How To Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal

Like many homeowners, you might not pay attention to your garbage disposal unit unless it starts to function poorly or refuses to turn on. When this happens, you’ll have no choice but to focus on it because you won’t have any other way to dispose of your food waste.

Fortunately, you’ll find that many issues with your garbage disposal machine can be easily fixed, and one of these is when it gets clogged. If you suspect that your disposal is jammed, use this guide to know how you can solve this problem and bring your unit back into good shape.

Signs of a Jammed Garbage Disposal

If you’ve dropped something you’re not supposed to into your disposal and it gets jammed, common sense will tell you that the object you dropped has caused the problem. But what if you’ve done nothing out of the ordinary? How can you determine that your machine is jammed? Well, there are several clues that you can look out for, and these include:

1. Too much noise
Jammed disposals can sometimes keep on functioning relatively well but emit a strange, loud noise. If this sound hasn’t been there before, it’s probably a sign that your machine is trying to grind something that’s too tough for its blades. Sometimes it goes the other way around, too. If your disposal doesn’t turn on but just sits there humming, it’s a sign that its blades are trying to revolve but can’t because they’re stuck. Either way, don’t just let your machine chug on with its hums and noises; instead, turn it off right away to prevent the motor and the blades from getting damaged.

2. Poor performance
When your garbage disposal gets jammed, you’ll most likely notice that it doesn’t grind as well as it used to. In fact, it may exhibit the classic sign of running for a few seconds or minutes but stopping on its own before you even turn it off. In worst-case scenarios, a jammed disposal will no longer turn on.

Repairing a Jammed Garbage Disposal

Before trying to repair your garbage disposal, you should first confirm that its problem isn’t caused by other things. If it won’t turn on, for example, check if it’s plugged into the wall outlet. If it is, remove the plug and plug in another device (such as your blender or oven toaster) into the outlet. If the appliance works fine, the problem probably lies in your disposal; if it doesn’t, the circuit breaker probably has to be reset.

Sometimes, a garbage disposal that doesn’t work properly can be fixed by pressing the reset button (a red button that’s located on the underside of the machine). Before you start your repairs, press this button and see if it can fix the problem.

Once you’ve determined that your garbage disposal is clogged and has to be unjammed, make sure to take the following steps:

1. Unplug the machine from the wall outlet.

2. Look under the unit and locate a hole that’s shaped like a hexagon.

3. Once you find the hole, search for the hex wrench that came with your garbage disposal. It’s often attached to the underside of the machine. If it’s not there, get a ¼ inch Allen wrench from your own tool box.

4. Insert the tip of the wrench into the hole and twist it back and forth. You’ll most likely feel resistance at first, but apply gentle force to move the wrench in both directions. Doing this loosens the object that might be stuck between the blades and encourages it to go down the drain. Keep on going at it until you can turn the blades a full revolution.

5. Look at the underside of the disposal and see if you can spot the object that’s causing the jam, such as artichoke hearts or banana peels. If you can, get a pair or tongs or pliers to gently extricate the object from the blades. Do not use your bare hands to do so; garbage disposal blades are extremely sharp, so touching them with your hands can lead to serious cuts and injuries.

Some garbage disposals don’t have a hole for the hex wrench. If you have this kind of model, take a short, slim broomstick and put it into the machine. Use it to gently try to rotate the blades back and forth until the clog gets free.

Preventing Future Jams

  • As you can see above, unjamming garbage disposals can be easy. But question now is this: why should you put up with this task when you can prevent it in the first place? Here are some of the things you can do to stay away from garbage disposal jams:
  • Avoid putting the wrong things into the machine. These include hard items like chicken bones and fruit pits as well as fibrous objects like banana peels, artichoke leaves and hearts, and flower stems. These things can be tough on your garbage disposals’ blades and, more likely than not, will get caught in between them and cause a jam.
  • Before dumping anything into the machine, check that your food waste isn’t mixed with bits of glass, rubber, and metal. These items are too tough to grind and can cause jams or even break the machine’s blades.
  • Make sure to run water before depositing food waste into unit, while the machine is grinding, and after the waste has been drained to the sewer lines. Water acts as a lubricant and ensures that the waste won’t stick to the blades and will instead easily flow down to your drain pipes. But remember: never pour hot water down your garbage disposal. It can melt the fats that may be in your food waste, cause them to stick to the blades and eventually clogging them. Use cold water at all times.

Final Thoughts

A jammed garbage disposal can be a huge hassle for any family, but it can thankfully be easily resolved and even prevented. Take the steps above to repair your jammed disposal and prevent it from getting jammed in the future!

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