How to repair a stopped kitchen sink garbage disposal

Is your kitchen sink garbage disposal not functioning properly? A stopped garbage disposal can be a real inconvenience, causing a disruption in your daily routine. However, repairing it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In this article, we will guide you through the process of repairing a stopped kitchen sink garbage disposal step by step. By following these instructions, you can save time and money by fixing the issue yourself.

kitchen sink garbage disposal

The kitchen sink garbage disposal is an essential appliance that helps dispose of food waste conveniently. It’s installed beneath the sink and works by grinding food particles into smaller pieces, allowing them to pass through the plumbing system easily. However, like any other appliance, garbage disposals can encounter problems over time. One common issue is when it stops working altogether. Fortunately, most of these problems can be resolved without professional assistance.

What is a Kitchen Sink Garbage Disposal?

Before we dive into the repair process, let’s understand what a kitchen sink garbage disposal is. A garbage disposal is a motorized appliance that is connected to the drain of your kitchen sink. It helps grind food waste into small particles, preventing clogs in the plumbing system. By disposing of food waste through the garbage disposal, you can minimize the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

Signs of a Stopped Garbage Disposal

There are a few indicators that your kitchen sink garbage disposal has stopped working. These signs include:

  1. No power: When you switch on the disposal, and nothing happens, it could indicate a power supply issue.
  2. Humming sound: If you hear a humming sound when the disposal is turned on, but the blades aren’t moving, there may be a jam.
  3. Foul odor: A foul smell emanating from the disposal can indicate trapped food particles or bacterial growth due to improper functioning.
  4. Water backup: Water backing up into the sink instead of draining can suggest a clog in the disposal or the plumbing system.

Safety Precautions Before Repair

Before starting any repair work, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Here are some safety precautions to follow:

  1. Turn off the power: Locate the circuit breaker for the garbage disposal and switch it off to prevent any accidents.
  2. Avoid direct contact: Never insert your hands or any foreign objects into the garbage disposal chamber while it’s powered on.
  3. Disconnect the power: Unplug the garbage disposal from the power outlet or switch off the main power supply to the kitchen.

Tools and Materials Needed

To repair your kitchen sink garbage disposal, gather the following tools and materials:

  • Screwdriver
  • Allen wrench
  • Pliers
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Rubber gloves
  • Flashlight

Having these items ready will ensure a smooth repair process.

Step 1: Turn off the Power

To start the repair, turn off the power supply to the garbage disposal. Locate the circuit breaker panel and switch off the breaker that controls the disposal unit. This step is crucial for your safety.

Step 2: Check for Clogs

A common reason for a stopped garbage disposal is a clog. Before proceeding with any repairs, check for clogs. Use a flashlight to inspect the disposal chamber for any visible blockages. Remove any debris using pliers or tongs.

Step 3: Reset the Garbage Disposal

If there are no visible clogs, the next step is to reset the garbage disposal. Look for a small red or black reset button on the bottom or side of the unit. Press the reset button firmly and wait for a click sound. This action can sometimes restore power to the disposal.

Step 4: Inspect the Blades

The blades of the garbage disposal can become dull or jammed, leading to a stopped unit. Insert an Allen wrench into the hole at the bottom of the disposal unit. Rotate the wrench back and forth to dislodge any obstructions or free the blades.

Step 5: Clean the Disposal Unit

Over time, food particles and grease can accumulate inside the garbage disposal, causing it to function poorly. To clean the unit, mix a solution of baking soda and vinegar. Pour the mixture into the disposal and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, run cold water and turn on the disposal to flush out the cleaning solution.

Step 6: Test the Garbage Disposal

Once you have completed the previous steps, it’s time to test the garbage disposal. Restore power to the unit by turning on the circuit breaker. Run water into the sink and switch on the disposal. If it’s working correctly, you should hear the motor running smoothly, and the water should drain without any issues.

Step 7: Call a Professional if Needed

If despite your best efforts, the garbage disposal continues to be non-functional, it’s advisable to call a professional plumber or a service technician. They have the expertise and specialized tools to diagnose and repair complex issues that may require replacement parts.

Maintenance Tips for a Garbage Disposal

To keep your garbage disposal in good working condition and prevent future problems, consider these maintenance tips:

  1. Regular cleaning: Clean the disposal unit periodically using a baking soda and vinegar solution.
  2. Avoid hard materials: Avoid grinding hard materials like bones, shells, or fibrous vegetables that can damage the blades.
  3. Use cold water: Run cold water before, during, and after using the disposal to solidify any grease, making it easier to grind.
  4. Don’t overload: Feed small amounts of food waste into the disposal at a time to prevent overloading and clogging.
  5. Sharpen blades: Periodically grind ice cubes to help sharpen the blades and remove any built-up debris.


Repairing a stopped kitchen sink garbage disposal doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can troubleshoot common issues and get your garbage disposal back to its efficient state. Remember to always prioritize safety and consider calling a professional if the problem persists or if you’re uncomfortable performing the repairs yourself.


  1. Can I repair a garbage disposal without turning off the power? It’s essential to turn off the power to the garbage disposal before attempting any repairs. This ensures your safety and prevents accidents.
  2. What should I do if the garbage disposal still doesn’t work after resetting it? If resetting the garbage disposal doesn’t solve the issue, you may need to check for more complex problems or contact a professional for assistance.
  3. Can I put any type of food waste into the garbage disposal? While garbage disposals can handle most food waste, it’s best to avoid putting hard materials like bones or fibrous vegetables into the disposal, as they can damage the blades.
  4. How often should I clean my garbage disposal? Regular cleaning of the garbage disposal is recommended to prevent odors and maintain its efficiency. Aim to clean it every month or as needed.
  5. What should I do if my garbage disposal is leaking? If you notice a leak in your garbage disposal, it’s advisable to call a professional plumber to assess and repair the issue properly.

Sharing Is Caring:

The Howtowise team has helped thousands of homemakers fix their household problems with step-by-step tutorials. Howtowise has been featured in The New York Times, Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, Lifehacker, and more.