How to Reset the Garbage Disposal if it doesn’t work, is loud or shakes: reset button (Do This FIRST!)

Sometimes garbage disposals get over-filled or clogged up. When this happens, it’s time to reach for the secret switch that ends all malfunctions: the reset button. Don’t use it immediately though! There are other steps first.

Often referred to as the overload protector button, it’s designed to trip automatically anytime something goes wrong. This way, the unit’s internal circuit breaker is protected from overheating.


If this has ever happened to you, you’ve come to the right place! This article will walk you through how to reset the garbage disposal and restore its power.

Let’s dive in.

How to Reset the Garbage Disposal: Reset button and more

Manufacturers add a reset button to their units as a safety precaution. Anytime the unit gets clogged, this button shuts down the power to prevent any potential damage that can occur to the unit.

Its main job is to cut off the electrical flow running from the main power line to the garbage disposal as a measure of self-preservation against overheating and malfunctioning.

If your garbage disposal stops working, the first thing you have to do is look at the reset button. In the case that the overload protector has tripped, you’ll notice that the reset button has popped out almost a quarter of an inch.

That’s the indication that it’s time to reboot the garbage disposal. Here’s how:

Step 1: Shut Down the Power

Start by switching off the garbage disposal. Next, remove the unit from the sockets just to be safe. Wear protective equipment when you do this. Check if there is no burnt smell or other damage as this can indicate problems that your electrician has to fix.

After that, you should also take it a step further and turn off the main power supply to avoid potential injuries.

Step 2: Look for Items Clogging the drain

Get a flashlight and try to look into the garbage disposal drain. The clog could result from too much food debris stuck between the blades.

Another reason could be that something stiff made its way into the disposal. This could be anything ranging from viscous oils, glass to plastic toys to jewelry, just to mention a few.

Step 3: Remove the Culprit

Your first instinct is to probably stick your hand in the garbage disposal and remove whatever is clogging the pipes. Yet, we all know that there are dozens of ways this can go wrong, so never put your hand in the disposal.

Instead, why not use a wooden spoon or a pair of good old-fashioned pliers to pull it out? It’s much safer and much more efficient than using your hands.

Step 4: Find the Reset Button of the garbage disposal

The garbage disposal reset button is usually located on the bottom of the unit, like the InSinkErator and the Badger. Alternatively, other brands have it on the sides of their unit, like the Moen and the Waste King garbage disposal.

So, the location mainly depends on the make and model of your unit, and so does the color. For example, most models have a red reboot button, whereas others have theirs in black.

You can always refer back to the manual to find out exactly where it’s located. If you can’t find your manual, search online for your garbage disposal’s specifications.

Step 5: Give the Reset Button a Gentle Nudge

Once you successfully locate the reboot button, give it a gentle nudge and hold for a couple of seconds. It should retract into its initial position.

Don’t be alarmed if it pops out again. It could just mean that the unit still needs a few minutes to cool down and recalibrate.

So, if the reset button doesn’t go back to the original retracted position, wait a few minutes, then try again.

Step 6: Turn On the Main Power

When the reset button finally returns to its original position, it’s time to give the garbage disposal a test run. Yet, before you do that, you have to restore the main power.

Just make sure the garbage disposal isn’t plugged into the socket to avoid a sudden restart of the unit.

Step 7: Switch On the Garbage Disposal

Now that you’ve restored the power, it’s time to try out the disposal. First, remove any tools or objects near the blades before switching the unit back on.

Next, run the water and switch on the garbage disposal. Finally, check out all the unit’s functions to ensure they’re all working as they should.

Why Does the Garbage Disposal Need Resetting?

As we mentioned above, garbage disposals sometimes get clogged. This usually happens when you stuff in too much food debris than the disposal’s drain pipe can handle.

Thus, the unit no longer has the full capacity needed to power the disposal. As a result, the engine cuts off power to the unit to prevent it from overheating and malfunctioning.

We should warn you that if you keep the disposal turned on, it’ll definitely burn out and need to be replaced. So, your best option is to find that reset button to give the unit a chance to reboot itself and start fresh.

What Happens if the Garbage Disposal Doesn’t Reset?

In some cases, the reset button refuses to return to its original state. When this happens, the unit may need to be either fixed or replaced. You also want to check your drains if there is no clog.

If you have a bit of DIY experience, you can try to fix it yourself.  Start by checking whether the disposal itself is stuck.

Then, check to see if there’s something clinging to the blades. You can try running some cold water in the disposal to help you unclog whatever’s stuck.

Things That Should Never Go In the Garbage Disposal: Will rocks break a garbage disposal

There are many things that shouldn’t go in your disposal. Below are just a few examples:

  1. Bones and fruit pits: too hard to break apart and will just keep spinning around
  2. Celery, corn husks, and other fibrous foods: the fibers get tangled in the blades
  3. Coffee grounds: contains oils that turn into a thick sludge
  4. Eggshells and seafood shells: stick together and coat the pipes
  5. Grease: coats up the pipes
  6. Starchy vegetables, rice, and pasta: can cause a mess because they’re sticky and moist

Rock also shouldn’t go in a garbage disposal as it can wear the blades down. Sometimes small rocks can be hidden in vegetables that you are growing yourself. Make sure to remove them before they get in your garbage disposal. This will make your garbage disposal last longer.

Can a garbage disposal be lower than drain?

No, the drain should be lower than the garbage disposal. Luckily this is quite easy to fix. You can often just cut a part of the drain with a saw. Then you can glue a piece of PVC or add a piece of PP (depending on the material that has been used in your kitchen). This makes sure that the garbage disposal can remove all its output.

Garbage disposals are often installed in the wrong way and this can cause a lot of problems. If you have to keep resetting your garbage disposal, it might be a good time to take a look at how it has been installed.

You can send a picture of the installation to the manufacturer to get input on what is going wrong. A plumber can help you with this as well.

Does garbage disposal need an air gap and p-trap?

Garbage disposals have a p-trap. This makes sure that bad odors don’t spread in your kitchen. It also keeps dirty water away. It is important that this p-trap is deep enough so that some water can be contained in it. You can get standard p-traps in every hardware store so they are easy to find.

The p-trap of the sink is often used for this so it is not necessary to have 2 p-traps next to each other if you install the garbage disposal under the sink.

Garbage disposals don’t need an air gap. Some dishwasher need this but garbage disposals don’t need this.

Garbage disposal plug or hardwired?

Both options are generally possible. Check the manual of your garbage disposal though. You can also look up the model number online and see what is recommended by the manufacturer.

Keep in mind that garbage disposals should have GFCI outlets as the kitchen is a wet environment. GFCI outlets make sure that moisture doesn’t get in the outlet as this can cause a lot of problems. The problems also shouldn’t be directly under the sink as this is an area where a lot of water passes.

If the garbage disposal is plugged in, it is easier to use this to reset the appliance. Having a switch nearby makes this even easier. Always check your local code and the manual of your device.

Wrap Up

Knowing how to reset the garbage disposal can save you time and money. Even if you’re not a qualified handyman, it’s easy to get your disposal working again.

Most times, the best way to revive an appliance is to give it time to cool down. Then, restart it as you’ve seen in our how-to guide.

Just remember to switch off the main power and unplug the unit before starting. After that, just push the reset button, and everything should go smoothly.