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Garbage Disposal Is Jammed: What Should I Do?

a kitchen sink

A jammed garbage disposal can interfere with a lot of your activities in the kitchen. If there is a humming sound, but the blades are not turning, that is a sign of a clogged motor. Sometimes, all it takes is pressing the reset button to get it running again. But other times, it requires more effort.

Here’s an in-depth guide to help you troubleshoot a jammed garbage disposal and understand why it happens in the first place. If you are having trouble fixing the issue, contact a professional plumber. They have the tools and expertise to get the job done.

How To Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal

Safety should always be your top priority. While a garbage disposal’s blades are dull, they can cause harm if you don’t practice basic safety measures. Never put your hands inside the garbage disposal, even if you think something is lodged inside.

Additionally, never work while the garbage disposal’s power supply is on. Turn off the garbage disposal’s breaker and unplug the unit. To be extra safe, you can use a voltage tester to confirm. You can then troubleshoot the issue by following these steps.

Press the Reset Button

If you have a jammed garbage disposal, try hitting the reset button. When there is a clog, this button automatically trips as a precaution. It is similar to how a circuit breaker trips when there is a surge in electricity. Usually, reset buttons are red and found on the underside of garbage disposals.

You should hear a click when you push the button in. That means you have successfully reset your unit. In most cases, that is enough to resolve the issue. With the water running, try turning on the garbage disposal. If there is a jam, the reset button will keep tripping. In that case, move on to the next steps.

Clear the Blockage

If pressing the reset button doesn’t work, check if debris is stuck inside the garbage disposal. Never reach in with your hands, even if the power to the unit is off. Instead, use tongs to remove as much food, waste and debris as possible. Then hit the reset button, let the water run and turn on the garbage disposal. It should run smoothly again. To prevent this from happening in the future, throw large pieces of garbage into the trash can.

Use a Garbage Disposal Wrench

If your garbage disposal still won’t run, it is time to pull out the wrench. It is a small custom tool that comes with new garbage disposal units. If you threw it out with the packaging, use a Hex wrench instead. Insert the wrench or Hex wrench into the flywheel underneath the garbage disposal and turn it left and right.

Keep doing so until the wrench can freely rotate clockwise and anticlockwise. It is alright to use some force to achieve this. Remove the wrench and turn on the unit. It should run without issues. If none of the steps work, let a professional plumber take over.

Common Causes of a Jammed Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are durable appliances that can crush nearly everything you throw in them. But, that doesn’t mean they are indestructible. Foreign objects like silverware can cause them to stall or malfunction if not retrieved quickly.

Large pieces of food and waste can also get stuck between the blades and drain hole and cause a jam. Throwing in large amounts of food and debris can have the same effect. To help your garbage disposal run smoothly, here are some care tips you can practice.

Be Cautious About What You Put in Your Disposal

There are several items that you should never put down the disposal. Coffee grounds, animal bones, pits and egg shells are all bad for your garbage disposal. In addition, you should avoid putting any grease, oil or fat down the drain.

Run Cold Water and Clean the Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals perform at their best when there is running cold water to help them along. Make it a habit to put ice cubes in your garbage disposal, turn on the cold water and let the unit run. It is an effective way to clean the garbage disposal and eliminate gunk buildup.

Don’t Stuff the Garbage Disposal

Stuffing the garbage disposal with too much food and waste at once will cause it to jam. Instead, let it finish grinding before feeding it with more. Additionally, never let food sit in your garbage disposal overnight because that can corrode the unit. Turn on the garbage disposal right away.

a sink

Why You Shouldn’t Put Grease in the Garbage Disposal

We all know we shouldn’t pour grease down the kitchen sink. But not everyone follows this rule and will still wash off greasy cooking pans in the sink. Doing that over and over again can lead to clogged drains. The grease will accumulate over time and create blockages in your pipes. It can also build up on your unit’s blades and hamper its performance, like causing your garbage disposal to spin but not drain.

Grease refers to items such as butter, shortening and lard. These items become solid when they cool to room temperature and can build up in your pipes. You know this build-up happens when the water is not draining as fast or you see flooding in the sink. Once you notice these signs, contact a plumber to remedy the problem.

Proper Ways to Dispose of Cooking Grease

Proper disposal of cooking grease is essential to keep your pipes and garbage disposal free of buildup. Here are a few ways to do so.

Throw It in the Trash

The simplest way to dispose of grease is to chuck it in the bin. But, there are steps to doing it correctly. Let the oil cool first before pouring it into a container. You can then throw the container into the trash. Never pour hot oil directly into the trash because it can melt the plastic and create a mess. In addition, use a sealable container so the oil doesn’t spill everywhere. You can use old jars and soap bottles.

If you cook with an oil that solidifies at room temperature, you can let it cool completely after cooking. Once solid, you can scrape it from the pan and throw the bits into the trash. That way, you don’t have to worry about messy leaks.

Reuse It

You don’t have to throw out your cooking oil after every meal. You can use it for future fried dishes. Let it cool to room temperature, pour it through a strainer to eliminate food particles and keep it in an airtight container. Trust your nose to tell you when to dump it out. If it smells rancid, it is time to toss it. You can also rub it between your fingers. If it feels sticky, it is no longer fresh; you should dump it.

Freeze It

If you don’t know whether you want to throw or reuse the cooking oil, you can freeze it. It takes around a day to freeze cooking grease. It can stay fresh for as long as two years in the fridge. Just make sure to store it in an airtight container. If you decide to throw it out eventually, you won’t have a problem because it is solid.

a garbage disposal

What To Do When the Garbage Disposal Has a Burning Smell

Most of the time, garbage disposals will grind food without a problem. But, there might come a time when the unit will break down and emit a burning smell. There might be a stuck foreign object in the grinding chamber that is making the motor overheat. The first step is to cut off the garbage disposal’s power supply. Peek into the drain opening and check for any visible blockages.

To dislodge any foreign objects, you can manually rotate the grinding plate. You can do this by using the wrench included with the unit to turn the flywheel. But for some models, you can turn the grind plate through an opening on top using a lever. If the burning smell persists, that is a sign the motor or capacitor is damaged. If you notice any garbage disposal smells, it is time to contact a professional plumber to fix the issue.

Let a Professional Take Care of Your Garbage Disposal Problems

A jammed garbage disposal can slow you down in the kitchen and cause unnecessary stress. If you are having issues with your garbage disposal, the best and safest solution is to contact a professional plumber. The plumber will assess the situation and perform the necessary repairs and replacements, so your garbage disposal will run smoothly again.

ABC Can Get Your Garbage Disposal Working Again

A garbage disposal that isn’t working can cause huge disruptions in your life. Instead of prolonging the issue by trying to fix it yourself, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our appliance repair pros will efficiently locate the issue and then get to work on making all garbage disposal repairs.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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