I just got a new disposal. It came with 2 foot 3 prong power cord. The old disposal was wired to an outlet I can't get to. The wires for the old disposal were spliced right under it. I figured I could just splice the new cord to the old one, but the old wires have black, white, and a ground whereas the new disposal has 1 green and no color for the other 2. I assume on the new cord, green is ground, but the other 2 don't have any colored insulation. How do I know which wires from the disposal go to which wires that are connected to the switch? The 2 main prongs are the same size and shape, does that mean hot/neutral are interchangable? Herebare the pictures:

Old cord

New cord

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    The green wire is ground. Model # of disposal? Did the disposal come with a plug and you chopped it off? Hindsight 20/20 (of course), you could have installed a box + receptacle to the cable coming from the switch and then be able to just plug in the disposal. Dec 2, 2018 at 17:51
  • Waste king L-3200. Idigire green is ground, but what about the other 2? yep, it came with a plug I chopped off. Yep, should have taken your approach @manassehkatz
    – Craig B
    Dec 2, 2018 at 17:54
  • I have learned over the years to never chop off power cord ends unless I am really sure. That has served me well - e.g., I contemplated doing that a year or two ago with a light fixture and glad I didn't because if I had then I wouldn't have been able to return it when it failed under warranty. Dec 2, 2018 at 17:57
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    Easiest way is if you still have the plug then use a multimeter to see which wire goes to the neutral pin familyhandyman.com/electrical/electrical-repair/… Dec 2, 2018 at 17:59
  • I take it you plan to make these splices in a box with a strain relief for the cord, no? Dec 2, 2018 at 21:28

2 Answers 2


The neutral wire is usually the one with the writing or ribs. This is common and required for ul listing. Connect the wire with writing to your white the other to the black and ground to ground and you will have connected the way it was to the old disposal.

  • "up listing"? Maybe "UL listing"? Dec 2, 2018 at 20:09
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    I hate spell check yes I did type UL
    – Ed Beal
    Dec 3, 2018 at 2:51
  • 1
    I'd reinforce your note on using the BOX and grommet in your answer, but this is it :)
    – noybman
    Dec 3, 2018 at 6:04

Grounded outlets are polarized, with the neutral slot being wider than the hot; this is to maintain polarization for many two-prong plugs which have their neutral blades wider than their hot. For example, a cord for a non-grounded lamp with an Edison base bulb will be polarized so that the body of the lightbulb socket will be neutral and the central pin will be hot.

Since the chopped-off plug has a ground pin, its hot and neutral blades may not be different size, but you can figure out which is which by referring to the ground pin. Going clockwise around the outlet, the pins will be Ground, Neutral, then Hot; obviously the plug will be reversed.

The two outside (non-ground) wires of the cable are marked to show which is which; generally the neutral wire will have ridges on it (as the top wire in your lower picture does), but in any case you'll be able to match the wires from the (now severed) plug with the wires from the disposal.

Maybe the disposal won't care if you get hot and neutral swapped, or maybe it will, but you'll never know unless it causes some problem, and the problem could be nasty (e.g. the sink becoming live, although the ground should prevent that). So, you should do your best to get the polarity right.

  • Might want to add a GFCI recommendation here. Dec 2, 2018 at 18:04
  • The 2 main prongs are the same size and shape, does that mean hot/neutral are interchangable?
    – Craig B
    Dec 2, 2018 at 18:05
  • The neutral is stamped, ridged or has a stripe not the hot.
    – Ed Beal
    Dec 2, 2018 at 19:12
  • Well, that's two more times my memory has failed me. Fixed both: thanks. Dec 2, 2018 at 19:45

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