Every day, each person in America produces 4.9 pounds of garbage, which adds up to almost 1,800 pounds of waste per person annually. Struggling with a jammed garbage disposal?
Trying to fix your own garbage disposal jam can be difficult and time-consuming. Learn all you need to know from our complete guide on what you can do about a jammed garbage disposal or a clogged sink.
Discover the best tricks out there to unclog garbage disposal, and at what point you should look into plumbing services to help. Our actionable advice covers everything you need to know about fixing your jammed sink disposal.
If you’re dealing with a garbage disposal blockage, this article is for you. Read on to find out more.
How to Identify a Garbage Disposal Jam
A garbage disposal jam can be identified by a loud grinding sound coming from the appliance, or by feeling for physical resistance when you turn on the switch.
You may also notice that nothing is draining from your sink when you run it. A jammed disposal can cause water to back up into your sink or even cause flooding in other rooms in your home. If these signs are present, then it’s likely that you have a jammed garbage disposal.
Garbage disposal units can stop working for a variety of reasons. We’ve listed the most common faults below:
- There is a problem with the electrical system, causing it to malfunction
- The grinding mechanism has become jammed, preventing it from operating correctly
- Seals in the mounting, hoses, and pipe connections are damaged
- Blokckages in the drain pipe
Type of Disposal Unit
There are a few different types of disposal units. These are split into batch feed and continuous.
- For a batch-feed garbage disposal system you need to place a cover over the drain opening to activate it
- Continuous garbage disposal systems require a switch to be engaged to turn on and off the unit
- Air switch models use air pressure to activate the garbage disposal unit
All these models share a common feature. The power source for the disposal will be a unit located beneath the sink. Check the user manual for the specifics of your particular model.
Causes of Garbage Disposals Jams and Clogs
When a garbage disposal jams or becomes clogged, it’s usually due to the buildup of food waste that has accumulated over time. Particles of food, such as small bones, eggshells, and fruit skins, can get stuck in the blades of the disposal and cause a blockage. Accumulated grease and oils from food can also cause a blockage.
If you haven’t used your disposal in some time, the motor may have become seized or corroded, causing it to jam. In this case, you should call a professional plumber for help.
Garbage Disposal Repair Safety Tip
Even though garbage disposal blades are not sharp like swords, they are still powerful grinders that can cause harm if safety measures are not followed properly.
When fixing a garbage disposal, remember to never put your hands into it.
Do not put your hand or fingers down into the disposal, even if you believe it has been unplugged or its circuit has been turned off. If the disposal is accidentally turned on while your fingers are in the opening, you will get hurt. Avoid taking this unnecessary risk.
Tips for DIY Fixes for Garage Disposals Jams
There are several things you can do to attempt to fix a garbage disposal unit. Here are a few tips:
Resetting The Unit
Before working on the garbage disposal unit, disconnect it by pulling the plug out of the outlet to prevent it from accidentally turning on.
To fix a jam in your garbage disposal, locate the reset button on the underside of the unit. Look for a red button and press it if it’s sticking out. Pushing the button back in might reset the unit.
If you can’t see the reset button, you might have to try manually rotating the grinders. Remember to unplug the unit first. The section below goes into more detail about this method.
If the red button pops out on the garbage disposal due to overheating, wait for 15 minutes before pressing it again. Repeat this process until the button remains in its place.
Then run water through the unit. Make sure that the water is cold and then let it run through the disposal for one to two minutes to flush it out.
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. Test it’s working with some food scraps.
Manually Rotating the Disposal Blades
Turn off the power to the disposal unit, and inspect it. Look for any physical blockages that can be removed easily with pliers or other tools.
Insert an Allen wrench into the bottom of the disposer and turn it back and forth several times to try to free up any stuck blades or parts.
First, turn the wrench counterclockwise as much as possible. Then, turn it clockwise until it can’t go further. Keep moving the wrench back and forth until you can rotate it completely. Applying force is alright as the wrench is flexible and won’t harm the disposal unit.
Turn on the faucet and run water down the disposal to try and loosen anything that may have been clogging it.
Manually Removing Blockages
First, switch off the electricity supply to the room.
To switch the electricity off, locate the fuse box in your house. It’s usually located in the basement, under the stairs, or in a closet on the bottom floor. Flip the switch that controls the room where the disposal unit is installed to the off position.
Use a flashlight to inspect the drain of your sink as well as inside the waste disposal. Direct the light towards the outer edge of the unit, as blockages commonly occur there. Locate the small grinders of the disposal’s blades. They will be on the outer edge. Check if there is any obstruction present.
To ensure your safety, do not put your hand in the waste unit. Instead, we recommend using either a pair of pliers or kitchen tongs. Reach down through the drain with the tool and use it to remove any blockages.
Use a special garbage disposal wrench to turn the blades if they’re stuck. Try to rotate the blades clockwise and counterclockwise until they move freely. Be sure to apply a significant amount of force when spinning the blades. Keep rotating the wrench left and right until the blades become loose.
Check that any tools have been removed from inside the waste disposal unit. To test the garbage disposal restore power to the room. Then turn it on. If it still doesn’t work, replacing the motor may be necessary.
When to Call an Expert Plumber for Help with Your Jammed Sink Disposal
You should call a professional plumber for help if your efforts haven’t worked. It may be best to call an expert sooner rather than later to avoid further damage to your disposal unit.
It’s possible that the motor may be seized or corroded, and it may need to be replaced. A professional plumber will be able to assess the issue quickly and determine what steps need to be taken to get your disposal working again.
Best Practices for Preventing Future Garbage Disposal Jams
There are several things you can do to prevent future blockages. Here are some tips we suggest you follow:
- Only send food down the disposal that is suitable for it, such as soft foods and small items
- Avoid putting fibrous or starchy vegetables into the garbage disposal
- Regularly clean out your sink trap to remove which may restrict water flow to the unit
- Make sure you’re running enough cold water through your disposal when in use
- Flush away any grease buildup with warm water
- Use a special garbage disposal wrench occasionally to manually spin and unscrew stuck blades on the unit’s outer edge if needed
- Check under your sinks for plumbing leaks around pipes connected to the unit
- Adding some ice cubes into your sink every few months will help sharpen up dulled blades
- Use a garbage disposal cleaner or citrus-based solution to help break down existing build-ups
Need Help Fixing Your Disposal Unit?
Garbage disposal jams can be a hassle, but with the right knowledge and tips, you can prevent them from happening in the future. To ensure your garbage disposals are running smoothly all year long, it’s important to follow best practices as we’ve talked about above.
If you’re still having trouble with a garbage disposal jam, don’t hesitate to call an expert plumber for help. At Antons HVAC we have experienced professionals who are ready and waiting to assist – so visit our website today to schedule a service!