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How to Reset a Garbage Disposal: A Step-by-Step Guide

reset a garbage disposal

Dealing with a malfunctioning garbage disposal can be frustrating and disruptive to your daily kitchen activities. If you’re not sure how to reset the garbage disposal, it can lead to unpleasant odors and potentially other plumbing issues, too.

Knowing how to troubleshoot and use the reset button on garbage disposal can help you quickly restore functionality and keep your kitchen running smoothly. Luckily, Four Seasons Plumbing — an industry-leading drain and sewer company named one of the top Asheville, NC, plumbers — is here to give you some direction. In this guide, you’ll learn the steps on how to reset a garbage disposal and other related guidance, including when it’s time to seek professional help.

Where is the Reset Button On a Garbage Disposal?

Before you can reset it, you’ll first need to find where the reset button is on a garbage disposal. It’s typically a small, circular red button on the unit’s bottom or lower back. Use a flashlight to help you see the button clearly, especially if it’s located on the bottom of the unit.

How to Reset a Garbage Disposal

  • Step 1: Ensure the disposal is turned off and unplugged, or turn off the circuit breaker for safety.
  • Step 2: Find the reset button on the garbage disposal’s lower backside or on the bottom of the disposal.
  • Step 3: Press the reset button firmly until you hear a click. If the button doesn’t stay in, wait a few minutes and try pressing it again. Then, follow the rest of the instructions below.
  • Step 4: Allow a few minutes for the disposal to reset.
  • Step 5: Plug the disposal back in or turn on the circuit breaker.
  • Step 6: Turn on the cold water faucet to let a steady stream of water flow into the disposal.
  • Step 7: Turn on the garbage disposal to see if it is working properly.

Do All Garbage Disposals Have a Reset Button?

Not all garbage disposals have a reset button, but most modern units do. The reset button is a safety feature designed to protect the motor from damage by automatically shutting off the disposal when it overheats or jams. If your garbage disposal doesn’t have a reset button, or if the button doesn’t resolve the issue, there are other steps you can take.

Alternatives if There Is No Reset Button On the Garbage Disposal

  • Check the Power Supply: Ensure that the disposal is plugged in and the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. Sometimes, the issue is as simple as restoring power.
  • Clear Obstructions Manually: Turn off the power to the disposal and use a flashlight to look inside. Use tongs or pliers to remove any visible obstructions. Never use your hands.
  • Use a Hex Key: Many disposals come with a hex key (Allen wrench) for manually turning the blades. Insert the key into the socket on the bottom of the unit and turn it back and forth to free any jams.
  • Inspect the Flywheel: If the disposal is jammed, it might help to turn the flywheel manually. This can sometimes free the jammed debris and allow the disposal to reset itself.
  • Check for an Overload Protector: Some disposals without a reset button might have an overload protector that trips when the unit overheats. If this is the case, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to reset the overload protector.

What to Do After Resetting Your Garbage Disposal

After you reset your garbage disposal, wait a few minutes before plugging the unit back in or turning on the circuit breaker. Run cold water into the disposal and turn it on to test if it’s working. If it still doesn’t function, make sure the reset button is still pressed and hasn’t popped out again.

You can check that the unit is getting power by verifying the outlet and circuit breaker. If there are still issues, listen for unusual noises that might indicate a problem. If the disposal continues to malfunction, it might be time to call a professional for help.

Why is My Garbage Disposal Humming but Not Working?

If your garbage disposal is humming but not working even after it’s been reset, this may indicate the motor is receiving power but the blades are jammed or stuck. Here are some common reasons and solutions to address this issue:

Jammed Blades

Food particles, debris, or foreign objects can get lodged between the blades, preventing them from spinning. To solve this, first, turn off the power by unplugging the disposal or turning off the circuit breaker.

Motor or Electrical Issues

Motor or electrical issues can also prevent the disposal from operating correctly, even if it hums. Ensure the reset garbage disposal is properly plugged in and the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. If you are comfortable with electrical work, inspect the wiring connections inside the disposal unit. Otherwise, contact a professional.

Disposal Needs Replacement

Lastly, worn-out components can cause the disposal to malfunction over time. If resetting your garbage disposal doesn’t work, the disposal might need professional repair or replacement.

How Do You Know if Your Garbage Disposal is Burnt Out?

If your garbage disposal is burnt out, there are several signs to look for:

  • No Power or Humming Sound: If you turn on the disposal and there is no sound at all — not even a humming noise — or if you hear a humming sound but the blades do not spin, this could indicate a burnt-out motor.
  • Frequent Resets: Frequently pressing the reset button without long-term resolution can also be a sign.
  • Visible Damage: Check for any visible damage or burning smells coming from the unit, as these can indicate serious internal issues.
  • Tripped Circuit Breaker: If the circuit breaker trips every time you turn on the disposal, it might be due to an electrical problem within the unit, possibly a burnt-out motor.
  • Unresponsive Disposal: An unresponsive disposal that doesn’t work even after resetting and ensuring it’s plugged in likely has a dead motor.

If you notice these signs, check the power supply, press the reset button on the garbage disposal, and inspect for jams. If the disposal remains unresponsive or you notice burning smells, it’s best to call a professional to inspect and possibly replace the unit.

Fix Your Garbage Disposal for Good with Four Seasons Plumbing

While resetting your garbage disposal can resolve several issues, knowing when to call a professional is essential. Four Seasons Plumbing — one of the top Asheville NC plumbers — is dedicated to delivering top-notch service and ensuring your kitchen runs smoothly.

From resetting your garbage disposal to tackling more complex issues, our experienced technicians are here to help. Trust our drain and sewer company to provide reliable solutions for all your plumbing needs. Contact us today to learn more and schedule your service.

Max Rose - Owner of Four Seasons Plumbing


Max Rose

Max Rose is the owner of Four Seasons Plumbing, a plumbing company in Asheville, North Carolina.