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How To Reset A Garbage Disposal: A Step By Step Guide

Whether you have a low-end or a premium garbage disposal, you will have to reset it at some point. That is why all of them come with a reset button. The electrical circuit that comes with the reset button has a safety switch that cuts off the power to the motor if the garbage disposal runs into trouble. This happens for various reasons, including but not limited to; motor failure, overheating of the unit, and any jams that prevent the free rotation of the disposal blades. If any of these things happen, the garbage disposal will turn off automatically.

Your garbage disposal needs to be reset if it suddenly stops working while grinding food wastes or refuses to start running. Here is how to do it;

1. Turn off the power to the garbage disposal

The first step to reset a garbage disposal is to turn it off.

If your garbage disposal is not running after you turned on the power, it is possibly because its electrical circuit is tripped. This can also happen if the power doesn’t reach the garbage disposal due to a faulty plug or a faulty wall switch or because your ELCB is tripped. Whatever the reason behind this is, the first step is to turn off the disposal using the wall switch to prevent any possible damage.

2. See if the reset button is popped out

If the reset button is popped out, it means that the problem is not with the power supply. Looking for this is much easier than testing to see if the power supply is working. If the reset button is not popped out, the problem is with the power supply. This problem can be sorted out only by checking for faults in the wiring and rectifying them.

If the reset button is popped out, gently press it back to its original position. If it stays retracted, turn on the garbage disposal to see if it works. If it doesn’t stay retracted, wait for around 10 minutes and try again.

Why wait for 10 minutes? This is to allow the garbage disposal’s motor to cool down. The problem could be due to overheating of the unit, and giving it enough time to cool off is the best solution. (What if the reset button is not working? Here is a fix.)

Where is the reset button located?

The location of the reset button varies from brand to brand. If your disposal is made by InSinkErator or its sister companies, the reset button is on its bottom-facing side. If it is from Waste King or Moen or its sister companies, the reset button is at the bottom part of its front-facing side. For Moen garbage disposals, the reset button is located a bit inside, so you will need a thin tool, like a screwdriver, to press it.

Location of reset buttons on different garbage disposal models
Location of reset buttons on different garbage disposal models

The reset button is colored red for most garbage disposals, although, for some models, it has the same color as the unit, making it harder to locate. The button is also small in size, but you can hardly miss it if you look in the correct place.

3. Turn ON the garbage disposal

Turn on your garbage disposal when the reset button stays retracted in its original position. Even though this is just a test to see if your disposer is working, make sure to run cold water to wash away any debris left in the unit.

Three things can happen when you turn on the garbage disposal;

  1. It starts and works as it should
  2. It hums without running and turns off again
  3. It doesn’t work at all

If your garbage disposal turns on and works as it should, then the problem solved. The issue could have been an overheating of the motor.

If the garbage disposal doesn’t work at all, not even humming, its motor is faulty, and it needs to be replaced. Double-check to ensure that there is nothing wrong with the power supply before you go for the replacement.

If the garbage disposal keeps humming but not running, then there is something that blocks its blades’ free movement. In this case, the disposal should turn itself off again. I wouldn’t recommend you to wait for it, though; when you hear a humming sound, just turn it off. Keeping the power on may damage its motor. The only step forward is to unjam the disposal and make its blades free.

Video of resetting a garbage disposal

4. Unjam your garbage disposal if the reset button is not working

If you followed the three steps above, but without results, you may think that the reset button is not working. Actually, it is not the fault of the reset button but because the disposal is jammed. If the reset button keeps popping out when you turn on the disposal, it is because its blades are not free to rotate, and its circuit trips to avoid any electrical hazards. In this case, you have to unjam the disposal.

When you see that your garbage disposal is just humming and not running, turn off the power to to to save it from any further damage. Once you turn it off, shine a flashlight and look into the disposal through the drain hole. See if you can spot anything that is jamming the blades. This could be the remains of food or a fork that accidentally fell into it. Remove the obstructions with the help of a pair of tongs.

Use an Allen key or a broom handle to rotate the disposal blades and make them free of any obstructions. Some disposals like those by InSinkErator come with a hex hole on its bottom side which you can use to rotate the blades with an Allen key (Here is a good fix if the Allen wrench is not turning). For those models without this, insert a broom handle through the sink drain hole to move the blades.

Here is a detailed guide on unjamming a garbage disposal for your reference.

5. Turn ON your garbage disposal again

Once the blades are free to rotate, turn on the garbage disposal again. Before that, make sure that you pressed down the reset button if it came out.

This is the final step of resetting a garbage disposal. If it is working, then everything is fine. But if the reset button comes popping out again after several attempts or the motor stays humming, then there is some problem with its motor, and your best option is to replace the entire garbage disposal.

I recommend replacing the garbage disposal because it is cheaper than calling a professional plumber to repair the motor. As plumbing/repair costs are more than the cost of a garbage disposal, replacement makes more sense if you can DIY the installation (Check how much it costs to replace a garbage disposal).

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.