Troubleshooting a Humming Garbage Disposal: 7 Solutions to Get It Back on Track

Troubleshooting a Humming Garbage Disposal: 7 Solutions to Get It Back on Track



A functional garbage disposal can be a kitchen lifesaver, but when it suddenly starts humming and refusing to work, it’s an inconvenience you’d rather not deal with. However, before you jump to the conclusion that it’s time for a replacement, there’s a chance that a simple solution could bring your disposal back to life. Below, we explore some of the common issues that lead to a humming garbage disposal and offer troubleshooting steps that you can try.

Safety First

Before we delve into the solutions, it’s essential to emphasize safety. Never attempt to reach inside a garbage disposal with your hand. The sharp blades can cause severe injuries, especially if the unit accidentally turns on. Always ensure the unit is turned off (unless power is required) and unplugged or switched off at the circuit breaker before attempting any maintenance or troubleshooting.

For manufacturer-specific safety instructions, consult your manual.

1. Proactive Measures

The best way to avoid a malfunctioning garbage disposal is by adhering to recommended usage guidelines and adopting good practices. This proactive approach prevents clogs, odors, and premature wear. Some basic habits to cultivate include:

  • Allowing both water and the disposal to run for a few seconds after grinding food to ensure everything has passed through the drain.
  • Only processing small amounts of soft and easily digestible food scraps (e.g., soft vegetables and fruits).
  • Avoiding bulky amounts of solid food waste (such as meat, bones, rice, pasta, coffee grounds) and fats or oils.
  • Utilizing a drain strainer.
  • Performing a deep cleaning every two to three weeks using baking soda and vinegar or an alternative safe method.

2. Verify the Power Source

If your garbage disposal refuses to turn on, a power-related issue might be at play. Check that the unit is properly plugged in and the switch is set to “on.” Additionally, inspect the circuit breaker on your electrical panel. If it’s tripped, a simple reset should resolve the problem.

Most disposals feature a reset button, often located at the unit’s bottom (refer to your model’s manual for precise positioning). If the button is sticking out, it likely indicates the unit’s internal circuit breaker has been triggered. Press and hold the reset button until it stays depressed—this might require a few attempts. To prevent this in the future, avoid overloading your disposal.

Should your disposal still refuse to turn on, the motor could be burnt out or the unit might be entirely malfunctioning. Faulty wiring or switches could also be culprits, requiring an electrician’s expertise.

3. Inspect the Outlet

If your garbage disposal won’t switch off, it could be connected to a continuously powered outlet. Such outlets remain active at all times and lack a switch control. To resolve this, plug your disposal into an outlet controlled by a switch.

4. Patience, Resetting, and Cleaning

If you hear a humming sound without any grinding, the motor might be active, but the blades could be stuck. Overheating and clogs are common causes for this scenario. Turn off the disposal and allow it to cool before attempting again.

You can also reset the unit using the button usually found at the bottom. Employing baking soda, vinegar, and hot water can help dissolve clogs. Often, after one or more of these steps, your disposal should resume functioning.

Trying manual rotation of the impeller plate and blades is another potential solution. Ensure the disposal is switched off and refer to your manual for proper procedure guidance. If uncertain, seeking professional help is crucial, as improper handling can lead to dangerous consequences.

Should the issue persist, the grinder might be worn out. This could be due to dulled blades or a malfunctioning motor. In such cases, replacement or motor repair is likely necessary.

5. Unclogging the Drainpipe

If your disposal drains slowly, a blockage within the drainpipe could be the cause. Turning the unit on and off multiple times while running water can help dislodge minor obstructions. The baking soda and vinegar method mentioned earlier can also be effective.

For more stubborn blockages, consider the following:

  • Using a plunger with medium pressure.
  • Carefully retrieving visible blockages using long tools like tongs or pliers (remember to turn off and unplug the disposal).
  • Disassembling the pipe from the unit to manually clear it. Note that this requires plumbing knowledge and consultation of your manual, or contacting a professional.

6. Ensure Secure Connections

Leaking disposals demand a systematic approach to identifying the source of the leak. Tightening or adding bolts, clamps, or ties at leaky connections is a starting point. For sink-top leaks, resealing the sink flange with plumber’s putty is necessary. Cracks in the housing or shell can be sealed with epoxy.

7. Consult a Professional

If the above solutions yield no results, it’s time to consider a professional’s intervention or a replacement. Repair costs typically range around $100 or less, while a new disposal unit might cost between $80 and $500. While these options might seem pricey, a well-maintained garbage disposal is a valuable long-term investment for your kitchen and can function well for up to a decade.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. Always consult a professional for personalized advice.


When your trusty garbage disposal starts humming instead of grinding, it’s a puzzle to solve, not a disaster. By following the outlined troubleshooting steps, you can potentially salvage your disposal and restore kitchen functionality. Remember that safety comes first, and if in doubt, seeking professional assistance is always a smart choice. Your humming disposal might just be a minor hiccup on the road to a smoothly functioning kitchen.

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