A garbage disposal is an essential part of any kitchen, but when the blades become loose, they don’t function correctly and can cause great inconvenience. Instead of calling in a professional, you may be able to tighten your garbage disposal’s blades yourself.
Here’s how to tighten your garbage disposal blades in seven easy steps:
- Cut power to the disposal.
- Diagnose the problem.
- Clear out waste.
- Disconnect the garbage disposal from the sink.
- Tighten the bolts next to the blades.
- Reconnect the garbage disposal.
- Restore power to the garbage disposal and check it.
Read on for more detailed instructions about tightening your garbage disposal blades.
1. Cut Power to the Disposal
Most people know that they should never put their hands in a garbage disposal when it’s running. Therefore, if you want to repair something inside the garbage disposal, you need to cut power to it completely.
You can generally find a garbage disposal’s plug directly underneath it and below the sink. After unplugging your garbage disposal, you might want to switch off the circuit breaker providing power to your kitchen just to play it safe.
It’s worth double-checking once you’ve cut the power by flipping your garbage disposal switch.
2. Diagnose the Problem
Now that you’ve cut power to the garbage disposal, you can check if loose blades are the problem. You might already be pretty sure that the blades are loose because your garbage disposal isn’t working as effectively as it usually does. Other signs include:
- A loud grinding or rattling noise when operating the garbage disposal.
- A blocked sink drain due to the loose blades not grinding food waste effectively.
- A smell emanating from the garbage disposal.
Before examining your garbage disposal, gather a few essential items:
- Allen key or small wrench. Most garbage disposals come with a customized allen key to allow the owner to loosen the impeller.
- Safety gloves. Although you’ll be working with the power off, there’s still a risk of cutting yourself on the garbage disposal’s sharp parts, and a high-quality pair of safety gloves can mitigate this risk.
- Flashlight. A good flashlight allows you to see the garbage disposal’s parts clearly. If you don’t have a flashlight (or fresh batteries), you could use the one on your phone.
- Pipe wrench. You’ll need a pipe wrench to loosen the garbage disposal from the sink.
- Broom. If you find that your garbage disposal has stubborn clogs, a broom handle can help you to dislodge them.
- Nut driver. A nut driver allows you to tighten the bolts surrounding the blades.
- Pliers. Using pliers to remove old food waste is far less disgusting than doing it with your gloved hands.
- Kitchen towel or an old rag. Working on a garbage disposal can be messy, so ensure that you have some kitchen towel or an old rag handy.
Before opening up your garbage disposal, it’s worth checking if resetting it will resolve the problem with the blades. A garbage disposal’s blades can sometimes freeze up, but pressing the red reset button underneath the unit can help.
If pressing the reset button didn’t work, ask someone to hold a flashlight above your garbage disposal and check the blades by gently rotating them. If they easily move sideways, the problem isn’t blade-related, but if they move up and down, they need tightening as the bolts that keep them in place have loosened.
While you’re under the garbage disposal, you should also ensure there are no water leaks, which could indicate another issue.
3. Clear Out Waste
Now that you’ve determined that your garbage disposal’s blades are loose, you can move on to the next step. Unfortunately, you’ll need to clear out any waste surrounding the blades to give you easy access to the bolts.
The safest way to do this is with your pliers, but you could also use your hands (as long as you’re wearing robust safety gloves).
You can remove the waste and throw it in the trash, or push it farther into the garbage disposal. You might need to use your broom handle to dislodge large pieces of stubborn food waste.
When you’re satisfied that you’ve cleared out most of the junk, throw a bit of water down the garbage disposal to clear it out more thoroughly.
4. Disconnect the Garbage Disposal From the Sink
Before you can tighten the bolts around the blades, you need to see them clearly. You can do this by disconnecting the garbage disposal from the sink.
Look underneath the garbage disposal and locate the nut or disposal screw that connects it to the sink. It’s usually located in the middle of the under section.
Using your pipe wrench, unscrew it, and place the nut where you’ll find it later. If your garbage disposal came with an allen key and you still have it, you can use that to loosen it.
5. Tighten the Bolts Next to the Blades
The fifth step involves tightening the bolts or rivets surrounding the garbage disposal’s blades. This will ensure that the impeller plate can move them correctly to grind up food effectively.
Locate the rotating impeller plate that moves the blades, and then tighten the rivets around them with your drive nut.
When you’re finished, check if they’re tight enough by manually rotating them. If they no longer move up and down, congratulations, you’ve successfully tightened your garbage disposal’s blades!
6. Reconnect the Garbage Disposal
Now that your garbage disposal’s blades have been tightened, you can reconnect the garbage disposal to the sink.
You can do this using the same method you disconnected it (with a pipe wrench or allen key). Before moving on to the next step, make sure that you’ve reconnected the disposal firmly and that the unit’s vibrations won’t cause the nuts to come loose.
7. Restore Power to the Garbage Disposal and Check It
The final step is to restore power to your garbage disposal and check that it’s working correctly. Plug your garbage disposal back in, and restore power by turning on the circuit breaker switch.
To check if it’s operating as it should, throw a few ice cubes down the garbage disposal, and then turn it on. The blades should crush the ice easily.
If they’re still not working effectively, it may be time to replace the blades or call in a professional.
You may also want to read: Can You Put Potato Peels or Eggshells in the Garbage Disposal?
Can I Repair Damaged Garbage Disposal Blades?
If you opened up your garbage disposal only to discover that the blades were not only loose but also damaged, you might wonder what to do.
You can’t usually repair damaged garbage disposal blades, but you can replace them. It’s best to leave blade replacement to a professional. However, you might find that replacing the blades costs more than buying a new garbage disposal.
Garbage disposals typically have a lifespan of between ten and fifteen years. If your blades are damaged and your garbage disposal is already quite old, it’s probably more cost-effective to buy a new one.
After you’ve paid for the garbage disposal expert’s labor and for the new blades, the cost could be similar to buying and installing a new unit.
Many garbage disposal suppliers offer five-year warranties, so if your relatively new disposal stops working, it’s worth checking if you still have a warranty in place.
See also: Can You Put Drain Cleaner in a Garbage Disposal?
As you can see, tightening loose garbage disposal blades involves several steps and various tools. However, if you follow the above steps closely, the process is simple, even for DIY amateurs.
If your garbage disposal’s blades are damaged, it’s worth weighing the costs of replacing them or buying a new garbage disposal.