How to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal


Nothing is more aggravating than not being able to use your kitchen sink because the garbage disposal is clogged or jammed. Although the problem may seem to be huge, most of the time it can be surprisingly easy to fix with a little understanding of how your garbage disposal works. This article will provide tips on how to fix a clogged or jammed garbage disposal without the help of a plumber, saving you time, money, and headaches.

Things You'll Need

  • An Allen wrench (multi-sized set)
  • A wooden broom or broom handle
  • A flashlight
  • You know the old saying "Accurate diagnosis is half the cure"? Well, this definitely holds true where pinpointing a garbage disposal problem is concerned. This article will cover the most common problem, which is the garbage disposal hums when you turn it on, but it won't rotate. If you don't even hear a humming sound when you flip the switch, you may actually have a problem with the wiring, and you may have to call an electrician to inspect the wiring for you. But if you DO hear a humming sound (but no rotation), these next few simple steps should take care of it.

  • Before you do ANYTHING, make sure you turn off the power to the garbage disposal at the breaker box. Double check to make sure you've turned off the correct breaker switch before performing any work of any kind.

  • Keep in mind that a garbage disposal is actually a fairly simple device, comprised mainly of a flywheel, a motor, and some blades. The flywheel is the main component of concern here...normally when it stops rotating, it's because too much food has wrapped around it and restricted its movement. This can be especially true if you have dumped any kind of stringy foods down the drain, such as celery or collard greens...those strings can get all tangled up around the flywheel. Also, if you have dumped solid or hard foods or particles such as egg shells, potato peels, etc., it can wreak havoc on your garbage disposal as well. Just for future reference, it's better to put those types of heavy-duty items in the trash.

  • Using a flashlight, inspect the drain to see if you can see any objects that are blocking the drain, and extract them from the drain using tongs or something similar. I'm not going to lie; when I did this, I just put on some rubber gloves and fished out the objects with my hands, but it is NOT advisable for you to do this. Use some kind of removal tool to stay on the safe side.

  • On every garbage disposal, there is a socket for an allen wrench in the center of the underside of the unit. Locate that socket, and using the allen wrench, turn it clockwise to loosen the flywheel. You should immediately feel some type of loosening happening if you rotate it enough times. Many times this will dislodge some type of food object into the drain, so it's a good idea to go again and fish out any objects you see in the drain.

  • Take a broom handle, insert it carefully into the drain to where it can rest upon one of the bolts that hold the blades down, and push it to rotate the flywheel and further loosen up any food that has been lodged in the drain. Rotate the flywheel manually several times with the broom handle until it spins fairly easily without a lot of "elbow grease" required.

  • Once you're fairly confident that the flywheel has been adequately loosened, turn the power back on, run some water, and flip the switch very quickly to see if the motor will respond. You may have to keep the switch in the "on" position for about 5 or more seconds to really see if the motor will begin to start spinning the flywheel, but if it's been 10 seconds or more with no rotation, you need to turn the power back off and manually rotate the flywheel with the broom handle a little more. You should hear a definite difference when you flip the switch after you have done the above steps. If it starts spinning as usual, let it run for a good minute with the water running as well, and enjoy having a garbage disposal again!

Tips & Warnings

  • Sometimes all it takes is to just press the small red "reset" button located on the underside of the disposal unit, and the disposal will be back to normal. But if this doesn't work, do the steps listed above.
  • Again, don't use your hands to dig down into the drain and fish out any objects.
  • Never work on the garbage disposal without cutting the power off at the breaker box first.

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