How to Use a Garbage Disposal Reset Button

Updated: May 09, 2024

Learn how the red reset button on garbage disposals helps prevent overloading and overheating when your unit malfunctions.

Before getting to know garbage disposals, I naively assumed you could throw down any old pile of foodstuff, and it would mulch it effortlessly. However, if you put something down your garbage disposal you shouldn’t have, forget to run cold water while grinding, or the waste pile is too big, it can create clogs or jams. Fortunately, the reset button on garbage disposals — also known as the overload protector — can kick in to prevent overheating, motor damage or electrical concerns.

I spoke to a professional plumber and garbage disposal manufacturer to learn more about this built-in safety feature and why it’s worth troubleshooting before calling the pros if the button keeps tripping.

What Does the Garbage Disposal Reset Button Do?

“The garbage disposal reset button is similar to an electrical circuit breaker and is a safety device on the unit,” licensed plumber Shaylin King says. If your unit suddenly stops working, first you should check if the reset button has popped out. The button shuts off the garbage disposal if it malfunctions, you accidentally misuse it, or there’s a bigger electrical problem causing a power overload. This prevents further damage to the disposal and fire risks.

Where Is the Garbage Disposal Reset Button?

“Moen garbage disposals have a red reset button on the front of the unit,” Jeremy Gattozzi, senior category Manager of disposals at Moen, says. “It’s located towards the very bottom of the garbage disposal, on the opposite side from the power cord. The location and color of the reset button on garbage disposals is the same for most units. Normally, the little red switch sits flush against the unit. When the power trips, the button noticeably pops out.

Do All Garbage Disposals Have Reset Buttons?

“Most garbage disposals have reset buttons,” King says. If the unit stops working and you’re struggling to find it, check the manufacturer’s manual or call the company’s customer service department.

What Causes a Garbage Disposal Reset Button to Trip?

According to King, the most common reason the reset button on a garbage disposal trips is because the motor jams when items get stuck in the grind chamber. When this happens, the unit might make a humming sound as the motor still tries to turn.

If the reset button pops and there is no humming or signs of a jam, the unit could be clogged further down or overheated, or there could be an electrical breaker issue.

What to Do When the Garbage Disposal Reset Button Trips?

You’ll probably have to do some detective work to establish the cause of the garbage disposal reset button trip. Follow the steps below to get your unit up and running again.

  1. King advises immediately changing the unit’s wall switch to “OFF” when the garbage disposal unit suddenly stops working.
  2. Wait five minutes for the motor to cool down if it has overheated.
  3. Turn the unit back on.
  4. “Test the unit by pushing the reset button,” King says. Flip the wall switch for the unit to “OFF” again if it still doesn’t spin after this.
  5. Try steps two to four again.
  6. Check the unit’s circuit breaker panel to see if the breaker has flipped to the “OFF” position because of an electrical issue. If this occurs, flip the switch back to “ON.”
  7. Alternatively, check for items jamming the unit’s blades. Remove anything visible using needle nose pliers or kitchen tongs. Never try to lift things out by hand.
  8. If anything is stuck in the blades, turn them using the handle of a wooden spoon or by inserting the manufacturer’s hex key (Allen wrench) at the unit’s base.
  9. Repeat steps 3 and 4 again.
  10. If the reset button keeps popping out, King recommends calling service professionals at this point. “This will require further diagnostics to determine if it is just jammed, [there is another issue], or if the unit is worn out and needs to be replaced,” he says.

How Long Should You Hold the Garbage Disposal Reset Button?

According to Gattozzi, you simply need to push the red reset button on the garbage disposal gently until it clicks into place and remains retracted. If the unit is working properly, it doesn’t need holding in for any length of time to reset the system or stay retracted.

Can You Replace the Reset Button on a Garbage Disposal

“The reset button cannot be changed if it continually pops,” King says. If the button won’t stay retracted, even if there is no apparent cause, he explains this could indicate the unit has an electrical short and requires professional garbage disposal replacement.

King explains that the grind chamber blades dull over time, and the mechanical and electrical elements won’t last forever. “The life expectancy of a unit depends on its quality, but is usually five to 10 years,” he says.

About the Experts

Jeremy Gattozzi is the Senior Category Manager of Disposals at Moen. The company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of plumbing products, including garbage disposals; email interview, Apr. 22, 2024

Shaylin King is the Owner of Mr. Rooter of Tri-Cities, Yakima, and Hermiston, a Neighborly company. He is a 25-year journeyman plumber; email interview, Apr. 25, 2024