Garbage Disposal Button Not Working: 5 Reasons & Fixes


Garbage disposal units are essential devices designed to keep your kitchen’s pipes clean. To prevent stubborn pieces of food from damaging the unit, they are fitted with an internal circuit breaker and a reset button. 

This button is flush with the bottom of the unit when the garbage disposal is working properly. When the circuit breaker trips, the button pops up, and you must push it back in to reset the unit.

However, a reset may sometimes fail to work. 

The most common reason why the garbage disposal button is not working is a jam or blockage inside the unit. A tripped main circuit breaker or loose wires are other common culprits. Your garbage disposal may also fail to reset if the circuit is overloaded. An aging unit may simply fail because it has reached its lifespan. 

This article explores the reasons why your garbage disposal button is not working and what you can do to fix these issues.

1. Jammed Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal units sport intricate mechanisms that help them shred food pieces and debris. 

Once scraps are washed down the drain, they pass through a grinding chamber where the blades chop them off into small pieces. Then, an impeller arm and plate force the bits down the drain, all while water washes down everything to prevent clogging. 

However, the blades can sometimes fail to shred everything, especially if you wash down the drain larger pieces of food. 

Grease and minerals from hard water can deposit on the blades, and build-up could clog the system. 

It could also happen that you accidentally dropped inside a solid item – such as a necklace or bracelet – and that it is causing a blockage. 

No matter what blocks the system, the garbage disposal’s circuit breaker will keep tripping until you fix the issue.

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal Unit?

Garbage disposals generally come with all hardware needed to install and dismantle them. Grab the garbage disposal wrench (or a ¼-inch hex key) and a plunger or wooden handled broom, then follow the steps below: 

  1. Turn off the unit from the wall switch and unplug it. If your unit is hardwired, turn off the main circuit breaker.
  2. Locate the wrench slot at the bottom of the unit and insert the garbage disposal wrench in it. Rotate it clockwise and counterclockwise to release the jam.
  3. If the blockage didn’t budge, insert the wooden handle of a broom or plunger into the unit from above through the sink drain opening. Rotate the grinding plate to release the clog. You can rotate both the wooden handle and the wrench if the clog is particularly stubborn.
  4. Turn on the cold water and allow it to flow through the garbage disposal to wash away any loose debris. 
  5. Plug everything back in and switch on the circuit breaker if needed. Push the reset button at the bottom of the unit back in position. Turn on the water and the unit from the wall switch (in this order). If the disposal doesn’t run and the reset button doesn’t stay in position, check the circuit breaker.

2. Tripped Circuit Breaker 

As mentioned above, garbage disposal units have two circuit breakers. One is internal, and its purpose is to prevent clogs from overloading the system. The other is the main circuit breaker found in your home panel. 

The internal circuit breaker generally trips because of a clog. If it’s not a clog, the unit might be overheating. 

This generally happens if you let the unit run for long periods of time. However, an aging unit could overheat faster and cause the reset button to pop out constantly. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do if your unit is defective other than hire a plumber or electrician to fix it or replace the unit.

3. Overloaded Circuit

An overloaded circuit is another reason why the reset button might keep popping out or a unit that does not start despite everything looking right. 

Circuit overloads can happen for a variety of reasons, but they are usually the result of plugging too many appliances in the same circuit – keep in mind that different wall outlets can be connected to the same circuit. 

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, a garbage disposal should be connected to a dedicated circuit or only share one with a dishwasher.

Prevent plugging other appliances into the same circuit or turn them off when using the garbage disposal.

4. Loose Wire

If the reset button stays in place but the unit won’t start, the culprit could be an interrupted circuit. 

Check the cord first and make sure your garbage disposal is plugged in. If your unit is hardwired, you could use a multimeter to see if it’s getting current. 

If it doesn’t, check the main circuit breaker first – your home could have a separate circuit breaker for the kitchen or even a dedicated circuit breaker for the garbage disposal unit alone.

These breakers are generally labeled in the main panel, so you should figure out easily which belongs to the kitchen or unit. 

Turn the lever back in its “on” position if tripped.

Otherwise, hire an electrician to check the wiring and make sure everything is working properly.

5. Faulty Wall Switch

Another thing to check before replacing the garbage disposal is the wall switch. Like the wires or a faulty circuit, a broken switch can stop the current from reaching the unit. 

You can test continuity yourself with a multimeter – if you’re confident enough – or hire an electrician. Replace the switch if necessary.

6. Faulty Garbage Disposal 

Typically, garbage disposals last ten to 15 years. A few signs of an aging unit include frequent clogging, poor performance, and water leaks. 

If any of those problems were frequent and you suddenly notice that the reset button doesn’t work anymore, the unit likely needs replacement. 

Key Takeaways

Your garbage disposal button might not work because of a clog causing the internal circuit breaker to trip constantly. 

A tripped circuit breaker in the main panel, loose wires, a broken switch, or an overloaded circuit are other possible culprits. If you’ve tried everything and the unit still doesn’t reset, you might have to replace the garbage disposal.

See More Helpful Reads About Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal:

  1. Smoke Coming From Garbage Disposal
  2. Garbage Disposal Jammed With Glass
  3. Garbage Disposal Making Loud Noise
  4. Garbage Disposal Flywheel Stuck
  5. Garbage Disposal Etiquette

Roxana Bikfalvi

Roxana is a copywriter passionate about home improvement and interior design. When she’s not writing, you can find her upcycling old furniture or remodeling interiors. She has written for numerous home improvement blogs before joining PlumbJoe.

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