Maintaining and Repairing your Garbage Disposal

One of the hardest working appliances in your home is your garbage disposal. And because it’s also one of the most consistent and reliable, you rarely give it a second thought… until it isn’t working! Here are a few tips for maintaining or repairing your garbage disposal so it can do its job well, followed by some pointers for what to do when it isn’t.

Items your garbage disposal can’t handle… 

  • Not only should you not put bones or eggshells through your disposal, coffee grounds are a big no-no. Frozen meats can create problems, as well. If you’ve decided that some item that has been lurking in your freezer for months needs to be tossed, allow it to thaw before feeding it through the disposal unit. Or bypass the disposal altogether and simply throw it in the regular trash.
  • Don’t pour grease down your drain/disposal either; it can easily gum up the inner workings. NEVER pour bleach, drain cleaner or any other household chemicals down there, either.

Rinsing out your garbage disposal…

  • Use cold, rather than warm water when running the disposal. Every week or so, drop a few ice cubes down the drain before operating it. This helps keep the blades sharp as well as loosening any accumulated debris from the blades.

Removing items from your disposal…

  • If you’ve dropped something in there accidentally—glass, rubber, silverware, etc.—use tongs or pliers to remove it. NEVER stick your hand down the disposal.

Repairing your garbage disposal…

  • In the event that the unit not only isn’t working, but isn’t even making a grinding or humming sound, this likely means that the unit isn’t receiving power. Before calling a repair service, check the underside of the disposal. Nearly all have a reset button located there. Press it and then try operating the unit again. That may be all that’s required to fix the problem.
  • If the disposal motor hums or makes an intermittent noise, then it is receiving power, but something has likely jammed the machinery. Don’t continue to run it, since you may well burn out the motor. Never attempt a repair a garbage disposal at this point without either unplugging the unit or turning off the power source.
  • If the blades are damaged or broken, it may be easier to replace the entire unit. While disposals aren’t necessarily inexpensive, the repair costs to fix a malfunctioning unit may come close to the price of simply installing a new one.

And, of course, you can always find help maintaining or repairing your garbage disposal by contacting your local Handyman Matters office at 1(866)FIX-MY-HOME or going to Once there, you can enter your zip code and be directed to the Handyman Matters nearest you. They will be happy to assist you with fixing your old disposal or, if necessary, installing a new one.