Garbage disposals frequently develop several issues that require maintenance. When items bind the rotor blades inside the device, they can jam. Drain fittings might become loose, resulting in leaks beneath the sink. Alternatively, the drain connecting the trash disposal to the rest of the faucet drain trap assembly can clog, causing water to back up into the sink basin. 
It’s natural to get annoyed with your garbage disposal spinning but not draining for no apparent reason. A malfunctioning garbage disposal unit adds to your kitchen’s inconvenience, at least until it’s repaired. But, if you don’t have to, why wait for a plumber?
Why does my garbage disposal drain slowly?
Most food waste can be ground without issue by a disposal. However, what occurs after the grinding can cause a clog. This is usually due to how crushed food waste responds to water (or lack thereof) once it is crushed up and sent down the drain line by the disposal machine.
When a garbage disposal clogs, the drain trap mechanism on the waste outlet side of the disposal is usually the source of the problem.
Garbage disposal water also comes back up over time when food waste coats the waste tube and finally obstructs it. The culprit is most probably in the sink trap—the U-shaped pipe fitting positioned downstream of the garbage discharge pipe—if the garbage disposal is emptying slowly or not at all.
Garbage Disposal Spinning But Not Draining – 4 Reasons
- Insufficient flushing water: If you don’t put sufficient water into the disposal while grinding, it will clog. Waste cannot be evacuated through the pipes without enough water, and it will quickly accumulate. Water cannot flow at all after a full blockage has occurred.
- Eggshells and ground coffee: Food items such as eggshells and coffee grounds are more of a concern than you might think. When pulverized by a disposal, Eggshells and coffee grounds produce very fine granular trash that will attach to any sludge in the pipes and quickly clog them.
- Crushing potato peels: Potato peels are infamous for clogging garbage disposals and should not be used . They break down into a starchy substance that looks like mashed potatoes and clogs drains quickly.
- Banana peels: Banana peels are similar to potato peels in that they add thread-like fibers to the mixture.
How to fix a garbage disposal clog?
The simplest approach to fix garbage disposal clog is to flush the disposal using much water while it’s running and for a few seconds after turning off. However, the disposal becomes clogged and must be unblocked now and then. You’ll need a bucket, channel-type pliers, paper towels, a drain snake, and scrub wire to complete the job. Follow the guidelines below to carry out the task.
Step1: Remove the P-Trap
Place a collecting bucket beneath the drain trap of the garbage disposal. Disconnect the drain trap’s slip-nut fittings with channel-type pliers and remove the trap . When you separate the pipes, it’s pretty unusual for water to stream out. Water and, most probably, food waste will fill the trap. Dump it carefully into the bucket. Keep paper towels on hand in case of spills.
Step 2: Clean the Trap
Check the trap fitting for clogs or obstructions. Clogs are most commonly found in the trap’s acute bend. The most effective technique to dig out any material is with a little scrub brush. You can also use a straightened coat wire or other wire.
Step 3: Check the Trap Arm
If the obstruction isn’t in the trap, it could be in the trap arm, the lateral drain section that links the trap to the branching drain pipe leading into the wall. You can remove the trap arm by releasing the slip screw where the trap arm joins the vertical branching drain and dragging the arm out. Using a brush or wire, clean the inside of the trap arm.
Step 4: Snake the Branching Drain (if necessary)
The clog is most likely in the branching drain connecting to the home’s main drain if the P-trap and its arm were pretty clear when you removed them. The best approach to clean this pipe is to use a drain snake or an auger to snake it. Typically, a simple 25-foot barrel drill (available at home stores and hardware stores) will do.
Working the auger cable over the pipe bends and breaks up the clog, feeding it into the offshoot drain underneath the sink, and spins the barrel. To ensure the clog is gone, run the wire out and back via the drain a few times.
Step 5: Reassemble the Drain
Tighten the slide nuts just snugly before reinstalling the trap arm and P-trap. Check the parts’ placements and ensure the trap arm is angled slightly downward toward the branched drain. Fasten the nuts all the way manually when everything looks good. Tighten them up more if necessary with channel-type wrenches, but be cautious not to overtighten since this could break the nuts or threading.
Step 6: Flush the Drain
To discharge any loose debris within the drain system, run water through the drain for several minutes. When you’re certain the drain is clear, you can do a larger flush by placing a cork over the garbage disposal opening, filling the sink bowl with hot water, and immediately removing the stopper. This clears the pipes and removes any leftover clog material.
Other Garbage disposal problems
1. The garbage Disposal Unit does not Turn On
Problems with the unit’s power source could be why your garbage disposal is not operating or not turning on at all. Alternatively, the garbage disposal may have been overloaded, causing the reset switch to trigger in an attempt to prevent damage.
- Check to see if the waste disposal is turned on and plugged in.
- Look beneath the garbage disposal for the reset button; if it has popped out, the garbage disposal is likely to have stopped functioning because it hit its built-in power switch, most likely due to overloading. In case the reset button does not stay depressed after a few minutes, wait 10 minutes and attempt it again. Whether the reset button is still pressed, turn on the garbage disposal’s power switch to check if it restarts.
- Verify that the circuit breaker for the garbage disposal has not been tripped at your home’s electrical panel, and restore the breaker if required.
- Remove the switch plate from the garbage disposal’s wall switch and inspect for loose connections, tightening them if necessary.
- Examine the spot on the unit where those wires link. They might have loosened due to the garbage disposal’s vibration and will need to be tightened.
Contact a plumber if the garbage disposal has stopped operating and will not turn on after following these steps. Your plumber can examine the unit and its electrical wiring to establish where the problem that prevents it from working has arisen. If you cannot fix the problem, your plumber will assist you in selecting a replacement unit and installing it.
The unit is humming, but the garbage disposal has stopped working.
If the trash disposal unit makes a buzzing noise but does not accomplish anything when you turn on the electricity, the flywheel inside the disposal is most probably blocked. Stop using the garbage disposal straight away if you have this problem! If it continues to operate when jammed, the motor could burn out and irreparably damage the appliance, necessitating the purchase of a new waste disposal.
To avoid accidents, switch off power to the device at your home’s electrical panel before attempting to investigate this possible cause for your garbage disposal not working. Ensure that power is switched off at the switchboard and that the garbage disposal’s wall switch is turned off.
- Insert the wrench that came with your waste disposal into the rotating hole near the bottom grinding chamber’s bottom.
- Spin the wrench clockwise to release anything stuck in the flywheel or impeller of the garbage disposal. You can then freely rotate the wrench once the jam has been dislodged.
- Insert a long stick into the drain opening, like the handle of a spoon or another wooden kitchen item. To free the stuck flywheel, use the stick as a lever. The flywheel will readily rotate if this works.
- Use a flashlight to examine inside the garbage disposal for the debris that triggered the flywheel to jam — it’s usually a bone or cutlery that got stuck in the drain.
- Grasp the thing with a pair of pliers and pull it out.
Turn the power back on at the home’s electrical panel after you’ve dislodged the jam. Next, press the reset button on the waste disposal situated under the unit. Then, run cold water down the drain for a few minutes while turning the wall switch on and off in brief spurts. This should flush any material accumulated in the compartment down the drain and away from the garbage disposal.
If your garbage disposal continues to malfunction after attempting this procedure, contact a plumber for assistance . If necessary, they can remove problematic items. Alternatively, your plumber may inspect your unit to rule out other possibilities for a stuck flywheel, like rust or corrosion.
2. Garbage Disposal Smokes
When the garbage disposal stops working due to the humming sounds and stuck flywheel described above, the device may start to smoke. The smoke could have been caused by your garbage disposal’s motor burning, in which case it has to be replaced. It could also result from a blown circuit, which could be repaired. Turn off the waste disposal first, then follow these troubleshooting steps:
- Remove the garbage disposal’s lower cover.
- Look for burnt wires on the wires that link to the garbage disposal.
- Remove the burned wire and any damaged wiring insulation if the cables have burned.
- Reattach the wires to their proper locations.
- Reinstall the lower cover with the new one.
- Restart the unit and test it.
Call your plumber if this does not solve the problem or if you are uncomfortable working with cables after your waste disposal unit stops operating. Your plumber can determine whether the machine can be fixed or in case the motor is damaged and the garbage disposal must be replaced entirely.
- Garbage Disposal spinning but not draining
A blockage is most likely the cause of your garbage disposal not clearing waste down the drain. For example, when the unit turns on yet water backs up in the sink or doesn’t drain, this indicates a blockage in the waste disposal or the sink’s drain plumbing.
Try the following methods to figure out why the garbage disposal stopped working:
- Get rid of any trash that has accumulated in your sink. Pick it and toss it in the garbage.
- Plunge the drain in approximately 2 inches deep of water in the sink. Maintain a good sealing with the plunger covering the drainage opening while using mild pressure. This may clear the clog completely but proceed to the next step if it does not.
- Examine the drain for any clogs. If you see anything, remove it using pliers or tongs. Run water and switch the waste disposal back on after removing the material to test if the drain runs smoothly. If not, keep on.
- Place a bucket beneath the sink and loosen the bolts that secure the discharge line to the unit.
- Detach the disposal drain trap and remove it with the drain line. Look for any blockages in this tube and remove them. If there are no obstacles in the pipe, the clog could be in the sink plumbing.
- To clear the clog, insert a sink auger into the drain pipe.
- Rebuild the drain trap and outlet tube if the obstruction has been removed.
- Run water and turn on the garbage disposal’s power switch to test the drain.
If clearing a blockage and restoring drainage via your garbage disposal fails, it’s time to contact a plumber for assistance. Before the garbage disposal can drain correctly, there is likely a blockage further downpipe that needs removing.
By exercising appropriate garbage disposal use habits, you can avoid future blockages and prevent a scenario where the waste disposal stops working.
- When using the garbage disposal, always use lots of cold water and run the water and garbage disposal for several seconds after the food waste has done crushing to flush material down the drain line fully.
- Use a drain strainer to keep undesired objects out of the garbage disposal.
- Cut trash into tiny chunks before putting it into the garbage disposal, and keep it oriented over the disposal sink until you’re ready to use it.
If the garbage disposal has stopped operating and you haven’t been able to find a solution, it’s time to call a plumber. A certified plumbing technician will examine your equipment to establish the cause of your trash disposal’s failure.
Michael Davis is a heating & plumbing expert who currently works as independent contractor in SC. He also writes for Plumbertip.
For almost 10 years he worked on various plumbing tasks across South Carolina.