How To Fix Loose Garbage Disposal Blades (Quickly & Easily!)

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall
Loose garbage disposal blades are close to useless and require your immediate attention. Luckily, it is a simple task and requires that you simply tighten two bolts. Follow along as we explore the 5 simple steps it takes to tighten garbage disposal blades.

A garbage disposal can come in handy for anyone who likes cooking. Without one, clean-up after meals can be a much longer process. If you notice that your garbage disposal isn’t functioning properly, it’s best to address it sooner than later.

If your garbage disposal has loose blades, find the loose connection and tighten the two bolts that hold them in place. Make sure that there is nothing trapped under the blades before tightening.

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How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

A garbage disposal has a flywheel, cutting blades, impellers, and a motor. The flywheel spins at 2,000 revolutions per minute. The impellers then partially grind the food and guide it into the blades, pulverizing the food.

The food must fit between the flywheel and canister in order to enter the drain. Sometimes food can get stuck during this process. When it does, the flywheel can’t spin properly, and the disposal won’t work.

How to Tighten Loose Garbage Disposal Blades

An electric garbage disposal connected to a kitchen sink typically contains two stainless steel blades for chopping and grinding food. Over time, the bolts that hold the blades in position can loosen. This causes the blades to wobble and vibrate.

Follow the steps below to tighten the blades.

Step 1: Turn Off the Circuit Breaker

Turn off the circuit breaker to the garbage disposal to prevent getting injured while checking the disposal.

Step 2: Detach the Garbage Disposal from the Sink

Using a pipe wrench, unscrew the nut that holds the disposal to the bottom of the sink.

Step 3: Check for Jams in the Garbage Disposal

While the disposal is disconnected, determine if there is anything jammed between the plate and the blades. Tighten the two bolts that hold the blades in position at the top of the disposal with a nut driver.

Step 4: Remove Any Debris on the Flange

Remove any debris or grime found on the flange.

Step 5: Reconnect the Garbage Disposal to the Sink and Reset

Reconnect the garbage disposal to the sink drain using a pipe wrench, then turn back on the circuit breaker. Finally, press the red reset button on the bottom of the garbage disposal to finish the repair.

How to Replace Loose Garbage Disposal Blades

One of the most common issues associated with a garbage disposal is loose blades. This can arise from everyday use and is easy to fix. However, sometimes you must replace the disposal blades due to excessive wear.

Follow the steps below to replace loose garbage disposal blades.

Step 1: Unplug the Garbage Disposal

Unplug the garbage disposal before you start working on the unit. You usually find disposals beneath the sink and can unplug them from there. Assure it’s off by turning the switch off and on, and as an extra precaution, turn it off at the breaker.

Step 2: Place a Bucket Under the Sink

Place a bucket under the sink to catch any water that may drip while you’re working.

Step 3: Unscrew the Garbage Disposal

Using a pipe wrench, unscrew the drain pipe from the side, then unscrew the disposal from the drain. Be careful during this step as the garbage disposal will be heavy.

Step 4: Remove and Replace the Blades

Remove the blades by loosening the bolts. A cloth or towel may help maintain your grip while doing this. Once you remove the blades, you can place new ones on and bolt them into place.

Most professionals suggest using stainless steel blades as a replacement as they are more durable and of higher quality.

Other Reasons Your Garbage Disposal Doesn’t Work

As long as you’re careful about what you put down your drain, you shouldn’t have issues with your garbage disposal. However, accidents happen, and sometimes the wrong food will find its way into the disposal, causing it not to work.

Power Is Off

The motor on garbage disposals has an emergency shutoff switch to prevent the motor from overheating when the flywheel gets stuck. When the switch flips, you won’t hear anything from the disposal. You can reset the garbage disposal by pressing the red button on the side or underside of the motor housing.

If you still don’t hear anything after you reset it, the circuit to the disposal may have tripped. Find the main panel in your home that controls the garbage disposal and flip the breaker.

Blockage In the Disposal

If there’s a blockage, you will hear a humming sound in the garbage disposal instead of the familiar grinding noise. If you keep it on long enough, the shutoff switch could trip. To clear the blockage, spin the flywheel counterclockwise using a ¼-inch Allen key.

You can find the slot on the underside of the motor housing in the middle. After reversing the flywheel, flush the garbage disposal with water and turn on the switch. The blockage will usually flush down the drain.

Blockage In the Drain

Like your garbage disposal, your drain can become blocked with food items and cause water to back up into the sink. To clear the blockage, you need to disassemble the drain pipe from the garbage disposal and clean the pipes.

It’s not recommended to put any drain cleaner into the garbage disposal. Drain cleaner won’t release the blockage, and it can make cleaning the drain manually more difficult.

The Dos and Don’ts When You Have a Garbage Disposal

You can avoid most garbage disposal troubles through proper maintenance. Check out the dos and don’ts below to avoid costly mistakes and how to keep your disposal in top condition.

The Dos of Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal

Maintaining your garbage disposal by following these tips will extend the life of your disposal and prevent mishaps.

  • Keep your garbage disposal clean by occasionally pouring dish soap inside the disposal and running cold water for a minute.
  • Run your garbage disposal regularly to prevent rust and corrosion. It can also ensure that all parts are moving properly. 
  • Always grind food with a steady flow of cold water. Coldwater is important to allow any grease or oils to solidify and get chopped up before reaching the trap.
  • Cut any large items into small pieces. Put them into the garbage disposal one piece at a time. 

The Don’ts

The most important rule of thumb is to not put anything in the garbage disposal that isn’t biodegradable food. The garbage disposal is for food scraps only. Non-food items can damage the blades and the motor.

  • Never grind glass, plastic, metal, or paper. Don’t grind anything combustible, and don’t grind cigarettes. 
  • You should never put grease, oil, or fat into the garbage disposal or the drain. This grease can accumulate and clog your drains. 
  • Don’t use hot water to grind any food waste. Hot water can cause grease to liquify. 
  • Don’t grind fibrous materials like corn husks, celery stalks, or onion skins. Fibers can become tangled and jam the garbage disposal motor or block the drain. 
  • Don’t turn off the motor or water until the grinding finishes. Turn off the garbage disposal first, then let the water run for at least 15 more seconds. This will flush out any remaining particles. 
  • You should never put foods like pasta and rice down the garbage disposal as they can expand and cause clogs. 
  • Don’t put large amounts of potato peels down the garbage disposal. The starch in the potatoes will turn into a thick paste and cause the blades to stick.

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Related Questions

Why is my garbage disposal making a rattling noise?

If your garbage disposal is making a humming, grinding, or rattling noise, you most likely have a jammed grinder chamber. Food or other debris sometimes becomes trapped in the chamber, resulting in a rattling noise. To resolve the issue, shut the power off to the garbage disposal and inspect for any blockages. If there is no visible jam, the problem may be with the motor or motor start capacitor. The noise could also be the result of a defective grinding plate, grinding ring, or motor assembly. If this is the case, you should replace your garbage disposal.

How do I remove a foul odor from the garbage disposal?

If a bad odor starts coming from your garbage disposal, there are at-home options that are easy and inexpensive. Periodically, take a lemon or orange and toss it into the disposal. The oils, juice, and peels from the fruit naturally clean the disposal and create a fresh scent. Frozen vinegar cubes are another option. Freeze vinegar in ice cube trays and put them down the disposal. This will help keep your blades sharp and kill any bacteria that may cause odors. For stubborn odors, pour baking soda into the drain and let it sit for a few hours, then run water and the disposal.

What is the average cost to replace a garbage disposal?

Garbage disposals make life and cleanup much easier. Fortunately, installing a garbage disposal is relatively easy too and will cost about $75. However, when in doubt, it’s always best to contact a professional. Garbage disposal installation can cost between $80 to $720. On average, disposal installation runs about $400. Before choosing a plumber, contact several to compare quotes and get the best price for your situation.

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Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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