Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On? Do These 5 Things


A garbage disposal that won’t turn on can be due to various reasons, ranging from simple to more complex issues. Here’s a brief summary of common causes and their solutions:

  1. Power Disconnection:
    • Cause: The disposal may be unplugged, or there could be an issue with the electrical outlet.
    • Solution: Ensure the disposal is plugged in and the outlet is working correctly. Check the circuit breaker or fuse box to confirm that the circuit is not tripped.
  2. Overload or Jam:
    • Cause: The disposal may be overloaded with food scraps or jammed by foreign objects, such as silverware.
    • Solution: First, turn off the disposal. Use an Allen wrench or disposal wrench (usually included with the disposal) to manually rotate the impellers inside. This can help clear a jam. Once cleared, reset the disposal by pressing the reset button located on the bottom or side of the unit. Avoid overloading it in the future.
  3. Faulty Reset Button:
    • Cause: The reset button may have tripped due to overheating or other issues.
    • Solution: Locate the reset button on the disposal and press it firmly to reset the unit. If it keeps tripping, there may be an underlying problem that requires professional attention.
  4. Lack of Power Supply:
    • Cause: The disposal may not be receiving power from the wall switch or the disposal’s switch.
    • Solution: Check the wall switch to ensure it’s in the “on” position. If the wall switch is working, inspect the disposal’s internal switch or wiring for damage and replace if necessary.
  5. Faulty Motor:
    • Cause: If the motor is burned out or damaged, the disposal won’t operate.
    • Solution: Unfortunately, if the motor is faulty, it typically requires replacement. Consult a professional for motor replacement or consider replacing the entire disposal unit.
  6. Tripped Internal Circuit Breaker:
    • Cause: Some disposals have an internal circuit breaker that can trip if overloaded.
    • Solution: Locate the reset button on the disposal unit and press it to reset the internal circuit breaker.
  7. Blocked Drain Pipe:
    • Cause: A clogged or blocked drainpipe connected to the disposal can prevent it from functioning.
    • Solution: Disconnect the drainpipe and check for clogs or obstructions. Clear any blockages and reattach the pipe.
  8. Worn Out:
    • Cause: Like any appliance, garbage disposals have a lifespan, and if it’s old or worn out, it may not function properly.
    • Solution: Consider replacing the disposal unit with a new one if it’s beyond repair or frequently malfunctions.

How to Fix a Garbage Disposal that Won’t Turn On

When your garbage disposal won’t turn on, the problem could be coming from the garbage disposal itself, or from the power supply. In both of these cases, fixing the garbage disposal is usually a simple task, one which doesn’t need you to call a plumber.

As stated above, the sound (or no sound) coming from the unit will guide you on which route to follow when fixing it. Let us start with the easiest.

Is there a sound?

When your garbage won’t turn on and there is no sound coming from the unit, the unit is not receiving electrical power. If the rest of your kitchen appliances are all receiving power and working normally, the problem is isolated to your garbage disposal.

This can be a very simple fix that will take you less than a minute to fix, or one which will need to you to replace a faulty switch. If you notice your garbage disposal is not turning on and there is no sound coming from the unit, this is how to troubleshoot it:

1. Check if the Garbage Disposal is Plugged In

Many plumbers have been called in to fix garbage disposals that won’t turn on, only to get there and find the units unplugged from power. This is a possibility in a house with several people, and especially kids.

The garbage disposal doesn’t have to be fully unplugged, but if electrical contact is lost then it will simply not turn on. Duck under your kitchen sink and check if the unit is plugged in to the electrical outlet properly.

Push the plug inside the outlet to make sure it is all the way in. I personally like to unplug it and then plug it in. flip the switch and check if this fixes the problem.

2. Press the Reset Button


Every garbage disposal has a reset button on its underside. This is usually a red button which triggers a circuit breaker whenever there is a potential for power leakage, preventing electrical shock.

When the reset button trips, it pops out, disconnecting power to the garbage disposal. Failure to send power to the motor means that the blades will not spin, and this in most cases is usually the problem when a garbage disposal won’t turn on.

Look for this button on the bottom of your garbage disposal and push it in. If indeed the reset button had tripped you should hear it click.

Plug in the power to the unit and flip on the switch. In most cases this will be enough to fix your garbage disposal.

If the reset button is ok (hasn’t tripped), dash to your main house electrical service panel box and check if the lever dedicated to your garbage disposal has tripped. If that is the case flip it back to the ON position. Check if that is sufficient to have your garbage disposal working again.

3. Fix the Garbage Disposal Switch

If the garbage disposal is properly plugged in, reset button and circuit breaker lever have not tripped, you might have a faulty switch. Don’t however rush to replace the switch until you have come to the conclusion that it is indeed faulty.

To be certain that the switch is the problem, unplug the garbage disposal outlet and plug in another electrical appliance (with a standard electrical plug) and turn it on by flipping the switch. If the appliance, say a hair drier turns on, the switch is not the problem.

In this case, you will have no alternative than to replace your garbage disposal. While you can call in a plumber to fix it for you, their charges are quite high, and there is usually no guarantee that the unit will be fixed.

The best thing is to buy a brand-new disposal and install it on your own which is quite easy. Watch out this You Tube video incase you want to see all the steps involved.

If while testing the switch you noticed that the appliance did not start as well, you have a faulty switch. Go ahead and replace it.

Is there a Humming Sound?

When your garbage disposal won’t turn on but there is a humming sound coming from the unit, it is a sign that the unit is receiving electrical power, but the blades are not spinning. This usually happens when you put in something that you should not put in the unit, which ends up jamming the blades.

If your garbage is humming but not grinding, this is how to fix it:

  • Start by turning off power to the unit and unplugging it.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect the inside of the garbage disposal and check if there is anything (like a spoon, folk or even shells) jamming the blades.
  • Grab the item using a pair of tongs or even tweezers and pull it out.
  • Plug in the unit and flip on the switch.
  • If the problem is not fixed, turn off the power and unplug the power.
  • Turn the blades manually. When you first bought your garbage disposal, it must have come with an Allen wrench. Get the Allen wrench and insert it in the slot under the garbage disposal.
  • Turn on the cold water to the garbage disposal to a trickle and start turning the Allen wrench. If you don’t find the Allen wrench that came with your unit, use just any other wrench as long as it fits. Turning the garbage disposal manually will force it to grind whatever that is jamming the blades.
  • An alternative to the step above is wooden stick. Stick the stick in the garbage disposal and turn the blades.
  • After turning the blades manually for sometime you will notice that they will start spinning freely. Remove the Allen wrench or stick and plug in the unit to the power outlet. Start it once more.

Sometimes you will find that the garbage disposal wrench won’t turn. This is often happens when the blades are being impeded by something solid like a silverware. Get a strong flashlight and check inside the unit for such a thing. You may have to remove the garbage disposal to remove the item

This is usually the best way to fix a humming garbage disposal. Check also that the reset button is not tripped. If even after doing this the unit won’t turn on, you most likely have a faulty motor and the garbage disposal will need to be replaced.

And that is how to fix a garbage disposal that won’t turn on.

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