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What can I do to fix a clogged garbage disposal?

A clogged disposal is a common problem, and there are several ways a garbage disposal can become clogged. You may have dropped an object (often a dining utensil) down the drain. Maybe you weren’t using enough water when running the disposal, or you were packing too much food into it to begin with. Regardless, it usually doesn’t take much to fix a clogged garbage disposal.

The first thing you need to remember when you unclog a garbage disposal is to never use chemical drain cleaners. The chemicals can corrode the machine, and severely break down and damage the plastic and rubber parts. Use a plunger to push the clog out of and past the disposal and kitchen sink drain then flush it through the line with plenty of water.

If your disposal is jammed, start by shutting off the electricity to the unit. The switch will either be located in the cabinet (by the disposal) or on the wall near the sink. After the power is off, unplug the disposal or turn off the breaker switch for it. Even with the power off, always avoid sticking your hand in the disposal, if possible. The unit may be defective or malfunctioning. Even if you believe it to be working fine, it’s not a risk worth taking.

Shine a light into the garbage disposal to see if you can spot an object. If so, remove it with pliers, then turn the power back on and press the reset button.

If the disposal is stilled clogged, turn the power off once again and stick a broom handle or dowel rod into the disposal. Use the key that came with your disposal. Plug it into the hole on the bottom of the unit and turn from side to side. The key is usually just an allen wrench so if you’ve lost the key, find your allen wrench set. Power up, and if necessary, press the reset button. This helpful Roto-Rooter video will walk you through all the steps required to fix a jammed garbage disposal.

In the future, never put chicken bones, corn on the cob, avocado or peach pits into the disposal. These objects can clog or permanently damage your garbage disposal. Peels, eggshells and coffee grounds should also be thrown into the trash or compost, not the disposal. Finally, remember to always use sufficient water when running your unit.

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