Common Causes of Garbage Disposal Problems

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Garbage Disposal ProblemsWhen a backup, clog or foul odor affects the garbage disposal, you might be wondering, “What’s wrong with my garbage disposal?” There are many things that can go wrong with a garbage disposal, and understanding the most common causes of garbage disposal problems can help you prevent them from recurring or developing in the first place. Most common garbage disposal problems are easy to prevent and take just a few minutes of time each day as part of regular home maintenance tasks.


Grease thickens and solidifies at room temperature, resulting in obstruction of the pipe that drains water and waste away from the disposal. Grease and fat buildup are one of the leading causes of garbage disposal problems. When draining greasy foods, do so into a metal or glass container or use paper towels, paper bags or a clean cloth rather than dumping the grease down the drain.

Starchy Foods

Starchy foods like rice and pasta expand when wet. As these foods expand, they get thick, sticky and gummy and can clog up the disposal unit. Avoid sending these starchy foods down the disposal and instead put them into the waste can or composting unit.

Fibrous Foods

Fibrous and stringy foods like celery or banana peels wreak havoc in a garbage disposal. The fibers can get tangled up around each other and create an organic net that catches water and the other waste sent down the disposal, resulting in a clog or a backup of the unit.

Non-Food Objects

As many families with young children can attest to, non-food objects have a tendency to make their way into the disposal unit when curious kids are around the house. Small toys, kitchen utensils and dish cloths can all make their way into the disposal unit and create a clog in the unit or pipe. Using a sink strainer can help prevent non-food objects from getting into the disposal.

Improper Use

User error is another common cause of garbage disposal problems. Operating the unit without running any or enough water can cause the waste to pile up and create a clog. Sending too much waste down the disposal all at once can also back up the pipe. Putting food materials that are too large into the unit can also cause a system backup.

Garbage Disposal Repair

Before calling a plumber for garbage disposal repair service, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot the problem.

  • Turn off power to the unit at the circuit breaker.
  • Use a flashlight to look into the disposal unit. If you are able to see a foreign or stuck object, use tongs, tweezers, fork, long handled spoon or a wrench to loosen it or remove it.
  • Restore power to the disposal and press the re-set switch to turn the unit on. Try to see if the unit spins and releases the clog. If not, it is time to call for a professional repair.

A certified professional plumber can expertly troubleshoot and diagnose all types of common garbage disposal problems. Licensed plumbers have the appropriate tools and safety equipment to dislodge clogs and repair any damage that might have developed in the garbage disposal system. The plumber can also inspect the drainage pipe to ensure that the pipe is in good operating order.

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