Home Repair: How to Reset a Garbage Disposal

One of the great kitchen inventions is the lowly garbage disposal. These units are workhorses that grind bits of food debris into pieces tiny enough to flow easily through your home’s sewer system. Barring attempts to grind up excessive amounts of vegetation or food, garbage disposals do their work efficiently with little impact on your home’s sewer system.

Things can find their way into the inlet of the disposal that will stop it in its tracks.

When a kernel of popcorn or some other small hard item falls into the disposal drain, it can lodge between the spinning portion and the wall of the appliance. The unit will either stop spinning or fail to start. An internal breaker will open and prevent the disposal from damaging itself by continuing to try to operate. It is time for a reset.

Turn off the power to the garbage disposal.

You do not want the appliance to start spinning while you might have your fingers inside it. Make sure that the switch near the unit is in the “off” position. A better idea is to go to your electrical panel and turn off the breaker that controls the garbage disposal.

Determine why the garbage disposal needs to be reset.

If your hand is small enough, reach into the mouth of the disposal and see if you can feel anything that is obstructing the grinder from spinning. You might choose to wear a glove for this effort. Remove anything that you can before continuing to the next step.

Locate the recessed hex fitting on the bottom of the garbage disposal.

You will need an Allen wrench that matches the hex fitting for this step. Use the wrench and crank the fitting back and forth until it gets easy to move. Repeat the preceding step to remove anything that may have been dislodged into the garbage disposal.

Once the unit spins with little resistance, it is time to find the reset switch.

The reset switch is located on the bottom of the garbage disposal. It is usually a small red button. It can be a different color. On a few units, it may be found on the side near the bottom. Depress the button. It should click into place. The disposal is now reset and ready to use.

Restore the power to the unit.

If you turned off the breaker in the circuit box, turn it back on. Turn on the water and let it run into the garbage disposal. Switch on the disposal and let it run for a few seconds to make sure that it is clear. Turn of the unit and water to finish the job.

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