The Secret Button on Your Garbage Disposal You Really Need to Know About

published May 4, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Garbage disposals feel like magical machines. No, you can’t put anything you want down there, but when it comes to the things you can put through the drain, it’s all handled with some sort of sorcery. You put things in, run the water, flip the switch, done! The arrangement seems to work for the most part.

But. But! Like everything else in our home, if we don’t use the disposal properly, it’s going to stop working. (Seriously, don’t add fruit pits or overload it!) When it stops working, the internal circuit breaker will trip and shut off. What do you do then? It turns out, you can save yourself a call to the plumber. Besides the on and off switch, there’s another helpful button you should know about — and we learned about it from this TikTok video made by home repair service, HomeServe.

It’s the reset button, and it’s the best way to get your garbage disposal back to its former trash-chewing glory. If you can’t imagine what we’re talking about here, don’t worry — it’s pretty easy to find and use. Adam Long, president of HomeTeam Inspections, walked us through the process. Here’s a bit more about what that secret button is, what it does, and how to use it. 

Credit: Cat Meschia

Where is the reset button on my garbage disposal and what does it look like?

The big red button is usually located on the underside of your garbage disposal. Open your under-sink cabinets, get down on your knees, and take a look.

How does it work?

Essentially, the reset button works just like a circuit breaker on an electrical panel. “Pressing the reset button restores the flow of electric power to the disposal,” Long says. It’s part of the safety mechanism that protects both the disposal’s motor and the person using it, if the garbage disposal should get overheated or overloaded.

How do you use the rest button on a garbage disposal?

First off, turn the garbage disposal off. Then, press the red button, and check that it stays retracted. If it isn’t staying retracted, wait 10 to 15 minutes for the motor on the disposal to cool down, and then try again. After that, turn on a cold stream of water, and flip the disposal back on using the wall switch. 

When do you need to use it?

Let’s say the disposal is mid trash-chew and it just stops working. This is when you’d reset it. It’s a sign that your disposal is overloaded, overheating, or that something could be wrong with the motor. Wait a bit and then reset it. Or let’s say you hear a humming noise when the garbage disposal is turned on, and it’s not working properly, it probably needs to be reset. “If you have to repeatedly reset the garbage disposal, then you should call a plumber to service or replace the disposal,” explains Long. 

Is there an easy way to fix a jammed disposal?

Yes! Long notes that many garbage disposals come with a small hex wrench that fits into the socket on the bottom of the garbage disposal next to the reset button. Put the wrench in the socket and turn it back and forth — this could help loosen the item causing the blockage. 

Have you ever dealt with a garbage disposal problem? Do you have any handy tips? Ask your questions and share your tricks below.