One of the heartiest gadgets in a home or business, the garbage disposal is designed and manufactured to take a lot. But it may have a breaking point, especially during the busy holiday season — and if Cousin Eddie is staying this year.

Indianola Mechanical shares a few common issues these units may develop and how to fix them. But, if your disposal has left you stumped, give our experienced and professionally trained team a call.

Common Garbage Disposal Issues

While there’s a litany of common garbage disposal issues that arise during the holidays, the following are what the Indianola Mechanical team often sees.

Garbage Disposal Humming or Buzzing

Perhaps the most common garbage disposal issue is a humming or buzzing sound, which usually means the unit is jammed somewhere. It’s usually caused by food pieces stuck in the motor or under/in the impeller blades.

Garbage Disposal Leaking

Leaking garbage disposal is more than annoying — it’s a common source of odors, mold, and warped cabinetry. Depending on the original installation and age of the unit, leaks occur in the: 

  • Drainage hose; 
  • Plumbing connections; and/or 
  • Unit casing.

While most units last between 10 and 15 years, if a leak develops toward the end of its functional lifespan, it’s usually recommended to replace the disposal.

Garbage Disposal Clogged

Most food waste is no match for maintained garbage disposal, but a sudden surge in use frequently leads to a clog. These are usually found in the P-trap or drain trap which can be removed by hand — and a wrench. 

If you can’t find the clog, it may be further in the drain and pipes. A drain snake is an option here, depending on your comfort level. Or, the Indianola Mechanical team is always ready to lend a hand or two to keep your holiday plans moving along.

Garbage Disposal Smells

A smell emanating from the disposal is often caused by food residue in the drain pipe. The best way to avoid this is by allowing plenty of water to run while grinding food scraps. Vinegar and baking soda are safe to remove residue and eliminate odors. Most grocery and home improvement stores carry commercial cleaning products specially formulated for garbage disposal.

graphic image of a garbage disposal with a red Christmas bow on top

What Not To Put In Your Garbage Disposal During The Holidays (or Any Days)

Though there’s a long list of things not to put in garbage disposals any day, here are the top offenders Indianola Mechanical has encountered during calls.

Coffee Grounds

Many households rely on a cuppa — or several — during the holidays, but it’s best to take the grounds to the bin, not the garbage disposal. Though tiny relative to other kitchen scraps, coffee grounds can quickly build and create a significant clog. They’re the most common cause of clogged garbage disposal.

Egg Shells

Eggs are a staple of many holiday brunches, but their shells are best suited for the rubbish, not the disposal. Once the disposal begins crunching or chopping up eggshells, some small pieces may wash down the drain while others become lodged under the blades or in the motor.

Grease & Oils

Did you know that nearly 50 percent of all sewer overflows can be traced back to coagulated grease or oil in a garbage disposal? We understand if you let a bit dribble from a pan, but pouring the rest may end with a call to us. Instead, allow the grease or oil to cool, pour it into a can or jar, and place it in the bin.

Household Fluids

When cleaning up after the guests leave, be mindful of where leftover cleaning liquids or semi-solids go. Not only can some household cleaning chemicals damage pipes — nobody likes a pipe leak at 2 a.m. — but when mixed by pouring into the disposal, others may cause eye and throat irritation, headaches, and nausea.

Paper Towels

Though marketed as biodegradable, paper towels don’t biodegrade in the garbage disposal. Instead, even after cleaning up a counter spill, the towels find a little more room to sop up whatever liquid is in the disposal. This causes a massive clog and a call to our trained team of plumbers.

How To Fix A Garbage Disposal

Check Electrical Connections

An electrical issue is a common culprit if the disposal has no activity. To reset, make sure it’s plugged in then press the reset button, usually on the bottom of the unit. Next, use the unit’s power switch to turn it on — if nothing happens, see if a circuit breaker has tripped. 

If you’ve tried these steps and the disposal isn’t working, give Indianola Mechanical a ring.

Rotate The Impeller Plate

When you hear the unit motor humming, but the blades aren’t moving, it’s usually because the impeller (flywheel) plate has jammed. To manually move the plate, turn off and unplug the unit — if it’s hardwired to the home or business, turn off the connected circuit breaker. Then, find the impeller hole on the unit’s bottom and turn the flywheel clockwise with an Allen wrench.

Rotate The Blades

If the garbage disposal blades can’t rotate, food waste — and anything else that winds up in the disposal — can cause a stubborn clog. Use a plunger to loosen the clog for standing water in the sink. Or, empty the sink by hand and pour the standing water elsewhere, such as a bucket. 

Insert an Allen wrench into the blade access hole on the unit’s bottom and turn the wrench back and forth to rotate the blades. You should feel the blades loosen and move more normally as the clog breaks up.

My Garbage Disposal Is Leaking From The Bottom

Usually, a cracked unit shell or failed seal is the reason for bottom leaks, and unfortunately, if this is the reason, the entire unit needs to be replaced. If this happens, give Indianola Mechanical a ring and our team can provide recommendations for a new unit and installation.

My Garbage Disposal Is Leaking From The Top

Chalk it up to a culmination of use, but it’s easy to fix a garbage disposal leaking from the top. First, turn off and unplug the unit unless it’s hardwired to the home or business. If there’s water dripping or running, the cause is likely the metal flange in the sink drain. 

Under the sink, locate the disposal mounting ring and turn the unit clockwise until it’s loose enough to remove. Loosen the mounting bolts and lift the flange from the sink. Remove any plumber’s putty and clean off any residue from the flange. Use a small amount of new putty around the flange top and place it back in the drain.

When To Call Indianola Mechanical For A Broken Garbage Disposal

A can-do attitude is great, but the hustle and bustle of the holiday season may leave anyone a bit drained. But broken garbage disposals won’t dim the strings of lights when you call Indianola Mechanical. Our skilled and trained plumbers have run into just about every garbage disposal issue, and if they haven’t, they’ll find a timely and functional solution. Give us a ring today! (And have Cousin Eddie stay in a hotel this year.)