Fix Salt and Pepper Mill | 7 Common Problems and How to Repair It

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Salt and pepper are the two most commonly used and important ingredients in just about any recipe. They enhance flavor and bring zest to the fore of every dish you make. To achieve it, using a salt and pepper mill is an effective way to season your food to perfection. Still, when using a mill to grind salt and pepper, chances are that you may find your grinder not working, and you have to fix salt and pepper mill to keep them working again.

Imagine if you’re in the middle of making your family’s favorite weekend meal and suddenly your grinders won’t work. What a nuisance! If you haven’t been cleaning and maintaining your salt and pepper mills, problems can easily occur, thereby spoiling the meal you’re preparing by forcing you to skip adding two essential ingredients – salt and pepper!

Nothing is more annoying than a grinder that doesn’t work, particularly when you’re making food. But this problem is easily avoided if you maintain these essential kitchen tools. In this post, we offer ideas on how to fix salt and pepper mills, to keep them operating at peak efficiency. Even if yours has stopped grinding, you can fix salt and pepper mill with one of our quick and easy solutions.

First, let’s talk about why salt and pepper mills stop working, and how best to fix these problems.

You forget to put the spice

That may sound silly, but it’s far more common than you may imagine. Usually, you just grab your mill and start grinding, but check first whether there is enough spice in the mill column. If not, that’s an easy fix for an empty salt and pepper mill – just fill it up!

refill spice-Holar Blog-fix-salt-and-pepper-mill-7-common-problems-and-how-to-repair-it


You screw the adjustable knob too tight

This is a very common problem, particularly if you like your pepper or salt ground fine. But tightening the knob on top too forcefully means the spice may not grind. In fact, you can even damage the burr mechanism and prevent the grinder from working at all. You might even shatter the core, and that means it won’t work at all.

Turn the knob clockwise for a fine grind, counterclockwise for a coarse grind. Just don’t keep tightening the knob past the point of resistance. Loosen it a little, and you may find that the grinder works just fine once this adjustment is made. Easing up on the knob is often a quick fix for your salt or pepper mill.

If you’re unsure whether you’ve turned your grinder to the proper setting, simply grind a little pepper onto your kitchen counter or on a plate. If it’s not working properly or giving you the grind, you want, loosen it again until it operates smoothly.

If you would like further guidance on setting your salt or pepper mill to just the right spot, check out our video: How to Adjust Pepper Grinder Correctly


It is clogged when turning from coarse to fine

Naturally, you change the grind setting with each recipe, depending on what it calls for – coarsely ground pepper in one dish, finely ground pepper in another. Changing the setting from coarse to fine can result in it becoming clogged with spice in the mechanism because some coarser salt/pepper grounds are stuck in the gap between the grinder and grinder housing.

stuck-with-coarser-ground-Holar Blog-fix-salt-and-pepper-mill-7-common-problems-and-how-to-repair-it

But this is easily fixed in your salt and pepper grinder. Simply tap the body of the grinder carefully, with your hand, until any bits of spice fall into the column and away from the grinding mechanism. Once the clog is cleared, the mill will work again smoothly and efficiently, even when you change the settings frequently. Another way to fix salt and pepper mill!


It is stuck with a bunch of fine powder

Finely ground spices get caught very easily within the grinder and grinder housing. This is particularly true of spices that leave a moist residue behind, which prevents the grinder from operating properly.

This is an easily fixed problem with your salt or pepper mill. Regular cleaning with a soft brush removes all those little bits of finely ground spices, and so doing that every time you use your grinder ensures it keeps operating properly. And we do mean after every use! Don’t wait until your grinders are completed clogged with fine powder before cleaning the mechanism!

clean with brush-Holar Blog-fix-salt-and-pepper-mill-7-common-problems-and-how-to-repair-it

This maintenance is how you avoid developing annoying problems with your grinders in the first place! If you haven’t maintained your grinders properly, or regularly, you may have to take them apart completely and wash and dry each part. That might be your only solution for getting them operating again.

If you are unsure how to dismantle your grinder, please watch our video: How to Properly Use Pepper Grinders-Clean After Use


Your salt and pepper grinder hasn’t been used for a long time

Sitting idle is a surefire way for a grinder to become stiff and awkward to use. If for some reason you don’t grind fresh salt and pepper every day, either while cooking or when eating at the supper table, chances are the grinder and grinder housing get stuck. It likely won’t grind smoothly. There are many factors that might cause grinder mechanisms to get stuck. For instance, the phenomenon of thermal expansion and contraction is one of the common causes.

Normally, a salt and pepper grinder work by regulating the adjustable knob, turning the top, and then the spice will come out from the gap between the grinder and grinder housing. However, in this case, no matter how hard you screw the adjustable knob, there is no gap changing between the grinder and grinder housing.

The solution, in this case, is gently tapping the body of the salt and pepper grinder until grinder and grinder housing separate. But, if they are still quite close, please take the whole mechanism apart and reassemble it to make it work again.

Again, if you need guidance on taking apart your salt and pepper mill, please watch our video at: How to Properly Use Pepper Grinders-Clean After Use


You add the wrong spice

This happens more often than you might imagine – a cook reaches for what they think is the pepper and accidentally puts in dried parsley instead. Although there are indeed some other spices you can grind in a salt and pepper mill, many do not work well at all. For a rundown of spices, you can – and cannot – use in your salt and pepper grinder, check our blog on the topic at: 13 Common Spices You Can (Cannot) Grind in Your Salt and Pepper Grinder

There are plenty of spices that shouldn’t be put in a salt and pepper grinder. They have the wrong texture for this mechanism, and some leave sticky residue behind or even wreck the grinding burr.

For example, don’t put cloves in your grinder! Their shape doesn’t lend itself to grinders, and sometimes you’ll grind and grind and get nothing out. Cocoa beans are another example of a spice ill-suited to grinders. They leave tacky, sticky oil behind, and make a true mess of your grinder. The fine bits of cocoa left behind ultimately ruin the grinder, so it’s best to avoid trying this (and other spices in our list) completely.

grinding cocoa-Holar Blog-fix-salt-and-pepper-mill-7-common-problems-and-how-to-repair-it

However, if you have filled the grinder with a spice not suited to it, it’s not the end of the world! You can fix salt and pepper grinder by dismantling it, cleaning it, and letting all the components dry thoroughly.


The grinder mechanism has broken

Alas, a broken grinder mechanism cannot be repaired. This is one problem with grinders that has no simple fix.

It is quite common, unfortunately, because the grinder mechanism, usually made of plastic, eventually becomes dry and brittle. That leads to cracks, which impedes the grinder’s efficiency.

The best way to avoid this problem is by purchasing a sturdy grinder that won’t break easily. To choose a quality salt mill, we recommend choosing one with a ceramic grinding mechanism. Conversely, when choosing a pepper mill, we recommend opting for one with a stainless steel grinding mechanism, or a carbon steel one. Both are excellent options when buying a pepper mill.

Remember that salt corrodes metal, so it’s best that you avoid a steel grinding mechanism for your salt mill. Ceramic is the way to go with your salt mill, but it’s good for pepper, too. If you don’t wish to purchase two separate grinders, opt for ceramic since it works well on salt and pepper.

However, we recommend carbon steel for your pepper mill. It offers the sharpest grinder, and the pepper flakes are consistent in size and shape.

Are you trying to understand the difference between ceramic, carbon steel, and stainless steel grinder? Check out our blog on the topic, at: Pepper Mill vs. Salt Mill: What’s the Difference?

Grinder mechanism of salt and pepper grinder-Holar Blog-fix-salt-and-pepper-mill-7-common-problems-and-how-to-repair-it



Before you get frustrated with your grinder that isn’t working, ask yourself: is the knob too tight? When did you last fill it with spice? You can fix salt and pepper mill by double-checking these factors regularly.

Your salt and pepper grinders need regular care and maintenance. Putting in a place where it’s away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. Even though you probably use your salt and pepper grinders every day, you should still tuck them away inside the correct storage spot.

There is an old adage that goes something like this: for an artist to do great work, they need the proper tools. To be a great cook, you need the right tools too! To do that, the grinder must be well cared for – that’s how you’ll keep it operating efficiently and smoothly. If you encounter minor problems with your grinder, the suggestions in this article will help you fix salt and pepper mill in no time.

If you would like more information on using and maintaining grinders, please refer to our blog post here: How to Properly Use Pepper Grinders in 5 Steps

Until next time, happy cooking! And happy grinding!

Please contact us anytime in the comments section if you have questions or ideas for future blogs.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Ceramic wore out ! How do I get parts ?

    1. Hi Harris, thanks for your comment. For a new ceramic grinder mechanism, you may contact the brand you previously purchased from. Normally they have some components in stock for replacement.

  2. I have a Olde-Thompson wooden pepper grinder that we dearly loved.
    Problem is, the spring worked out of it and I don’t know how to fix it
    The bottom of the grinder seems to be unremovable.

    Any advice on repair?

    1. Hi Christine, thanks for your message. I suppose you can contact Olde-Thompson directly to see whether they have any springs for your replacement. Normally they have some accessories on hand.

  3. My salt and pepper mills leak constantly. Is there something I need to tighten?

  4. thank you for the information

    1. You’re welcome!

  5. Thank you for this information!! I fall under the “haven’t properly maintained” category, and waited until I noticed an issue. I’m going to follow these recommendations, and see if my grinders will give me a start over. Again, thank you for the valuable information!

    1. Hi Stacy, thanks for your feedback. If you encounter any problems, welcome to let us know or share your thoughts.

  6. I bought the electric salt and pepper grinder about 6 months ago one stopped working totally change the battery still nothing

    1. Hi Roberto, thanks for your message. We suggest you contact the original brand customer service to see how to fix it. It might still under its warranty. Thank you!

  7. Hi we have a Mackenzie Childs Salt & Pepper mill (grinder) pair, they both leak the salt & Peper every time you pick them up, any suggestions, I’m pretty handy with the right tools & Fix a lot of things myself,
    I feel like I can tackle this , but am also thinking they either have a defective part inside or were not tightened correctly (put together in a hurry, or even a machine that was unsupervised), Mackenzie Childs is a reputable company & have always gotten good service on items they still make & Carry. Just not sure if they have a repair dept. since they do not sell these Anymore.
    What are your thoughts on my situation? And Thanks for a
    Any help you may lend ! JB Huntsville Alabama

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