How to Fix a Garbage Disposal (Humming, Leaking, and More!)

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Even the best garbage disposal will eventually fail, more so if you throw large bones, cooking fats, and even pasta down the drain. It may leak, emit unpleasant smells, and even produce smoke. Good thing that most common garbage disposal problems can be fixed through DIY. Here’s how to fix a garbage disposable without contacting a plumber.

Safety Precautions When Fixing a Garbage Disposal 

Before repairing a garbage disposal, make sure to turn off the garbage disposal unit and unplug it from its electric source. If you know how to turn off your home’s main electrical panel or circuit breaker, you should also do so. 

Here are other safety precautions: 

  • Wear safety goggles 
  • If your sink is full of water, use a bucket to drain it out. 
  • If your garbage disposable is still under warranty, contact the manufacturer first. DIY or unauthorized repairs typically void the warranty.

Humming Sound

Something is definitely wrong if you hear a humming sound each time you turn on your garbage disposal. When a garbage disposal hums, the sound comes from the unit’s motor trying to turn the blades. This could indicate that something got stuck inside the garbage disposal blades, preventing the flywheel from rotating and properly grinding food scraps. 

If you continue using a humming garbage disposal, there is a huge possibility that the motor will be subjected to irreversible damage. 

How to Fix a Humming Garbage Disposal

Man removing a garbage disposal

 Here are a couple of steps you need to follow to fix a garbage disposal that produces humming sounds.

Option #1 

  1. Reset your garbage disposal. You will typically find the reset button at the bottom of the garbage disposal’s motor.  
  2. Plug the garbage disposal unit back in and turn on the unit. The humming sound should cease shortly afterward.

Option #2 

  1. Unplug the garbage disposal.
  2. Turn on the faucet. 
  3. Put your hand into the drain (again, make sure to unplug the garbage disposal!) and look for any object lodged inside. 

Option #3

  1. If you can still hear the humming sound, turn off the unit again.
  2. Take a 4-inch Allen wrench and insert it into the hole at the bottom of your garbage disposal and twist the wrench several times.
  3.  Remove the Allen wrench from the hole at the bottom of your garbage disposal, plug in the disposal, and then turn it on. 

Option #4 

  1. If options 1, 2, and 3 do not work, you will need to disconnect the garbage disposal from the sink. 
  2. Put a large empty bowl underneath the pipes connecting to the garbage disposal. 
  3. Disconnect the drain pipes connected to the garbage disposal.
  4. Grab a screwdriver and insert it through the garbage disposal’s latch (you will find it at the top). 5. With the screwdriver inserted, hold the screwdriver and rotate clockwise. 
  5. Pull the rubber cap. 
  6. Use a flashlight to check the grind chamber. 
  7. If there is a lodged food scrap or other items, use a long nose plier to remove it. 
  8. Assemble the parts back together. 

Grinding Noise

The main reason your garbage disposal produces a grinding noise during its operation is worn-out motor bearings. Unfortunately, worn-out bearings cannot be fixed. In this case, you will need a new garbage disposal unit. 

However, there could be other reasons your garbage disposal unit produces grinding noises: 

  • First, the impellers of your garbage disposal may be loose and are hitting each other during operation. 
  • An object in your garbage disposal might be flung into the shredder ring. 

How to Fix

 There are different ways to fix your noisy garbage disposal. However, the method you choose depends on the cause of the grinding noise.

  1. Inspect the drain for blockages. Use a flashlight or your phone’s flashlight if you can’t see it properly. 
  2. Once you spot the object obstructing the garbage disposal, put your gloves on and remove the object with your hands. If it is further down the drain, you can use tongs to remove it. This will help solve the grinding noise problem. Before this procedure, you should ensure that you have unplugged the unit from the power source.
  3. To tighten loose impellers on your garbage disposal, disconnect it from the sink and tighten the bolts next to the impellers. Afterward, reconnect your garbage disposal to the sink and turn the garbage disposal unit on to confirm that it is functioning.

Jammed Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals can perfectly grind food waste and peelings of vegetables and fruits. However, if broken pieces of glass or metals are put in the garbage disposal, they can jam the unit’s impellers. This prevents the garbage disposal from grinding food waste correctly. Putting a lot of waste in one go can also clog the garbage disposal. 

How to Fix a Garbage Disposal Jam

A man cleaning a garbage disposal.

How do you fix a jammed garbage disposal? Fortunately, the steps to fix this problem are straightforward. 

  1. Switch off your garbage disposal.
  2. To unblock your garbage disposal from the top of the sink, look for a long wooden spoon, use one of its ends, and push the dowel into the drain hole.
  3. Move the dowel in the drain hole until you feel one of the impeller arms. Hold the dowel firmly against the impeller arm.
  4. Push the dowel in an anti-clockwise direction to unjam the garbage disposal. Repeat this step at least three times.
  5. Switch on the garbage disposal and allow enough water to go through it to clear any obstruction.

Leaking Garbage Disposal

You may wonder why you always find puddles of water on the floor below your sink whenever you use your garbage disposal. There are several reasons behind this issue: 

  • If you notice that the sink is leaking from the top, the leak probably occurs from the sink flange. This means that the putty or the screws are worn out. 
  • If the leak is from the side, the problem is probably from the drain. 
  • However, if you notice that the leak is from the bottom, the internal seals in the garbage disposal may be worn out due to excessive use and damage. 

How to Fix a Leaking Garbage Disposal

Man putting putty to the garbage disposal

To fix your leaking garbage disposal, you need to follow these steps:

  1.  Switch off the garbage disposal unit and ensure it has cooled down before you begin working on it.
  2.  If your garbage disposal leaks from the top, confirm if the sink flange is screwed on and tighten the screws.
  3.  If a plumber’s putty secures the sink flange, first detach the garbage disposal from the sink. Afterward, remove the old putty and apply the new putty to the sink flange, then put the garbage disposal back in position.
  4.  If the leak occurs from the side, use a screwdriver to tighten the metal clamp that joins the main drain to the dishwasher.
  5.  For bottom leaks, check if there are cracks. Contact your supplier to send you a replacement.

Slow Draining

You may be wondering why your garbage disposal takes ages to drain the food waste into the sink. Several reasons may cause garbage disposal units to drain slowly. One of the main reasons is the build-up of debris in the garbage disposal. 

The build-up mainly occurs in the u-shape draining trap, where most food particles get stuck. You might also not be using enough water to flush your food waste. Even if you do not know how to fix a clogged garbage disposal, fixing this problem should be very easy.

How to Fix

 You should follow the following steps to fix your slow-draining garbage disposal unit.

  1.  Unplug the garbage disposal.
  2.  To unclog your garbage disposal unit, remove any objects lodged in the shredder or grinders and clear food waste and other debris blocking the unit.
  3.  Use a natural cleaner like baking soda and vinegar to remove stubborn build-up like grease on your garbage disposal unit.
  4.  If you still notice that the drainage speed is slow, use your plunger to unclog the garbage disposal. However, ensure you clamp off the dishwasher connector hose.
  5.  If the garbage disposal still drains slowly, remove the draining trap and clean the whole garbage disposal manually

Foul Odor

When you turn on your garbage disposal, what do you smell? You need to take immediate action if you notice a foul, pungent smell coming from your garbage disposal. The foul odor might result from the build-up of food particles, which decays over time. The foul smell might also be caused by molds that have grown in the garbage disposal due to moist conditions.

How to Fix a Smelly Garbage Disposal

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  1.  Buy cleaning pods.
  2.  Drop two cleaning pods in your garbage disposal.
  3.  Turn off the water and let it drain as it cleans the mold build-up and removes clogged food particles.
  4.  If you still notice a foul smell, put soapy water solution with a grease-cutting detergent in a bucket.
  5.  Pour the soapy water solution into the sink and let it run through the garbage disposal so that it can get rid of all substances producing the foul smell.

Garbage Disposal Not Turning

 You could be wondering why your garbage disposal is not turning. The reason behind this problem might be the motor. Your motor may be burned, causing the garbage disposal not to spin. Your motor may also fail to turn appropriately due to an electrical issue like an unplugged power cord.

How to Fix

  1.  If the garbage disposal is not turning, flip the breaker and confirm if there is a blown fuse.
  2.  If the fuse is blown, ensure to replace it.
  3.  When the garbage disposal still doesn’t turn after replacing the fuse, you have two options:
    • Check the electrical wiring
    • Replace the motor

Final Verdict

Garbage disposals are the best way to dispose of your food waste. However, there are instances when these drains may malfunction and not work correctly. Luckily, you don’t need to shell out a lot of money to buy an entirely new unit. 

Even with little plumbing knowledge, you can easily repair or fix most issues like humming and foul odor. However, if you notice that the problem still persists, the next is to contact professional plumbing services and have the appliance assessed. 

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