Common Garbage Disposal Issues

What’s worse than never ending dishes? A garbage disposal that can’t keep up. Standing water, bad smells and unusual sounds can all be indicators of an issue. We’ll cover what could be causing the disruption, how to identify a leak and some safe at home solutions you may want to try before calling a plumber.

My Garbage Disposal Is Leaking.

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It’s important to note that garbage disposals are appliances, rather than just another drain in your sink. They connect to your plumbing at multiple points, and are made up of quite a few parts, meaning there will be many places a leak can stem from.

Worn Out Gasket

The most common reason for a leaking garbage disposal is a worn out gasket. This piece acts as a seal where the disposal meets the sink and when it wears down water is able to squeeze through. If this is your issue, good news! This piece can be purchased at your local hardware store and replaced fairly easily.

Sink Flange Leak

The sink flange itself can also be a common culprit for leaking disposals. Check underneath to see if it’s attached securely. If the flange has become loose it will need to be reattached with fresh sealing putty and tightly fastened.

Less Common Leaks

Other leaks that we see less frequently include pipes or seals that weren’t connected correctly or have been knocked loose, cracks in the body of the disposal itself or on rare occasions water flowing from the reset button. Check that everything is fastened properly and have your disposal replaced if it’s severely damaged.

My Garbage Disposal Will Not Turn On.

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Electrical Disconnect

Garbage disposals connect to electricity and like many small appliances have built-in safety measures to prevent overheating. If your disposal was overwhelmed it’s possible the circuit breaker was flipped or the reset button needs to be pressed. It’s also possible your garbage disposal simply became unplugged and just needs to be reconnected to electricity.

Faulty Switch

If your disposal is plugged in and you’ve checked both the reset button and the circuit breakers the cause could be a faulty switch. Test for a faulty switch by plugging in a different appliance where your disposal is usually connected and check to see if it turns on. You have a faulty switch if nothing will connect, while your garbage disposal is the issue if another appliance was able to accept electricity from the outlet. 

My Garbage Disposal Only Hums.

Jammed Disposal

You may experience a humming sound rather than the usual grinding noise if your disposal is jammed. If you suspect you have a jammed disposal, first turn off the unit by unplugging it so that you can safely inspect for what’s causing the jam. Most garbage disposals will come with an allen wrench, use this on the bottom of the disposal first to rotate the blades back and forth to loosen up any debris. If the blades won’t turn manually and you see a large blockage, carefully remove it with a pair of tongs. Remember, it’s never safe to place your hands inside of a disposal, your tongs will fare far better in case of any accidents. A jammed garbage disposal can also result from smaller debris settling or grease limiting the movement of the blades. You can attempt to vacuum up smaller debris such as aquarium rocks that may have accidentally been poured down the drain or smaller pieces of broken glass.

Fried Disposal

Unfortunately a humming sound could also indicate your disposal has overheated and fried its motor. If you’re unable to locate a jam and you suspect overheating, allow your unit to cool before pressing the reset button and testing it again. If it still isn’t working after being unused for a few hours, have a professional inspect the unit to confirm whether or not it’s in an irreparable condition before having a new one installed.

My Garbage Disposal Does Not Drain.

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The most telltale sign of a clog is limited or no drainage. The clog could be localized to the disposal itself, this is especially common if you’ve attempted to grind down something greasy or especially fibrous. You can try using a mix of vinegar and baking soda to break up the clog, but we wouldn’t recommend drain cleaner as it can sometimes do extensive damage to your unit. If a natural solution doesn’t solve the issue you may need a professional to remove the clog or inspect the pipes to ensure the blockage isn’t occurring further down the drainage system.

Is My Garbage Disposal Jammed?

Garbage disposal jams are common, sometimes we forget there’s a chicken bone on our plate or a utensil slips into the abyss and we don’t immediately notice. A humming sound is a telltale sign of a disposal jam, but the humming may not always be present. If you notice your disposal isn’t grinding or it refuses to turn on this can also indicate a jam. Turn off the unit completely before safely inspecting and removing any debris. Give us a call if you’re not able to see or safely remove what’s causing the jam.

Is My Garbage Disposal Clogged Or Broken?

It can sometimes be difficult to discern between a broken unit and a working one that is clogged, disconnected from electricity or in need of repair. If you’ve tried the above troubleshooting methods and you’re still unsure of what’s causing your garbage disposal not to grind, call Chosen Rooter and Plumbing. 


Someone from our team of professional plumbers located in the San Francisco Bay Area can inspect and identify your issue. We’ll let you know what’s causing the problem, offer an affordable solution and have your kitchen sink back to being functional in no time. With our years of experience and professional tools we can counteract the worst clogs without damaging your disposal. You don’t have to deal with common garbage disposal issues like standing water, slow drainage, damage causing leaks or bad clogs on your own. When you choose Chosen, you’re selecting San Francisco’s best.