Can Garbage Disposals Overheat?

The garbage disposal is one of the greatest misunderstood gems of the kitchen. This little unit makes it much easier to shred and dispose of food waste with a simple flip of a switch. But these machines work hard, so can they overheat?

Garbage disposals can overheat if they get clogged with material or are used too often. Disposals that are run for a long period of time or process tough materials can work too hard, overheat, and shut down. When a garbage disposal overheats, it will automatically shut off.

If you’re trying to run the disposal and don’t even hear a hum, it may have shut off due to a clog or overheating. To learn more about garbage disposal overheating, how to remove clogs, and some dos and don’ts, read below.

Overheating Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals function by taking food scraps and grinding them through a series of small holes in order to help them flow through pipes more easily.

While they’re just shredding little scraps that come off of dishes and utensils, there shouldn’t be any problem. But if you try to dispose of large or tough materials, your disposal can get clogged and might get overheated when they try to grind down these tough materials.

When a disposal unit overheats, it will automatically shut off. You won’t be able to activate it again until the device cools down or the blockage has been removed. Some models will activate a small light or button on the disposal, while others just won’t turn on (or even hum) when they’re activated.

The video below gives a great demonstration of how garbage disposals work. It doesn’t involve spinning blades like a blender and instead uses centrifugal force to grind the food scraps against the slotted edges of the unit.

Removing Clogs And Blockages

So your garbage disposal overheated… now what do you do?

One of the major reasons why disposals overheat is blockages or clogs. If something it too tough to break down, it can get clogged in the moving parts of a disposal. Some scraps can also build up in the pipes and pieces of your disposal over time, so maintenance might be necessary.

If you’re interested in unclogging your disposal, there are a few things you should do.

1. First and foremost, unplug your disposal. It shouldn’t activate until you flip the switch, but you don’t want to take any changes when you’re poking around in the mechanisms.

2. Give it a few minutes to cool down. Sometimes garbage disposals just spin too fast for too long and overheat from this motion. Wait for at least 5 minutes before trying to fix anything.

3. Press the reset button. Many garbage disposals have a small button that will pop out when the unit shuts down. Resetting this button is similar to flipping a breaker for your home’s electricity. Push the button back in, plus the disposal back in, and try to activate it.

4. If the disposal hums and doesn’t spin, that means that there is a blockage somewhere. If this is the case, unplug the unit again and get ready to locate the clog.

5. Shine a flashlight into the disposal opening. Try to look at all the edges and see if you can identify an item that is causing the blockage. If you do see something, carefully try to dislodge it with a pair of tongs.

6. If you cannot see the source of the blockage, or if removing it doesn’t help, it might be time to call outside help. You don’t want to risk damaging the disposal or yourself by messing with it too much.

If you’re interested in doing your own home repairs, this article gives a good step-by-step guide to fixing disposals.

The Dos And Don’ts Of Garbage Disposals

Although there are ways to fix disposals that have overheated or become clogged, prevention is always the best thing to aim for!

Garbage disposals are designed to make life easier in the kitchen, and they can handle a lot of wear and tear. But there are still some best practices that every owner should follow in order to keep their gear functional for years to come.


1. Run water while the disposal is active. Water can dislodge stuck-on pieces of food and will help the unit spin more easily.

2. Use cold water when running the disposal. Hot water can push greasy residue further down into pipes, causing bigger problems later. Cold water solidifies these materials and makes it easier to shred and process them.

3. Continue to throw things away in the garbage. Don’t use the garbage disposal as a replacement for your garbage can! It can only handle food scraps and small items, so don’t try to overload it or use it too often.

4. Clean the garbage disposal regularly. This will help prevent buildup, stains, and bad odors. Use vinegar and baking soda to clean the disposal, then wash it all down with a spin cycle of cold water.


1. Don’t use ice, eggshells, or other coarse items to sharpen blades or clean the unit. Disposals use blunt edges, not sharp blades. These food items won’t help with the maintenance process.

2. Don’t pour grease down the sink’s drain. Grease is infamous for blocking pipes and causing plumbing damage down the line. Pour grease into old cans, let it solidify, then throw it in the garbage can.

3. Don’t empty rice, bread, pasta, or other expansive foods into the disposal. When these starchy, dry foods are exposed to water, they expand. This can cause a mess in your disposal and pipes.

4. Don’t try to process bones, nuts, shells, or other hard foods. Disposals aren’t all-powerful, and they’ll have a hard time shedding these tough items.

5. Don’t try to process stringy foods such as bananas, celery, and the outer layers of onions. Because disposals rely on spinning motions, stringy foods can get wrapped around the motors and cause strain and possibly overheating.

6. Don’t process coffee grounds, potato peels, or other items that compact easily. These foods can easily build up in your disposal and pipes, even in their finely shredded state.

7. Don’t dispose of non-food items. Don’t use your garbage disposal to get rid of plastic, cardboard, or any other non-organic waste. It wasn’t designed for this purpose and can become damaged. You also don’t want to add these materials to the water supply!

Related Topics:

If you like the article above, here are some other similar articles you should check out!

The Life Expectancy of Garbage Disposals (With 15 Examples)

Best Food Waste Disposal Units for the UK-220 Volts

Best Kitchen Trash Cans

Recent Posts