My Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On (simple & helpful steps)

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A working garbage disposal is something easily taken for granted. But what is a homeowner to do when flipping that switch doesn’t make anything happen?

Here is a quick and dirty guide to how to troubleshoot a garbage disposal that won't turn on.


The following steps assume that your disposal is completely dead when you try to turn it on. If yours hums but doesn’t run, the problem is most likely a jam caused by food. In that case here’s a link to our tips for freeing a garbage disposal jam.

Otherwise, take a look at the steps below to help troubleshoot a disposal that doesn’t even make a sound when you turn it on.

Troubleshooting Steps

  1. Check the Plug
    1. This may sound obvious, but surprisingly a garbage disposal that is unplugged is a common reason it won’t turn on. If this is your situation, here is where you get to be excited that all you have to do is plug yours in and walk away!

  2. Check the Reset Button
    1. On the underside of your garbage disposal there is a small red button which will pop out if the internal circuit breaker is tripped. Give it a push to reset the unit.

  3. Check your home’s power source
    1. If the reset button doesn’t bring your disposal back to life double check your home’s circuit breaker.

  4. Troubleshoot the actual disposal
    1. If the breaker to the disposal is on it may be time to consider an electrical problem in the switch or that the time has come to replace your disposal. In this case you may want to take a look at our top recommended garbage disposals here.

How to Assess the Condition of your Switch

This part intimidates me because I am most certainly NOT an electrician! But, here’s the thing: As long as you are safe there really is no harm in taking a quick look at some wires  just to be sure they are all connected. 

  1. Make sure the power to the disposal itself is off so go ahead and turn off that breaker.
    1. Double check that you have the right breaker just to be on the safe side.

  2. Carefully take the plate off the switch and look at all the wires inside. 
    1. They should be securely connected and not visibly loose. If you see any connections that look loose you can tighten those up before replacing the plate on the switch. Just use your fingers to secure the connections. Remember, there is no power going to those wires at this point so touching them is not dangerous. Now turn the breaker back on and try the disposal on more time. 

With any luck, following the steps on this list will result in your garbage disposal working like new. 

If your unit STILL won’t turn on now is where you should consider admitting defeat and calling in an electrician.

It could also be possible that the motor in your unit has run out and you need to get a new one. Checkout our list of list of garbage disposal recommendations for some ideas.


Even if you end up needing to resort to a pro to get your disposal working again, you can be confident that like any self - respecting DYIer doing your due diligence, you ruled out all the likely  reasons your disposal wasn’t working before paying a pro to take a look or buying a new one.


3 thoughts on “My Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On (simple & helpful steps)

  • Oh this was so helpful! Thank you so much! May disposal would not switch on and I tried your steps here and it was off at the switch. It is about 2 years old so I knew I didn’t need a new one. It is now working again. Thank you again for the trouble shooting tips!

    • Hey Eleanoer – sorry for being later to respond to this. Glad you found this post helpful and got the unit working again!

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