How To Reset A Garbage Disposal In 4 Steps

The garbage disposal is an easily forgotten small appliance installed beneath the kitchen sink. Perhaps you have one, and you are wondering how to reset it with an Allen wrench? Also, do all garbage disposals have a reset button? If so, where? We've researched these questions and have found well-researched results to share with you!

Resetting a garbage disposal with an Allen wrench does not require special tools or plumbing experience. Here are the steps:

  • Unplug the garbage disposal 
  • Locate the recessed hex-shaped hole in the bottom of the garbage disposal
  • Insert the hex-head Allen wrench or the wrench that came with the disposal into the hole
  • Turn counterclockwise and clockwise until the blades move freely 

Are you interested in learning more about garbage disposals and how they work? Perhaps you are wondering what causes the garbage disposal to clog? Or what does it mean when your garbage disposal just hums when you turn it on? Please continue to read this post; we have informative research results to share with you!

A worker checking the garbage disposal sink mechanism, How To Reset A Garbage Disposal In 4 Steps

How to reset a garbage disposal with an Allen wrench

Disclaimer! Before attempting any of the following suggestions. Make sure the garbage disposal is turned off, and you turn off the circuit breaker to the garbage disposal to avoid accidental injuries or property damages!

The best way to reset a garbage disposal with an Allen wrench is to start by unplugging the unit from the wall under the kitchen sink and turning the circuit breaker the appliance off. Next, locate the hex-shaped hole at the bottom of the garbage disposal.

Then, insert the Allen wrench, turn it counterclockwise, and then clockwise to loosen the jammed blades. Depending on the severity of the jam, you could use force when turning the Allen wrench to free the blades. If you use force, support the garbage disposal with your free hand to prevent the garbage disposal from moving back and forth.

Once the blades are loosened, remove the Allen wrench. Plug the garbage disposal back into the wall outlet and turn the circuit breaker back on. Next, run the cold water and check to see if the blades are functional again.

Watch the video below that demonstrates how to use a wrench to unclog and reset a garbage disposal.

Do all garbage disposals have a reset button?

Yes, garbage disposals are manufactured with a reset button. Reset buttons are considered the industry standard for garbage disposal manufacturers. However, there are a few older garbage disposal models that do not have a reset button feature.

An under sink garbage disposal sink photographed under the sink

Has your garbage disposal been working less than optimally? Are you wondering if the spoon that fell into the disposal last week has affected its functionality? Click to read "Can A Spoon Break A Garbage Disposal?"

How do you reset a garbage disposal without a reset button?

Please note that almost all garbage disposals have a reset button--double-check the sides and the bottom of the garbage disposal for the button.

If your garbage disposal does not have a reset button. Your best option is to reference your owner's manual for instructions to reset the appliance correctly--if you do not have the owner's manual follow the steps listed below.

Use the following simple steps suggested by Home Depot to reset the garbage disposal or unclog the blades.

  • Turn the garbage disposal wall switch off
  • Unplug the garbage disposal from the wall
  • Insert the garbage disposal wrench into the center opening in the bottom of the disposal
  • Turn the wrench counterclockwise and clockwise to loosen the blades
  • Plug the garbage disposal back into the wall outlet under the kitchen sink
  • Turn on the cold water faucet to allow water to flow into the garbage disposal
  • Turn the garbage disposal on and check if it reset successfully

Reset with the dowel method

If resetting the garbage disposal with a wrench didn't work, a clog inside the garbage disposal unit caused a jam in the blades. The best way to remedy this issue is to use a long sturdy wooden dowel or broom handle to get those blades moving again. Before attempting this--the garbage disposal and circuit breaker must be off!

Firstly, remove any standing water from the kitchen sink with a bowl or scoop. Secondly, insert the dowel into the drain opening where the garbage disposal is located. Thirdly, push the dowel to the bottom of the unit and manually move the blades to dislodge and unclog the garbage disposal.

After you clear the clog and dislodge the blades--remove the dowel and run cold water for at least five minutes to flush the garbage disposal, pipes, and the kitchen sink.

What causes a garbage disposal to stop working?

Generally, there are a few reasons why the garbage disposal will not function correctly. The most common issue is that clogs made of food debris are trapped inside the garbage disposal, and the blades are blocked.

Another possibility is that a clog has lodged within the kitchen sinks' drain piping and won't allow the wastewater to release. This will flood the garbage disposal with nasty wastewater and cause it to stop working altogether.

Also, ask yourself if the garbage disposal took more time than usual to grind up foods or hesitated when turned on or if it made loud grinding noises. If so, when did these issues start? These are signs that the garbage disposal is breaking down.

If the garbage disposal is broken, you will need to replace the unit or contact a professional to install your new garbage disposal.

If your kitchen has a quality dishwasher, you might wonder whether it has a built-in garbage disposal. Read "Do Dishwashers Have Garbage Disposals?"

How do you tell if your garbage disposal is clogged?

Generally, the first and most noticeable sign of a clogged garbage disposal is discovering the kitchen sink is halfway filled with murky, smelly water. Then, you turn the garbage disposal on, and the blades do not whirl, and the standing water does not drain.

When these issues happen, there is a clog in the garbage disposal blades or the kitchen pipes, preventing the water from draining correctly.

Moreover, the majority of garbage disposal clogs occur because of incorrect appliance usage and attempting to grind up foods that are not safe for the garbage disposal.

Please follow the suggested maintenance presented in the garbage disposal's owner's manual to prevent these issues. This way, you can ensure that you will keep your garbage disposal clog-free and in working condition.

A worker checking the garbage disposal machine under the sink

What does it mean when your garbage disposal just hums?

Suppose you turn on the garbage disposal, and it just hums with motionless blades. The humming sound indicates that electricity is actively flowing to the unit, but the blades are jammed with a sizeable clog.  Generally, plunging the garbage disposal will clear clogs lodged in the kitchen drain and the garbage disposal.

The best advice is to use a sink plunger to dislodge the clogs. Place the plunger over the sink drain and make sure it suctions to the drain. If it does not suction, you will not be able to plunge the drain.

Ensure the plunger is well suctioned, then forcefully plunge the plunger up and down for a few minutes. Depending on the clog, you could plunge the drain with intervals of six to eight plunges and then recheck the drain.

You will hear the water moving in the pipes during this time, and the plunger's suction will increase. After a few minutes of plunging, the clog should release, and the water will drain out of the sink. Once the water starts to drain, turn the cold water on and let it run for three to five minutes to flush the garbage disposal and pipes.

Recheck the garbage disposal, and the blades should whirl freely if clogs were the issue. If you turn it on and it hums with motionless blades after the clogs are dislodged. Contact the garbage disposals' manufacturer for further instructions and troubleshooting.

Click here to view the Liquid-Plumr sink plunger at Amazon. 

In closing

A worker checking the garbage disposal sink mechanism

Garbage disposals will significantly reduce your trash output and help lessen the burden on your local landfill. Which is excellent news for Mother Earth, less food waste going into landfills! We hope that this article has helped you learn valuable information about garbage disposals.

Learning about small appliances is exciting and will help you become a better-educated consumer. Before you go, please, be sure to check out some of our other posts to find helpful suggestions for everyday household issues.

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