How to Repair a Jammed Garbage Disposal

Author: Kent Keith | Find Us on Google+

Holidays are a very busy time of the year for everyone….including plumbers. In preparing holiday dinners, the garbage disposal gets a workout and if not careful, you may just find yourself calling a plumber and having to pay up to double the normal rates for emergency and holidays. Here are some tips on garbage disposal that may prevent you from calling Mr. plumber.

Tips on operating your disposal

* When placing food in the disposal, take time to put small amounts in at a time. Don’t pack the disposal full then try to grind. This will increase the chances of stopping up the unit and puts extra stress on the motor. If your home is on a septic system, it is more critical of the amount of food that is put in the system.
* Don’t run hot water through the disposal when grinding food. Cold water will keep the food more solid and will allow the disposal to grind the food more efficiently.
* After it sounds like the food has finished grinding, leave the water running for about 15 more seconds to wash the food down the drain.
* When leaving on vacation or for a long period of time, operate the disposal with the water running for about 30 seconds to ensure there is no residual food in the unit. This can prevent you from returning home to a stuck disposal.
* Never put your hand down a disposal with the unit plugged in or the breaker still on.

What to do if the disposal won’t turn on

First determine if there is power to the disposal. If you can hear a humming sound from the unit, then there is power and just may be jammed. If you do not hear any sound coming from it, then check these items.

Disposer reset buttton location

* Is the reset button on the bottom tripped? Most people don’t realize there is an overload breaker on the bottom of the disposal. This may trip if the disposal is under too much stress and prevents the motor from burning out in case it gets jammed. The reset button is located on bottom of the unit and is usually red, but not always. After pressing the reset button, see if the unit comes on or hums. If not, check the breaker at the breaker panel and some circuits may be wired through a GFCI receptacle above the kitchen counter, so see if that may be the problem. If you have checked all these and still don’t have power, the disposal may be broke or jammed.

How to unjam a disposal

If the disposal makes a humming sound or trips the reset button, then it may be jammed. To manually turn the unit and unjam it, follow these steps.

Garbage disposer wrench

Insert wrench here

* First disconnect the electrical power from the disposal for safety. There should be an electrical outlet under the sink that the disposal is plugged into that you can unplug or if it is hardwired, go to the breaker box and turn off the breaker.
* Next get the disposal wrench to manually turn the disposal to loosen it. If you don’t have the wrench, look under the sink at the drain pipes. Sometimes I have seen plumbers that installed the disposal tape the wrench to a drain pipe near the unit. If not you may have a 1/4 hex wrench (allen wrench) in your toolbox or these are available at any hardware store or large department store. The wench is inserted at the port in the middle of the bottom of the disposal. Turn it around a few times then reverse it a few more that that should do the trick. If you simply can’t get a wrench, try putting a broom handle or something similar down the disposal opening and try to push the grinder around this way

What if the disposal operates but won’t drain?

P Trap


If water backs up in the disposal and won’t drain, try checking the drain pipes for blockage. The easiest way to do this is to remove the ‘P’ trap. Put a large pan or bucket under the ‘P’ trap and remove the two pipe nuts. These should only be hand tight, but the may require a large set of pliers to remove. Remove and check for blockage in the trap pipe and the pipe going to to the disposer outlet. A wire coat hanger can be used for this if you don’t have a pipe auger. If this is not the problem, the blockage may be further down the pipe and a plumber may have to be called.

What not to put down a garbage disposal

* Grease. Grease will eventually solidify and clog a portion, or all of your drain.
* Egg shells. Some people think egg shells will sharpen the disposer blades but will only help in clogging the drain pipes.
* Large bones. Needless to say large bones will dull the blades, could get caught and jamb the disposal and clog the drain pipes.
* Rice, pasta and potatoes. Residual Starchy foods can swell and jamb the disposal.
* Fibrous and stringy foods like celery, asparagus and corn husks can wrap around the motor and jamb it.
* Coffee and tea bags have acid that can deteriorate the inside of the disposal.
* Don’t clean your fish aquarium at the kitchen sink. Hard pebbles can get stuck between the grinder and outer lining of the disposal and may permanently jamb the unit.

How to keep your disposal fresh and clean

Here are some ideas to keep your disposer clean and fresh.

* Run plenty of hot water and soap down the disposal daily.
* Grind small ice cubes to clean the grinding teeth.
* Grind orange or lemon peels.
* Flush a cup of baking soda through the disposal.
* Place a couple of drops of mint oil through with hot water.

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8 thoughts on “How to Repair a Jammed Garbage Disposal

  1. Remarkable post I Agree with your major tips and think the title says it all, I enjoyed reading and I will certainly come from time to time to read more of your writing. sustain the great work!

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