What Direction Do Garbage Disposals Spin (And Why)?

Having a garbage disposal installed in your sink is a very helpful feature because it eliminates the need to keep food out of the sink drain, making it easier to clean dishes. This appliance functions by grinding the food down against grated edges, not shredding it with blades like blenders. But what direction do disposals run, and is there a reason for it?

Garbage disposals spin clockwise when breaking up food. Some disposals can turn in the other direction to help dislodge any food stuck in the mechanism. Garbage disposals work by using centrifugal force, which pushes food off a spinning plate and against the grind ring on the side of the chamber.

Garbage disposals only grind food while spinning in one direction, and they are all pretty universal. Keep reading to understand why it is important for a garbage disposal to spin in the proper direction and more!

How Disposals Work

Before we talk about the details of the direction garbage disposal spins in and the reasons behind this, it is helpful to have an understanding of how a garbage disposal works. Garbage disposal is not made up of blades like a blender, but rather it has a stationary grinding ring, almost like a round cheese grater, that pushes food against the sides. How does it all work though?

While the grinding ring with sharp-edged holes does not spin, it still grinds up food well. The metal plate in the center of the disposal is what spins. As the metal plate spins, centrifugal force pushes food to the edges, right into the grinding ring that will break the food up into little pieces.

It is encouraged to run water while the disposal is running. This helps make it easier for the food to slip through the small holes after being ground up. Water in the disposal also helps clean out any bits of food caught against the bolts on the spinning plate. If food gets stuck in the disposal, it can make your sink smell like rotting food.

Spin Direction

Almost every garbage disposal will spin in a clockwise pattern as it runs. However, there have been cases where people have rewired their systems and accidentally reversed the spin direction of the disposal. This is a rare occurrence, but when it does happen, it is a problem that needs fixing.

Your garbage disposal will not be able to break up food properly if it is not spinning in the correct direction. The grind ring on a garbage disposal has sharp edges that are angled so that they can break apart food coming at them in a clockwise direction. When the disposal spins counterclockwise, the sharp edges won’t catch on the food, and it will continue to spin around without breaking down. This renders your disposal quite useless and should be fixed as quickly as possible. This could also lead to clogs or rotting food.

When garbage disposals are not running, they can be manually spun in either direction. The spinning portion sits on a rotator and can turn either way when the mechanics are not engaged. If your disposal has something caught around the rotating pieces, it might be helpful to grab a pair of tongs or a butter knife and gently rotate the inside piece back and forth. This technique should loosen anything that’s caught in the mechanisms while keeping your hand safe! Even if you are using tongs to spin the disposal, be careful not to turn it on. If the metal gets caught in the disposal, it could damage the grind ring.

Auto-Reverse Disposals

In some cases, garbage disposals are designed to spin in either direction. These models are often called “Auto-reverse disposals.” This is a feature that enables them to spin in the opposite direction for the purpose of clearing out blockages or stuck food.

Auto-reverse models usually activate on their own when a jam begins to form. Owners won’t need to do anything as the disposal works because it will begin to rotate back and forth to dislodge clogs or jams. This feature is especially desirable if your old disposal is frequently clogged. When there isn’t a clog, the disposal will spin clockwise.

The auto-reverse feature does not come standard with every garbage disposal, so it’s a good idea to check if a new model that you are looking at has this ability. If you’re shopping in person, be sure to ask the sales associates about auto-reversing models. If the garbage disposal has the auto-reverse feature, you will notice it spinning back and forth while active.

How to Fix a Disposal

If you’re still having trouble with your disposal and are concerned that the rotating plate has changed direction, you should contact a plumber who can come and do maintenance on it. If you do not want to hire a plumber, you can do maintenance work at your disposal by yourself! This is not a job that is too difficult if you pay close attention when learning how to fix it.

Before you Begin

Before you start fiddling with the garbage disposal, you must check the electricity flowing to it. Check the circuit breaker for disposal and make sure that it is on. With a jammed garbage disposal, you should hear a humming sound, even if the plate is not spinning. Turn off the electricity at the disposal.

Getting rid of Jams

At the bottom of the disposal, there should be a hexagon-shaped recess that a 1/4 Allen wrench will fit into (the exact size may vary depending on the model). Start by turning the wrench counterclockwise and then clockwise until you feel that there is no longer an obstruction. If there is still resistance in the disposal, use a special disposer wrench to access the cutter wheel from the sink drain. With force, turn it counter-clockwise and then clockwise to finally free a jam. This should get your disposal spinning in the correct direction because it won’t have to try to unclog itself by spinning in the wrong direction.

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