A garbage disposal provides many benefits: It's a major convenience in the kitchen and it promotes clean and sanitary conditions by providing an easily accessible receptacle for food waste. Once you're used to a disposal as part of your kitchen prep, cooking and cleaning routines, functioning without it is messier and more time-consuming. It can also cause serious issues, like water backing up in the sink. On top of that, no one wants a non-functional appliance in their home when the fix can be as simple as taking a few steps yourself or getting in touch with the professionals at Roto-Rooter.
A common root cause for a jammed garbage disposal is tough, stringy or otherwise hard-to-cut foodstuffs or other matter slowing down or stopping the blades. To better understand which items can and should not go down the drain, Roto-Rooter developed this helpful infographic. Other issues include dropping foreign objects into the disposal, like forks and knives, and not feeding enough water into the unit as it operates, When a disposal gets jammed it the disposal usually trips its onboard circuit breaker, which stops the disposal's motor from overworking itself and burning out. Most people recognize the circuit breaker on the bottom of the unit as “the reset button.” They are one and the same.
It's critical that you ensure the jammed garbage disposal is switched off, the circuit breaker connected to the disposal is also off and that you never stick your hands inside the unit from above - the stationary blades are still very sharp and usually obscured from view. Once your garbage disposal is safe to work on, you can take the following steps:
Using a flashlight and a pair of pliers or kitchen tongs, look into the disposal from above and check for a large item, like a piece of cutlery or a bone, blocking the disposal. If such an obstruction exists, use the pliers to remove it. Then, wait about 15 minutes to ensure the motor is cool, turn the circuit breaker back on, hit the reset switch on the unit - usually red and on the bottom - and try running it again. Roto-Rooter created a very helpful video that will direct you through the steps of clearing a jammed garbage disposal. You can watch it by clicking here.
With an Allen wrench (or the key that came with your disposal) in hand, position yourself under the unit and find the center shaft, which terminates in a hole shaped like the wrench. Place the correctly sized Allen wrench into the hole and turn it back and forth. Keep doing so until you feel the force needed to move the wrench reduce and can make the wrench perform a complete turn. Then, turn the circuit breaker back on, hit the reset switch and try turning it back on.
Is your jammed garbage disposal still not working? Give Roto-Rooter a call for some expert service.