How to Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal
Garbage disposals are usually an easy fix, but always remember to unplug the unit before attempting to clear a jam. Pressing the overload button underneath the disposal may fix the issue right away. If the blades are still stuck, rotate them with an Allen wrench or a specialty garbage disposal wrench. If the garbage disposal still doesn't work, it's time to call a plumber or replace the unit.
Pressing the Reset Button
Unplug the garbage disposal unit.Pull the plug out of the outlet to ensure that the disposal unit can’t activate while you work on it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Press the reset button on the disposal’s underside.The reset button or thermal overload button is on the bottom of the garbage disposal. Crawl under it and look for a red button. If it looks like it's sticking out, push it back into the unit. This may fix the jam right away.
- If the reset button isn't sticking out, move on to other methods that involve manually rotating the grinders to clear the blockage. Keep the unit unplugged.
Wait 15 minutes if the button pops out again.The red button pops out when the garbage disposal overheats. Give it time to cool down, then press the button again. Repeat this until the button stays in place.
- If the button still doesn’t stay in place, switch to a different method.
Run cold water in the sink.Turn on the faucet. Check to make sure the water is cold, then let it run into the drain and through the disposal for a minute or 2.
Test the garbage disposal.Plug the unit back in and make sure that it's turned on. The reset button should stay in place as the disposal blades begin spinning again. If they're still stuck, listen for the motor humming to indicate that the device is functional other than the jammed grinders.
- If the unit isn't humming and you know the power is on in your house, it is probably broken and needed to be replaced.
Rotating the Disposal Blades
Insert an Allen wrench into the hole underneath the disposal.Unplug the unit, then climb underneath the sink and find the hole on the disposal’s underside. It will be hexagonal-shaped and in the center. Get the Allen wrench that came with the disposal unit and place its head in the hole.
- If you don’t have the wrench that came with the unit, purchase a in (6.4 mm) hex-head Allen wrench from a hardware store.
Crank the wrench to turn the disposal’s motor shaft.First, turn the wrench counterclockwise as far as you can. Then turn it clockwise until it won’t go any further. Continue cranking the wrench back and forth until you are able to rotate it completely in a circle.
- It’s okay to apply force while doing this. The wrench is designed to bend a little and won’t damage the disposal unit.
Run cold water into the sink and test the disposal unit.Remove the wrench, then turn on the water faucet. The water helps rinse away any debris still stuck on the blades. Plug in the unit and turn on the disposal. If you were able to rotate the wrench, the unit should work normally again.
- If the unit doesn’t work or you were unable to rotate it, unplug the unit, drain the water, and try a different treatment.
Manually Removing Blockages
Turn off the room’s electrical supply.To turn off the electricity, go to the fuse box in your home. It is usually on the bottom floor or in the basement. Find the switch that corresponds to the room with the disposal unit and flip the switch to off.
- The switches should be labeled, but you can test the room for an electrical current by plugging something into a wall outlet and attempting to turn it on.
- Another way to do this is to flip the light switch near the disposal unit. This only works if the switch controls the electrical outlet the unit is plugged into. Check by listening to the unit for humming.
Look down through the sink drain for any blockages.Get a flashlight and shine it into the sink drain and garbage disposal. Shine the light over the unit’s outer edge, since this is where blockages typically happen. Find the small teeth of the disposal’s blades on the outer edge and look for anything obstructing them.
Remove blockages with tongs or pliers.For safety, avoid sticking your hand into the disposal unit. Instead, get a pair of kitchen tongs or pliers from your toolbox. Stick them down through the sink and into the disposal unit. Use them to break away any blockages you notice.
Spin the blades with a special garbage disposal wrench if they are still stuck.Instead of using the Allen wrench, get a garbage disposal wrench. It looks like a claw with 2 prongs on 1 end. Stick the prongs down the drain until they’re around the unit’s blades. Spin the blades counterclockwise, then clockwise, until they rotate freely.
- Spinning the blades this way requires a lot of force. Keep turning the wrench back and forth until the blades loosen.
Remove the wrench and turn on the disposal.Pull the wrench out of the drain. Plug the unit into the outlet, then restore the electrical current to the room. Turn on the disposal to give it a test run.
- If the garbage disposal still doesn’t work after all these treatments, it most likely needs to be replaced.
Video: Garbage disposal stuck, how to free it up - Home Repair Series
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