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How to Turn On a Garbage Disposal Without a Switch

How to Turn On a Garbage Disposal Without a Switch

Garbage disposals are a very convenient kitchen appliance. They grind food waste washed into the sink to avoid blocking the pipes. If you want to install a garbage disposal, you also have to install a switch that doesn’t come with all disposal packages. So can you run garbage disposal without a switch?

Most garbage disposal units require a type of switch to work. Without a switch, you cannot turn on the garbage disposal. However, batch feed disposals do not require a wall switch. To activate batch feed disposals, you need to insert your food waste, place the drain plug, and twist and push like a key to turn on the grinder. Garbage disposals must have a switch for safety reasons. When there is a clog, you will need to turn the unit off at the switch to remove any blockage manually.

Types of Garbage Disposal Switches

There are three types of garbage disposal switches;

  1. Air switch
  2. Wireless switch
  3. Toe kick switch

1. Air Switch

Manufacturers invented the air switches to reduce the risk of electrocution because most times, your hands are wet when using the garbage disposal. Air switches are electrical-free appliances that turn your disposal on and off.

How does an air switch work?

An air switch includes an air push button, an airtight tube, and a power control unit. You press the air push button,  a pulse of air goes through an airtight tube to the control unit underneath the sink, where there is an air pressure switch. The control unit activates and powers the garbage disposal to grind. When finished, press the air switch again, and the garbage grinder powers off.

When buying an air switch, make sure its push buttons are compatible with your garbage disposal; otherwise, it will not work.

Pros of an air switch

  • It is safe to use, and it prevents electrocution.
  • It is installed conveniently on the sink, near the faucet. You do not have to bend to power it on and off.
  • It is available in a variety of colors to complement different countertop designs and color schemes.
  • It is compatible with most garbage disposal models since it uses the standard power rating method.

Cons of an air switch

  • You will incur additional installation costs.
  • You will have to drill the countertop to install an air switch.
  • The switch is prone to corrosion as it’s always in contact with chemicals.

2. Wireless Switch

These switches are also known as remote switches since you operate them using wireless remote control.

How does a wireless switch work?

The wireless switch has two components; the remote control and the power module. You plug in the power module, a 3-pin adapter, to the disposal’s wall socket, then connect the disposer’s power cord to the power module. Switch on the power supply socket, and the power module activates. Press the power button on the remote control, and it sends a signal to the power module, which activates the garbage disposal. Press the same power button on the remote control to turn off the garbage disposal.

Check this too: Kenmore Garbage Disposal How to & Troubleshooting Guide

Pros of a wireless switch

  • It is safe from electrocution when using the remote control with wet hands.
  • It is convenient as you can use the remote control from a distance. You can fix it on a wall near the sink.
  • The wireless switch is a straightforward install.
  • No drilling of the countertop is necessary.

Cons of a wireless switch

  • The remote control is not as aesthetically pleasing as an air switch if you attach it to the wall.
  • You can easily misplace the remote control.

3. Toe Kick Switch

This garbage disposal switch is a hands-free design that uses a foot switch that turns your garbage disposal on and off. The toe switch is only compatible with garbage disposals with a rate of 1hp or less. Garbage disposals with motors greater than 1hp may damage the switch mechanism, or the disposal may not respond to the switch.

How does the toe kick switch works?

Connect the power cord to the toe kick switch and secure the switch to the bottom edge of the sink cabinet. Connect the adapter end of the power cord to the power outlet underneath the sink and plug in the disposal’s cable. Gently kick the switch with your foot, and it sends electric signals which turn the garbage disposal on and release the switch to turn it off.

Pros of a toe kick switch

  • It is hand-free, which reduces the risk of electrocution.
  • No drilling is necessary during installation.
  • It is straightforward to install.
  • The switch location is very discreet.

Cons of a toe kick switch

  • There are reports that it has a slow response time.
  • It is a slightly new technology in the market.

Common Places to Install a Garbage Disposal Switch

Garbage disposal switches have to be installed within reach so that you can switch them on and off when using the sink. Air switches do not use an electric circuit; therefore, you can mount them on the kitchen counter, sink or wall mount. The wall mount is not very popular as someone can confuse it with a light switch. They come in different styles; therefore, they blend well with the kitchen decor.

It is best to mount a traditional wall switch on the wall above the sink. You should avoid a wet environment and reduce the risk of electrocution. Wireless switches use a push button or remote control. To avoid misplacing the wireless switch, you can attach it to the wall, sink, or kitchen counter because it is waterproof and therefore safe around water.

Manufacturers have designed toe kick switches to be installed along the cabinet’s bottom edge underneath the sink, where your foot rests when standing near the sink. Due to the risk of electrocution, the farther away from water contact you install the electrical switch, the safer it is.

Where is my garbage disposal switch?

If you recently moved to a new house, one of the most frustrating things to locate is usually the garbage disposal switch. Follow the steps below to find the garbage disposal switch.

  • First, determine what type of garbage disposal you have. There are two types; continuous and batch feed. Continuous disposals use a switch to turn the unit on and off, while a batch feed uses a drain cover that you manually twist and turn to activate the disposal. Batch feed disposals are not very common.
  • If you have a continuous disposal, confirm if it is hardwired directly from a fuse box or connected to a wall socket. Look for an electric box or a wall socket usually located either in the sink base cabinet or on the sink’s backsplash.
  • Open the sink cabinet, locate the power cord coming from the garbage disposal and follow it to its electricity source, that is, either an electrical box or a wall socket.
  • Make sure the power is on to be able to identify the switch when you turn it on.
  • From the power source, trace the other cable to the switch. If you notice a wall switch that doesn’t work for any light, that’s the garbage disposal switch. The most common places to locate a garbage disposal switch or button is;
    • The wall in front of your sink
    • Next to the faucet on the sink
    • The cabinet under the sink.
  • If the switch doesn’t respond, you will have to reset the garbage disposal. To reset the garbage disposal;
    • Switch off power to the disposal at the electrical box.
    • Gently push in the red reset button underneath the disposal unit.
    • If it doesn’t stay in, wait for about 10 minutes and press the button again. The reset is successful when the button stays retracted.


Whether you can’t locate your garbage disposal switch or it is damaged, you cannot run your disposal without a switch unless you have batch-feed disposal. If your switch is damaged, you have a variety of options to choose from. Make sure to get a garbage disposal switch that is waterproof and also conveniently located.