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Garbage Disposal Wall Switch Not Working: Reasons & Solutions

It is not uncommon for people to find that their garbage disposals are not working after flipping their switch ON. Naturally, one may wonder why the wall switch is not working, but there are several possible explanations.

Garbage disposal not working after flipping the switch ON may be due to a faulty switch, a faulty outlet, or a fault in its power cord. This can be easily solved by first identifying the fault and then replacing that component.

A garbage disposal wall switch

There are a few times I experienced this issue. I turned the wall switch, but the garbage disposal didn’t work. The first thing anybody would do in such a situation is checking if the reset button is popped out. If it is pushed out, the garbage disposal got overloaded, probably by something blocking its impellers. In that case, one must unjam and reset the garbage disposal.

If your garbage disposal is not working when you switch it on and its reset button is pushed out, here is a detailed guide to reset it.

However, if the reset button stays pushed in and the disposal shows no indication of working, the problem might be due to the power not reaching the disposal. As mentioned above, this can be due to a faulty power cord, a faulty switch, or a faulty power outlet.

Identifying the problem and solving it

The first step in solving any issue is correctly identifying the problem. Here is how to identify which of the above three components is faulty;

PS: Before you proceed with the below steps, make sure that the reset button is not pushed out.

Time needed: 30 minutes

Tools you need:
A multimeter
A non-contact voltage tester
A screwdriver
A wire stripper

  1. Check whether the circuit breaker is tripped.

    More often than not, this problem happens because the circuit breaker is tripped. Unfortunately, people just wrongly assume that the problem is with the wall switch. So before you proceed with the lengthy step-by-step process detailed below, make sure that the circuit breaker is not tripped.

  2. Turn the switch ON

    Keep the switch in the ON position. The circuit should have a current flow throughout this testing process. Be careful not to get electrocuted. If you are not familiar with wiring, I strongly recommend you seek the help of a friend or an electrician.

  3. Test for power in the power cord

    Use a non-contact voltage tester and check if there is any power in the power cord connecting the garbage disposal and the power outlet. If there is power, then the problem is with the garbage disposal itself. Probably, its motor got burned out, and you didn’t know it. In that case, the best option is to replace the disposal, but I also advise calling a plumber to ask his opinion. It is best to call the plumber, not the electrician, because they know more about disposals than the latter. (Who should you call; plumber or electrician).
    If there is no power in the power cord, go to the next step. We cannot yet say that the power cord is faulty, it could be the problem with the outlet.

  4. Check if the outlet plug is working.

    Unplug the power cord and test if there is power in the power socket. This can be checked using a multimeter. Check the reading of the multi-meter and make sure that the outlet has full power.
    If there is power in the outlet, the problem is with the power cord. The power cord is faulty, and that is why it doesn’t conduct electricity.
    If you cannot detect any power in the outlet, go to the next step. It could be because the wall switch is faulty.

  5. Check the wall switch.

    If there is no power coming to the power socket of the garbage disposal, the problem could be with the wall switch itself. To check whether it is faulty. or not, carefully unscrew it from the wall. Put the probes of a multimeter on the terminal screws of the wall switch and check if there is any power. If there is power, the problem is with the power outlet under the sink. Replace the power outlet with a new one. Or this could be due to loose contact in the outlet. Check for any loose wires keeping the switch OFF; wire them properly if there are any.
    If there is no power coming to the switch, the switch is faulty and needs to be replaced.

Here is a video showing how to test for electricity using a non-contact tester;

How to use a non-contact voltage tester

Testing an outlet with a multimeter;

Testing a wall switch for electricity

Testing a wall switch for electricity

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I couldn’t identify the issue

This problem can be tricky if there is power at all the three points we checked. The problem could be with the garbage disposal, but we can test it by plugging it into another power source. If the problem is not with the garbage disposal and not diagnosed by following the above steps, I recommend calling an electrician. If the fault is not with the garbage disposal, it must be with the wiring, so seeking the help of an electrician is the right choice.

What if my garbage disposal is hard-wired?

The procedure is the same, even if your garbage disposal is hard-wired. The only difference is since it doesn’t have a plug socket under the sink, one can omit that step.

I have an air switch.

Here is a detailed guide to solving air switch problems if your garbage disposal has an air switch. But you still have to check whether the power outlet is working correctly.

Garbage disposal switch works sometimes, but sometimes it doesn’t

This is due to a loose connection in the power cord, wall switch, or power outlet. You have to follow the steps above, identify the problem, and then correct it.

There are also other types of garbage disposal switched. Read for further info: Garbage disposal switch options

My name is Thomas Anderson, author of DisposalQA. I have 15 years experience working as a plumber in CA, and this is where I answer common questions about garbage disposals.