Around The Home, Home Repair Tips, Money Saving Tips — February 12, 2015 at 7:40 am

Fix Your Own Jammed Garbage Disposal


It happens at one time or another to all of us who own a garbage disposal. The whole shebang comes to a grinding halt, and you’re left wondering if you’ll have to call a service tech. Relax. In most cases there’s an easy fix that you easily can do yourself.


If your disposal stops working, first try the reset button. It’s a red button on the bottom of the unit, under the sink. If your overload protector has tripped, then the button will drop down, allowing you to press and reset. If it doesn’t work right away, let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes to cool the motor and try again. If your reset button doesn’t work, check your circuit breaker. Turn off the circuit breaker that supplies power to the disposal, then turn it back on to reset the breaker.

Time for the hex or broom handle

If the disposal is still trying to turn, but you only hear a hum, the grinding mechanism is probably jammed. Now is the time to turn off your power, for safety’s sake. Grab a flashlight, remove the black rubber splash guard, and look to see if you can find any visible culprits. If so, remove them, but make sure the POWER IS OFF!

If you can’t remove the object, or if you can’t see it because it’s wedged or jammed in between the grinders, then you can try to turn or spin the grinding mechanism by hand. Often, this will loosen the item and you can remove it.

If you can’t budge the grinding mechanism, don’t worry. Most disposals now come with a little Allen or hex-head wrench, many of which are attached to the disposal. This wrench fits into a hex slot in the middle of the very bottom of the garbage disposal. You might need to be fairly limber to reach it, or you can use a mirror and flashlight to make the task a little easier. The wrench allows you to gently turn the grinding mechanism back and forth to loosen and, one hopes, free the blockage. Reach inside the disposal, through the sink, to see if you can find the item. If not, repeat the process a few times until you find it. Then you can turn the power back on to test the disposal. Make sure to run cold water into the disposal as you test.

If you don’t have or can’t find the Allen wrench, then use a piece of wood or even a broom handle and push it against the grinding teeth in the chamber, gently rotating it. If your disposal has a grinding wall, then push the wooden handle against the wall until it rotates. As a word of warning, don’t try to loosen the exposed nut that you see in the middle of the chamber. You don’t want the whole disposal to come apart.

If these fixes don’t work, then it might be time for a new garbage disposal, which is probably less expensive than a service tech, parts and labor.