Garbage Disposal Blades Loose? (Here’s a Quick Fix)

Whether you’re a pro chef or a passionate home cook, the garbage disposal unit comes in handy each time you clean fruits and veggies in the sink. The device shreds all food bits and scraps that you wash down the drain, preventing them from clogging your pipes. Problems may arise if the garbage disposal blades come loose and fail to do what they are supposed to do.

To fix the garbage disposal blades that are too loose, you have to unplug the device and remove it from the sink. Find the blade connection and tighten the nuts that fasten it. That said, it’s often recommended to get a new garbage disposal instead of troubleshooting a broken one.

Things You Will Need to Tighten Loose Garbage Disposal Blades

Troubleshooting a garbage disposal with loose blades is possible, but the job is tedious, to say the least. Calling in a specialist to fix it could also prove to be more expensive than replacing the device. If you still want to give it a try, here are the things that you’ll need:

  • Pipe wrench
  • Nut driver
  • Plumber’s tape
  • A wooden stick
  • Rags

How to Tighten Garbage Disposal Blades

Tightening the garbage disposal blades involves taking off the unit to access its top. Here’s how to do it.

1. Detach the garbage disposal unit

The blades of a garbage disposal unit are located at the top, right under the flange. They are supposed to be loose and blunt, but not as loose as to not be able to shred the food scraps.

To fasten them, you’ll have to detach the unit from the sink. Start with switching off the circuit breaker – while garbage disposal blades aren’t sharp; they can still harm you if your fingers get caught in the mechanism.

After you’ve turned off the electricity, unfasten the nut connecting the disposal to the sink flange with a pipe wrench.

2. Tighten the blades

The garbage disposal blades are held in place by two bolts at the top of the disposal unit. Use a nut driver to tighten each of these bolts, paying attention not to over tighten them – if the blades are too tight, they won’t be able to shred the food bits properly and could get stuck.

3. Inspect the garbage disposal for jams

Sometimes, the unit fails doing its job because food bits got stuck between the blades and the plate beneath them, and not because of loose blades.

Look inside the unit to see if there is anything jamming the mechanism. You could use a flashlight for a more accurate visual.

If you find food jamming the shredding mechanism, use a long stick to dislodge the scraps. This should fix the problem.

4. Reconnect the garbage disposal

Clean the threading on the sink flange and apply new plumber’s tape. Then, fasten the garbage disposal back onto the flange, using a pipe wrench to tighten the nut.

5. Switch on the circuit breaker and test

After you’ve installed the unit back, turn on the circuit breaker. Turn on the water faucet and let the water run for a minute or two. Use a paper tissue to tap the area around the flange and check for leaks. If nothing’s leaking, proceed to test the garbage disposal by washing a few bits of food down the drain.

Listen to the sounds coming from the unit to determine whether tightening the blades solved the issue or if you have to replace the unit with a new one.

Can You Replace Just The Blades On A Garbage Disposal?

Yes, you can replace just the blades on a garbage disposal – if you find replacement blades, that is. If you managed to find them as spare parts, follow the quick steps below to solve the problem.

How do you know if your garbage disposal is loose?

Garbage disposal blades are supposed to be loose and blunt; that’s the way garbage disposals operate, and often, that’s the reason why garbage disposal units are loud. However, they aren’t supposed to be very loose. When this happens, the noise gets incredibly loud, and the device won’t shred the food properly. Thus, it will get clogged.

The main way to tell whether the blades are too loose is by listening to the sounds it makes. If it sounds like a plane preparing to take off, the blades could be too loose.

How to Replace Loose Garbage Disposal Blades in 3 Easy Steps

1. Unplug and detach the garbage disposal

Follow the same steps highlighted above to turn off the circuit breaker and detach the garbage disposal from the sink flange with a pipe wrench.

2. Remove and replace the broken blades 

Use a nut driver to unfasten the two bolts holding the blades in place by turning them counterclockwise. Clean the plate with a rag, then install the new blades by fastening each of the two bolts holding them in place.

3. Re-attach the garbage disposal and test it

Clean the flange thread and apply new plumber’s tape. Fasten the garbage disposal back in its place by turning clockwise the nut connecting it to the flange.

Turn on the circuit breaker, then test for leaks by letting the water run for a few minutes. Wash a few bits of food down the drain to test the garbage disposal. That’s it.

7 Signs Of A Broken Garbage Disposal

While you could fix the blades of a garbage disposal, most units are supposed to be replaced when they break. Here are six signs that you need a new garbage disposal.

Abnormal Noises

Garbage disposals are noisy machines, but you get accustomed to their usual sound. If you suddenly hear noises you haven’t heard before, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong. You should investigate the unit, as sometimes a piece of silverware may slip into the grinding chamber unnoticed.

If you can’t see anything jamming the blades, it’s a sign your garbage disposal is breaking. You should call in a technician or a plumber to have it checked.

Frequent Clogging

Anyone who has used a garbage disposal before knows that all food scraps must be washed down the drain in small portions at a time. This prevents clogging the unit, and it usually allows you to run the device trouble-free for a long time.

However, if you notice that even the smallest amount of food results in clogs, it means that something is wrong.

Poor Performance

A garbage disposal unit that works properly shreds the garbage for a certain amount of time. Keep an eye on the performance and pay attention to any changes. If the unit suddenly needs more time to deal with a certain amount of food – or if it fails to shred it – you may have to replace the blades or buy a new disposal unit.

Persistent Odors

Persistent odors are closely linked to poor performance. They usually come from food scraps that are stuck inside the unit. These could be clogs or pieces of food that haven’t been shredded in the first place and that are rotting inside the machine.

You can detach the unit from the flange and look inside. If you see chunks of food, it is a clear sign that you need to replace it.

Water Leaks

Water leaking from the garbage disposal doesn’t necessarily indicate a faulty unit. For instance, if it leaks from the top or from the side, the reason is more likely related to a faulty plumbing system than a broken garbage disposal.

However, if it leaks from the bottom, it indicates a broken garbage disposal. You might not be able to fix such a problem, so replacing the unit is the best thing to do.

Frequent Resets

All garbage disposal units have a reset button that you should use when the device has to recover from a large load or a particularly big chunk of food. There are no other situations when you should hit the reset button, and the unit shouldn’t reset itself.

However, an aging unit might require more frequent resets. Some devices even require homeowners to reset them each time the unit turns on. This is a sign that the disposal has reached its lifespan and you need to replace it.

If the disposal starts to reset itself, it is an indicator of a faulty wire. Wiring problems can happen now and then and are generally easy to fix. However, you should call in a plumber or electrician to deal with the issue rather than fixing it yourself.

Power Issues

Another indicator of a broken disposal is one that has trouble turning itself on when necessary or that keeps shutting down and turning back on as you’re using it. Generally, these unexplained power issues indicate a failing motor. If you don’t repair or replace the unit, it will reach the point that it won’t turn on anymore.

7 Maintenance Tips For Your Garbage Disposal

Loose blades and troubleshooting aside, your garbage disposal also needs to be maintained. Make use of the tips below to keep the unit as new for longer.

Run the garbage disposal regularly

Most homeowners only turn on their garbage disposal when washing vegetables or cleaning the dishes manually. However, if this doesn’t happen too often in your kitchen, you should turn on the unit and run it regularly. In this way, you can protect its internal parts from rust and corrosion.

Keep the unit clean

You may think garbage disposal units are hard to clean, but all you have to do is drop a small quantity of dishwashing liquid down the drain and let the water run for a few minutes while the garbage disposal is on. This will help you flush all food scraps out of the unit.

Grind small quantities at a time

When you have a large quantity of food scraps to deal with, it’s tempting to shove them down the drain all at once. However, this could clog the garbage disposal. Instead, you should divide the quantity into small portions and feed them one at a time. Wait until the device shreds and flushes the waste down the drain until feeding the next chunk.

Let the water run while grinding

Another trick to prevent clogging is to let the water run while the unit is grinding. Sure, you may argue that turning the water off can help you save on utility bills and is more environmentally friendly, but a new garbage disposal is much more expensive.

Avoid shredding items other than food

Garbage disposals are designed to shred food, not miscellaneous items. Don’t flush down paper towels, plastic wrap, paper plates or cups, or anything else that isn’t food.

Never put grease or oil into the unit

Grease and oil can deposit on the blades and impeller, clogging the unit. Considering that you shouldn’t wash grease and oil down the drain at all, dispose of them properly (let them solidify in a pan and throw them in the garbage can).

Avoid grinding starchy foods

Potatoes, potato peels, pasta, rice, and other starchy foods should never go into the garbage disposal. These foods can cling onto the blades and impeller and are nearly impossible to clean. Throw them in the trash.


Tightening loose garbage disposal blades or replacing them isn’t excessively hard, but you may still have doubts. Here are a few questions you might like answered.

What do garbage disposal blades look like?

Garbage disposal blades aren’t blades in the true sense of the word. They are actually two blunt impellers mounted on a plate that spins rapidly when the unit is turned on. The centrifugal force pushes the food toward the sides of the grinding chamber, where it passes through a stationary grind ring. The ring’s metal teeth tear the food into tiny pieces that are then flushed down the drain.

Should garbage disposal impellers move?

Yes, the garbage disposal impellers should move, and they should do so easily. If they feel stuck, something might jam the mechanism, or the disposal is clogged.

Final Thoughts

The garbage disposal blades seem easy to tighten or replace, but in reality, fixing the unit is more complicated than it seems. Because the blades should be loose, it is hard to figure out how much to tighten them. Replacement blades are also difficult to come by, while a professional will charge you quite a lot to service the device. For these reasons, you might be better off buying a new garbage disposal.

Recent Posts