Your kitchen garbage disposal is probably the most valuable clean-up tool. Getting rid of food scraps and other food waste down the garbage disposal drain is a modern-day convenience we almost can’t live without. But when we’re faced with a clogged garbage disposal, it usually leads to inconvenience and unhappiness! Let’s take a look at how to troubleshoot and repair a garbage disposal, whether due to clogs, jams or other problems.
Reasons You Need to Fix a Garbage Disposal
Your garbage disposer is designed to grind and flush down food. While good at this, even the best disposals have their limits. A clogged garbage disposal is almost always due to too much of the wrong kind of waste going down. Starchy foods such as potatoes or rice, or vegetables with strong structures like carrots or stringy celery are big culprits. Skins and peels from these foods are especially bad. Some people will try and dispose of hard, brittle food like chicken bones. While this can work, you can definitely see why a material like this could cause a garbage disposal to become jammed. Sometimes, we don’t know why a garbage disposal isn’t working, but fortunately there a few easy fixes to try.
Garbage Disposal Fixes
It’s always best to unplug your garbage disposal before attempting repairs. You’ll find the garbage disposal plug going into the wall under your sink. Also, never reach into the garbage disposal drain with your bare hands (even if the unit is unplugged). There are other ways to dislodge or remove clogged waste.
If you hear your garbage disposal grinding, but your sink has filled up with messy water try working some kitchen tongs into the drain and grabbing out as much gunk as you can get. Flip on your garbage disposal switch and see if it works.
If your disposal still isn’t working or if all you hear is a humming noise when turning it on you probably have a good ol’ fashioned jammed garbage disposal. First, try taking the end of a large wood spoon or dowel. Insert it down the drain and wiggle it around. The goal is to move the impeller blades (the food grinders), and free them. Two dowels of this size can also be used for more leverage.
If your disposal is still jammed, you can try another method of turning the blades manually using a garbage disposal wrench. If you look at the bottom of your garbage disposal, you’ll see a small hole at the center. An allen wrench (hex shaped) fits in here, and its how you can move the blades manually. Simply insert your wrench and turn it from side to side. The idea again is to loosen and move the blades.
Finally, if your garbage disposal is still humming but not grinding, or is not responding at all, you may need to reset your machine. This is done by pressing a small (size of a pencil erase head), button on the bottom of your disposal. Sometimes, if your unit has frozen up, this reset could repair a garbage disposal. It’s purpose is to keep the unit’s motor from overheating, so for safety’s sake it can trip itself rendering the motor inoperable.
Don’t forget to plug your disposal back in each time you go to test it. When you do garbage disposal repair, you don’t want to introduce a new variable by leaving it unplugged! If you’re unsuccesfull with the above, a plumber may be in order. At the least, they will have a special tool to move your stuck blades.