It starts with a flip of the switch, only to be met by an ominous hum instead of the usual grinding noise. You turn on the faucet, and the water backs up instead of draining properly. When garbage disposal gets jammed, clogged or stuck, it can bring kitchen cleanup to a screeching halt.
Whether it’s overloaded with food debris, clogged from the drain side, or jammed due to an object blockage, diagnosing and fixing a blocked garbage disposal is a common headache many homeowners face. But while a stubborn jam or clog can be a nuisance, in most cases, it can be quickly fixed with some simple troubleshooting.
In this guide, we’ll cover the most common reasons garbage disposals become stuck and provide actionable solutions to get your unit unclogged and functioning properly again. You’ll learn how to unjam the blades, clear out drain clogs, remove stuck objects, and perform resets and repairs using basic tools and supplies.
We’ll also share pro tips for preventing future clogs and jams with good disposal maintenance habits. Read on to master unclogging and fixing your own garbage disposal quickly and easily.
Signs Your Disposal is Jammed
A jammed garbage disposal will fail to grind up food waste or drain water properly. Common signs include the disposal making a humming sound but not operating when turned on, water backing up in the sink or draining very slowly, the blades spinning sluggishly or not at all, frequent clogs, foul odours coming from the unit, leaking from the bottom of the disposal, and the motor overheating and shutting off suddenly while in use.
Decreased grinding performance over time can also indicate the disposal is becoming jammed with debris and needs to be unclogged. Any of these symptoms signal it’s time to troubleshoot and clear out whatever prevents the disposal from functioning optimally.
Common Causes of Garbage Disposal Jams
Several issues can cause a garbage disposal to become jammed and fail to operate properly. The most common culprits include:
Food particles, grease, and waste can gradually accumulate in the grinding chamber and mechanisms. Vegetable peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, and stringy fibres from fruits and potatoes often contribute to debris jams.
Spoons, bottle caps, small toys, seeds, bones, and other items accidentally dropped down the disposal can get lodged and jam the blades.
Chunks of food and grease that accumulate in the drain lines and P-trap underneath can obstruct water drainage from the disposal.
Running the disposal too long or grinding too much waste at once can overwork the disposal’s motor shaft and get food waste packed tightly in the chamber.
Problems like broken or warped blades, worn grinding rings, damaged seals, and loose jams can impede the disposal’s grinding performance and lead to jams.
How to Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal
When unclogging a jammed garbage disposal, you can take several DIY troubleshooting steps before calling a plumber. Helpful techniques include:
Resetting the Disposal
Unplug the garbage disposal unit, locate the reset button on the bottom or side and push it. This will disengage any stuck grinding mechanisms. Plug it back (or turn it on the circuit breaker or fuse) and test. Pay special attention to the area around the outer edge of the garbage disposal’s shredding disk where you see the little teeth. Also, if it does not turn on, make sure that the thermal overload button is reset. If the wall switch controls the disposer, turn off the wall switch and allow it to cool for up to 20 minutes before turning it back on.
Use a Special Garbage Disposal Wrench or Hex Head Allen Wrench
Insert the hex wrench into the bottom of the unit and twist it back and forth. This releases jams in the flywheel and blades.
Poking the Blockage with a Wooden Object
Use a wooden spoon handle or chopstick to gently dislodge or break up whatever is clogging the grinding chamber.
Turning the Power On and Off
With cold water running, quickly flip the disposal switch on and off a few times. This can help release stuck blades. Avoid using hot water when grinding food waste. It is OK to drain hot water into the garbage disposal between grinding periods. Never pour grease or fat into your garbage disposal or drain.
Using a Drain Snake
Use a small snake to remove blockages in the P-trap and drain line below the disposal. Crank the cable until the clog is cleared.
Get Your Sink Draining and Grinding Properly Again
A jammed garbage disposal can be a headache, but armed with the right techniques, you can often unclog and fix minor issues yourself. However, if your disposal requires extensive repairs or replacement parts, don’t hesitate to call in a professional.
The experts at Fixed Today have the skills and experience to diagnose any garbage disposal problem and get your unit operating smoothly. We offer affordable solutions while saving you the frustration and potential hazards of DIY electrical repairs.
Don’t put up with the inconvenience of dysfunctional disposal - contact Fixed Today to schedule a fast, professional assessment and fix.