Before getting into how to unclog a disposal, you may be wondering how it happens in the first place.
Several common causes could be at the root of the problem.
Incorrect Food Types
Your garbage disposal wasn’t meant to handle every type of food, which is why you should be mindful
of what you throw down there. Some of the most common types of food that can make your garbage disposal
1. Hard to Chop – anything that is difficult to chop yourself, such as bones, seeds, and pits, should never
find its way into the garbage disposal.
2. Stringy Items – avoid stringy items such as celery and pasta. These tend to get tangled in the blades.
3. Easy Clogging – Grease, fat, and oil will harden and lead to a significant blockage in your disposal and
drain. These are a huge contributor to clogged garbage disposals.
Too Much Food at Once
Your disposal only has so much capacity to process food waste. Dumping too much too fast will
increase the risk of clogging.
It goes without saying that only food should go down your disposal. Paper, foil, plastic, fabric, and even
flower plant clippings have led to homeowners needing to unclog a garbage disposal unexpectedly.
Failing to let your disposal run until it’s finished could cause a build-up of waste that eventually
prevents anything from passing through it. You should also let the water run for a minute to clear any
Believe it or not, hot water can also be a problem. Hot water spreads grease, fat, and oil in your food
around the disposal and into the pipes. When these substances harden, you’ll start to see the beginning of a
The best cure for a clogged garbage disposal is preventing the problem in the first place. Follow these
tips to reduce the risk of a blockage.
1. Be selective about the foods you send down.
2. Use a sink strainer.
3. Chop food waste before sending it down the disposal.
4. Feed food slowly, usually a half cup or less.
5. Rinse with cold water after every use.
6. Use regularly to keep your disposal in good shape.
7. ENSURE POWER TO THE DISPOSAL IS OFF - Safety needs to be a priority when you are working with a
garbage disposal. To ensure that no power is flowing to the disposal, turn off the switch to the
disposal, then also turn off the switch on your breaker panel assigned to the disposal or general
kitchen area. It may also be useful to tape a note (complete with the date and time) to the breaker
panel not to reset it as you are troubleshooting a garbage disposal issue.
While it is preferable to avoid sticking your hand into the disposal, it's also important to have the disposal
turned off to avoid electric discharge from the motor or wires while you work.
8. Check for obstructions - Use a flashlight to look down into the disposal. A common reason for a
disposal to overheat is some type of obstruction, like a fork, a piece of jewelry, or even large bones. If
you can spot any visible obstructions, use long pliers or a set of tongs to try and remove the blockage.
Even though the power is off to the disposal, it still isn't recommended to reach into it with your hand.
You never known when someone else in the home could turn the switch back on without thinking to
ask about why it was off in the first place. It's always better to be safe in these circumstances.
9. Locate the reset button - With any visible obstructions removed, the garbage disposal should be able to
function properly without overheating. Look at the bottom of the garbage disposal or on the side near
the base of the appliance to find a red reset button.
10. Test the disposal - After resetting the disposal you will need to test it to make sure that it's working
correctly. Turn the power back on to the unit and run cold water down the drain for several seconds
before turning on the switch. If the garbage disposal is clear and working correctly it should start up
immediately and sound normal. However, if the disposal produces a loud hum, turn it off immediately
because the disposal is jammed.
11. Dislodge jams and retest - Turn the power off to the disposal before working on it. Use the offset
wrench that came with the disposal. (The flywheel opening is usually set up for a 4-sided wrench, so if
you have lost yours or it didn't come with your home, you can usually find one in your local home
center.) Turn the wrench in the clockwise direction to dislodge the jammed impeller or flywheel.
** Note - There are You Tube videos you can watch also to help you troubleshoot garbage disposal
If you have issues, contact us at Maintenance Medic. We can help!
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