monthly cleanse using baking soda and vinegar. Keeping the disposal off, place about a quarter of a cup of baking soda in your drain, followed by about half a cup of vinegar. This will start to foam. Once the foaming has stopped, rinse with running water. This will help break up any stubborn materials that are still clinging to your disposal and help reduce odors.
What to Do If Troubleshooting Doesn’t Work
If you cannot resolve your garbage disposal problems with troubleshooting, it may be a sign that there are larger problems. For example, if your disposal still won’t turn on after checking the power, you may have an electrical problem with your switch, or your disposal may need to be replaced. In cases where you cannot resolve your disposal issues alone, we recommend calling one of our garbage disposal repair and installation experts at Moe Plumbing Services. We can take a look at your disposal, determine if a quick repair will do the trick or help you select and install a new disposal when needed.