There you are, up to your elbows in a big kitchen mess wondering, “Why did my garbage disposal stop working?” Here’s what to do next.
What will you do if your garbage disposal stops working? This handy appliance keeps your kitchen sink looking clean and smelling great. With a simple flip of a switch, it chops up food waste into tiny bits and pieces. You probably don’t even realize how much you rely on this little gadget until it breaks.
It may surprise you to learn that disposals have only been on the market since 1950. Before then, you had to toss leftover food into the trash—which quickly became an ideal hunting ground for rodents and insects. If you want to keep your appliance operating at its peak, you need to know the top reasons these units break.
Tripped Circuit Breaker
Your disposal plugs into an electrical outlet underneath the kitchen sink. The appliance doesn’t require much energy to operate, and the average one only needs a 120V outlet. If your unit turns on and then abruptly shuts off, you may have a tripped circuit.
Find your circuit breaker box and open the cover. Look for any circuits that seem out of place. If you find a tripped circuit, move it back into the proper location. Turn your disposal back on and see what happens. If it runs without any problem, you probably don’t have anything else to worry about. But if the appliance trips the circuit again, you may have too much power going into the breaker.
A plumber can help you determine if the unit is faulty or if you need to hire an electrician. Depending on the severity of the situation, an electrician may need to reduce the load on the circuit, or they may recommend a better breaker box. Never try to fix electrical issues on your own—after all, water and electricity don’t mix!
When you run the disposal, it’s important to leave it on long enough to chop up all food remnants. In most instances, you should run the unit for about one minute or until you no longer hear any food in the drain. However, if you try to push too much food down the disposal at once, it may overload the unit. If the motor becomes overheated, the appliance will turn off as a safety precaution.
When the motor overheats, it’s not uncommon to notice a burning smell. Don’t worry—this is normal and will subside once the unit cools down. Give the motor enough time to rest before you attempt to turn it on again. To prevent overheating, take frequent breaks when running the disposal.
Peek under your sink. You’ll notice that the disposal is a rather small appliance. Now, look at how much food you want to put inside it. Overloading the unit with too much food waste is a surefire way to clog and break it. Always put down a small amount of food, and allow enough time for the blades to chop up each batch before adding more.
If you do end up putting too much food into the disposal, there is a good chance it will stop working. Every disposal has a reset button that pops whenever you jam the system. This button helps to prevent electrical fires. When you clog the disposal, you’ll need to find this safety button to restart the appliance.
Check underneath the sink and look for a red button on the bottom of the disposal. That’s the reset button. Push the button and try rerunning the unit. If the appliance shuts off after pressing the button, it may be time to buy a replacement disposal.
Not everything can go down the kitchen sink. Putting the wrong items down the drain may break the components of your disposal. Plumbers find unapproved foods and other random items in kitchen sinks on a regular basis. If you want to keep your disposal running for the long haul, keep these things out of the sink:
- Fibrous vegetables
- Noodles and pasta
- Potato peels
- Fruit pits
- Grease and oil
- Coffee grounds
While some of those items may seem like common sense, a few may surprise you. Fibrous vegetables, such as celery, leave behind stringy remnants that can wrap around the blade. Pasta, especially spaghetti and fettuccine, may do the same thing. These two foods are notorious for causing the system to overheat.
Grease isn’t water-soluble. Instead of rinsing down the drain, it accumulates inside. As cooking grease cools, it hardens into a waxy substance. Cities often find “fatbergs” of congealed grease in sewer systems, which are a leading cause of cracked pipes and sewage backups. If you frequently pour fat or oil down your kitchen sink, it will gradually impede the disposal’s ability to grind food.
So, what can you safely put down the disposal? Approved food items include citrus peels, chopped up veggies (non-fibrous only), fruit scraps, and pieces of cooked meats. Most soups and soft foods are also deemed safe. Remember this—if it’s small enough for a baby to eat, it’s probably small enough for your disposal to handle.
Cold water and ice cubes also top the list of approved substances. Plumbers recommend that you always run the cold water tap whenever the unit is in use to prevent overheating. Ice cubes can help keep the blades nice and sharp. You can even add a squirt of dish soap to sanitize and freshen your sink. Remembering what you can and can’t put down the drain will ensure you get the most from your disposal.
Know When to Call a Plumber
You can resolve most disposal dilemmas with a little knowledge and some DIY. However, not every problem is easy to fix by yourself. Remember, this appliance contains very sharp blades and relies on electricity. Handling it without taking the proper safety precautions may result in an unwanted trip to the emergency room.
Repairing and replacing kitchen sink disposals is just another day at the office here at Morningside Plumbing. No matter if you have a clogged drain or a malfunctioning unit, we can help. Our expert plumbers will evaluate the situation to determine if you would benefit from a simple repair or if you need a new disposal. We always stand behind our work and go the extra mile to please our customers. Before you put anything else down the drain, asking, “Why did my garbage disposal stop working?” connect with us online now or call 404-984-2090 for reliable garbage disposal repair.