Garbage disposals are sink appliances that grind and compress small bits of food so that they can drain properly. Most homeowners enjoy the convenience of these modern appliances that make the cleanup process easier and help keep their kitchens sanitary and tidy. But what happens when a garbage disposal unit starts humming instead of working? While this occurrence may seem alarming, there are several possible causes and solutions. A look at the best ways to address garbage disposal humming can help you take the steps to ensure that your unit is in great working order once again.

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

A garbage disposal is a kitchen appliance mounted to the underside of a sink. When you rinse bits of solid food waste into the disposal, the solids drop into a grinding chamber. After you turn on the garbage disposal, a spinning disc called the impeller plate rotates rapidly. This pulverizes food so that it can pass through the waste line and drain outside of your home.

A common misconception is that garbage disposal has sharp blades that chop food up like a blender. In reality, the role of garbage disposal is to reduce waste into fine particles instead. For this reason, there are strict rules on the kind of items that can go into disposal and directions for the safe operation of the unit. Failure to follow safe practices can lead to the breakdown of the unit.

What Are Some Reasons a Garbage Disposal Might Start Humming?

Depending on the model of your garbage disposal unit, it may be normal to hear mild churning sounds during the operation of this appliance. This is especially true of older garbage disposals that lack noise-reduction designs. However, a humming noise from a garbage disposal can indicate a functional problem. This is especially true if the garbage disposal hums but the impeller plate does not appear to spin and the unit itself is not working. A look at the causes of humming disposal can point you in the right direction of contacting a plumbing expert to fix it.

Obstructed Impellers

A garbage disposal is not full of razor-sharp blades that can slice through anything you pour into it. Instead, it contains a rotating disc with blunt agitating edges known as “impellers.” As explained, the impeller disc grinds waste into a more manageable or disposable form. If a home occupant places the wrong objects inside of a garbage disposal unit, these items can obstruct the movement of your impeller disc.

Examples of foreign objects include cutlery, food bones, bottle caps, or toys. If an unsuspecting person then flips the switch to turn on the garbage disposal, the electricity will still activate the motor. When the motor tries to power the disc, the failed rotation will produce a loud humming sound. Never attempt to reach into the unit to remove the item yourself as this could be dangerous. A professional plumber can troubleshoot the issue and remove foreign objects from your appliance.

Clogged Disposal

Just as you cannot put silverware or foreign objects into disposal, there are also various food items that you should never pour into the unit. These items include hot oil or grease, coffee grounds, peanut butter, popcorn kernels, or clam shells. The wrong items can clog the impeller wheel so that it stops moving. When you turn on the power switch, the motor still receives electricity. However, the jammed disc will not move. As a result, all you will hear is a humming sound.

The wrong items can also remain lodged in the garbage disposal chamber and eventually produce a foul odor. If you have been pouring the wrong items down the garbage disposal, contact a plumbing service to make repairs. Anything from corn husks to artichoke stems can clog this appliance, so it is important to get a professional to diagnose the issue and then implement better kitchen practices going forward.

Tripped Breaker or GFCI Switch

If the garbage disposal motor powers on but the spinning disc does not rotate, the problem could result from a tripped circuit breaker or GFCI outlet. GFCI is an acronym for ground-fault circuit interrupter. Electricians install this device in locations where an electrical circuit could accidentally come in contact with water. Common locations for GFCI outlets include kitchen sinks, bathrooms, laundry rooms, or garages.

If the GFCI senses the potential for electric shock, the device will shut off power to avoid problems like electrocution. Similarly, circuit breakers can also turn off if there is too much electricity flowing through them or if they can no longer handle the excess of a current load. In garbage disposals, GFCI outlets and circuit breaker trips commonly happen when the device is overheating, so it is essential to contact a trained technician to safely evaluate the issue.

Overheated Unit

An overheated unit can also produce unwanted humming sounds. Overheating often occurs when pulverizing components have worn out in older devices. It can also occur if you have been using the unit for an extended period of time without taking a break. In addition, it can occur when a user fails to run water while operating the unit. Water helps lubricate the grinding mechanism and flushes the pulverized waste down the drain.

Without flowing water, the friction and accumulated scraps can cause the device to overheat. If you notice other signs like the smell of smoke or a unit that repeatedly halts and stops, reach out to a plumber for troubleshooting. A plumber can fix the issue or replace the unit if it is past its normal life expectancy.

Faulty Motor

The average lifespan of a garbage disposal is 10 to 15 years. If your unit is approaching the end of this period, one of the common signs is motor failure. Once a motor has begun to fail, the device may hum or rumble but no other spinning will occur. Badly connected wiring can also cause motors to blow out. Less commonly, a newly installed disposal can also have a defective motor. When this is the case, you will need to refer to your appliance warranty. A professional plumber can then install the correct device within the home.

Can I Fix a Humming Garbage Disposal Myself?

Some homeowners may wonder if they can fix a garbage disposal by unplugging and re-plugging it or using commercial products like liquid drain cleaner. However, it is far smarter to allow a professional to inspect, troubleshoot, and correct any garbage disposal issues. Foremost, garbage disposals involve close connections to circuits and electrical wiring. With the right training, tampering with these connections can create a safety hazard and result in electric shock or even death.

Similarly, attempting to remove problems like clogs using chemical cleaners can introduce harmful toxins and acids into your plumbing. These chemicals contaminate the water supply and damage your pipes over time. Finally, attempting to fix a motor or impeller issue yourself can make the problem worse. A professional company has the tools and equipment necessary to fix the unit correctly.

Contact Us Today

Humming garbage disposals can indicate problems with your unit’s internal components. These problems impede the ability of your unit to perform adequately. Cozy Home Services provides the best garbage disposal services for homes in Vacaville, CA, and surrounding areas. We offer garbage disposal troubleshooting as well as new installation and repair. Our plumbers can also provide leak detection and drain cleaning. Other services include water softening and water filtration. No matter the kitchen plumbing issue, contact Cozy Home Services for your home service needs.