Garbage Disposal Humming? How to Fix & Prevent It
Author: Omar Alonso | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Nobody wants to hear the sound of their garbage disposal humming right when they have just dumped some moldy leftovers into the sink, especially if the noise comes with water backing up and refusing to drain.
When this happens, it’s important to shut off the switch to your garbage disposal immediately. Continuing to run your unit when something is wrong with it can cause further damage.
Experiencing garbage disposal humming can be frustrating, and you may not have someone you can call to take care of it for you. However, even if you’ve never fixed a garbage disposal before, you may be able to resolve the issue yourself.
Follow this DIY guide to determine if you're dealing with a clog or a damaged motor needing a complete replacement.
Identifying the Problem With the Garbage Disposal
The first step to troubleshooting the humming sound of a garbage disposal is to identify the cause, which is synonymous in this case with how to fix a garbage disposal humming. Most commonly, a humming sound indicates that the motor is receiving power but cannot rotate.
This problem could be due to something lodged inside that is jamming the impeller blades and preventing proper operation. If the issue is simply an overheated motor, you can often get a quick fix by resetting the unit and removing any obstructions. Let's look at how to fix a garbage disposal that hums.
Some garbage disposal problems are beyond a DIY solution, while other issues are not so easy to identify. If your garbage disposal is leaking from the bottom, for example, you'll need help or a replacement in many cases (though we offer guidance there, too).
A professional will be able to diagnose whether your unit is repairable or needs to be replaced. For instance, if a garbage disposal hums without being jammed, it could be due to worn-out bearings or a faulty motor capacitor. If that’s the case, professional help from licensed plumbers is the best option to go for.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some common problems you can fix yourself.
Checking the Circuit Breaker
If you suspect an electrical issue is the cause of your humming garbage disposal, start by checking your home's circuit breaker. Ensure that you have a power supply to your unit; if not, reset any tripped breakers associated with it.
Resetting the Garbage Disposal
If you've confirmed that there are no issues with the electricity supply but still hear hums from your device, try resetting it. Most disposals come equipped with a red "reset" button on the bottom side which should resolve minor problems when pressed firmly for a few seconds until a click sound occurs.
If you're lucky, this will be your problem! It's happened to me before. Typically when you hear garbage disposal humming but it's not working, you need to push the red reset button and you'll be back in business. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
Inspecting Motor & Blades
Check your motor and blades to see if the unit has a problem. First, unplug your garbage disposal. Next, examine the blades of the grinding chamber with a flashlight to see if there are any visible signs of damage or blockage. An imbalanced set of blades can cause garbage disposal humming.
Then, locate the small hole on the bottom of your garbage disposal and use an Allen wrench to turn the gears manually. Many times your garbage disposal will come with an Allen wrench to use in the event you need to rotate the grinding plate manually. If not, the size you are looking for is usually a 1 / 4 inch Allen wrench or hex key.
If you have manually spun the gears with the Allen wrench and cannot see any visible sign of blockage, you can restore power to your unit and test whether or not the problem is resolved.
If a clog causes your garbage disposal to hum, you can follow these DIY steps to unclog it and get it running smoothly again.
4 Steps to Unclog a Garbage Disposal
Simple clogs may only require you to complete steps one and two, but if the clog is more serious you may find yourself needing to use a plunger or drain snake tool.
Step 1 - Removing Obstructions From the Drainpipe
Before reaching into your garbage disposal, shut off the power source by disconnecting it or flipping its breaker. Then, remove any food debris or foreign objects lodged in the pipe.
Step 2 - Cleaning Out the Grinding Chamber
Once you've removed any visible obstruction, proceed with cleaning out your garbage disposal unit's grinding chamber using tongs or pliers to remove any debris stuck inside. To make it easier, use a flashlight for better visibility.
Step 3 - Use a Plunger to Clear Clogs
- Fill up half of your sink with water.
- Cover overflow holes (if present) with duct tape or a wet cloth.
- Firmly place the plunger over the drain opening, ensuring a good seal around the edges.
- Pump vigorously up and down several times until water starts draining freely.
Step 4 - Utilizing a Drain Snake Tool
A drain snake, also known as a plumber's auger, is an effective tool for clearing stubborn clogs in your garbage disposal. Insert the end of the snake into the drain opening and turn it clockwise to break up and remove any blockages.
6 Tips to Prevent Garbage Disposal Humming
If you’ve managed to fix your garbage disposal humming, you’ll need to take proactive steps to avoid issues recurring in the future. By following these simple tips, you can keep your disposal in good working order and avoid costly repairs or replacements.
Tip #1 - Clean Out Debris Regularly
Try to make a habit of cleaning out food particles and grime from the grinding chamber regularly.
Fill a sink with water, add soap, turn on the disposal, and remove the stopper to flush away any remaining waste. You can also use ice cubes and salt as an abrasive cleaner by periodically running them through the disposal. There are also lemon and vinegar based garbage disposal cleaning methods.
Tip #2 - Use Cold Water When Operating
Hot water may cause fats to liquefy and stick to the blades or inside walls of the unit, leading to clogs over time. Always run cold water when using your garbage disposal unit, as this helps solidify any grease and oils that may be on your food, making it easier to grind.
Tip #3 - Avoid Dumping Grease & Oil
Rather than risking a clogged pipe from old oil and grease, dispose of used cooking oil into a disposable container and place it in your garbage bin.
Tip #4 - Put Some Food in the Kitchen Trash
It may already be obvious, but don't put banana peels down your drain. Even when cooking with fibrous foods like celery stalks, corn husks, potato peels, or onion skins, you will want to throw them in your kitchen trash can. Less obvious no-nos are coffee grinds, large amounts of rice, pasta, and oatmeal.
Fibrous foods should stay out of garbage disposals because they can wrap around blades, causing jams. And starchy foods can gum up your unit's blades or create a blockage in your pipes.
Tip #5 - No Bones or Eggshells Down the Drain
Animal bones easily get lodged in the blades and create a jam. Even if your unit can grind them up, bones and eggshells will dull the blades of your garbage disposal over time. Make sure you throw animal bones and eggshells in the kitchen trash.
Tip #6 - Run Hot Water After Use
To help flush out any remaining food particles and keep your drain clear, run hot water through the drain after using your garbage disposal. This simple habit can prevent clogs and ensure the smooth operation of your unit.
Don't Let Garbage Disposal Humming Ruin Your Day
Follow good kitchen clean-up habits to keep your garbage disposal operating well. But realize that eventually, all garbage disposals will fail. If yours starts to hum after you've dumped some moldy leftovers down the drain, keep your cool.
You can follow the steps in this guide to troubleshoot and resolve common problems with your garbage disposal. If you hear garbage disposal humming but it's not jammed, you probably simply need to hit the red reset button on the bottom side of it.
If you cannot DIY or would prefer to call someone to handle your garbage disposal humming problem for you, contact a professional plumbing company to help you with your maintenance repair.