How Garbage Disposals Function

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Ways to Fix a Garbage Disposal

To maintain the proper functioning of a garbage disposal, it requires some occasional repairs and maintenance. Although models may differ based on their brand and type, there are a few simple repairs that can be made to address common issues shared by all types and brands of garbage disposals. Always ensure to turn off the power to the disposal at the breaker and remove the splash guard before attempting any repair as a safety measure.

How to Remove Obstructions from the Disposal

If items such as silverware, bottle caps, or other objects get stuck in the disposal due to the splash guard, the disposal may become jammed. To fix this, use a flashlight to locate and identify the obstruction. If possible, use metal tongs to extract the obstruction. If this does not work, you can try using a turning tool or a broom handle. Turn on the power at the breaker, run cold water, and try turning on the disposal again.

How to Use a Special Turning Tool or Jam Wrench

Many garbage disposals come with an Allen wrench that fits into the hole at the bottom of your disposer. If you do not have this tool, it is available at most hardware stores. Locate the hole using a flashlight, insert the Allen wrench, and turn the disposal back and forth to loosen the jam. Turn on the power at the breaker, run cold water, and try turning on the disposal again.

How to Fix a Clogged Drain

Food matter may accumulate in the drain and cause a clog. If a regular drain cleaner does not fix the clog, you’ll have to take matters into your hands. Place a bucket underneath the drain, use a pipe wrench to loosen the fittings on the P trap, and remove the P trap. Once it’s removed, try to locate and clean out the clog. If the clog isn’t in the P trap, you may need to use an auger or a snake to free the clog.

How to Reset an Overloaded Disposal

When a disposal stops turning, it’s usually because it senses an overload of power and shuts off automatically. Wait for the disposal to cool down as a precaution. Most disposals have a reset button on the underside. After the unit cools down, press the reset button, run cold water, and try turning it on again. If this doesn’t work, you may need to inspect the cord or wiring. If the problem is beyond your expertise, don’t hesitate to call an electrician.

How to Maintain a Garbage Disposal and Prevent Further Problems

It is common to discover clogs or jams in garbage disposals, but there are ways to prevent them from forming. As time passes, the blades in a garbage disposal will become dull, and experts suggest feeding a variety of materials, such as chicken bones or glass, into the disposer to sharpen the blades. However, it is only safe to feed ice into your disposal to sharpen the blades, despite what you may hear. Avoid feeding materials with husks, such as corn, and stringy vegetables, such as celery, into your disposal to prevent a jam. Additionally, do not pour grease down the drain as it can cause a clog. If you have poured grease down the drain, try flushing it out by running hot water for a few minutes.


1. What is a garbage disposal?

A garbage disposal is an electrically powered device installed under the sink to grind up food waste and other organic materials so that they can be easily flushed out through the plumbing system.

2. How does a garbage disposal work?

A garbage disposal contains a motor that rotates a spinning plate with sharp blades. When food waste is fed into the disposal, the blades chop it into very small pieces, which are then washed away by running water down the drain.

3. What foods can be put in a garbage disposal?

Most food waste can be put in a garbage disposal, including vegetable scraps, fruit, meat, fish, eggs, and small bones. However, hard or fibrous materials, such as corn husks, artichokes, and celery, should be avoided as they can damage the blades.

4. Can a garbage disposal handle grease or oil?

No, grease and oil should never be poured down a garbage disposal. They can solidify and clog the drain pipes, leading to expensive repairs.

5. How do you maintain a garbage disposal?

To keep a garbage disposal working properly, it should be run regularly with cold water and small amounts of dish soap. Avoid overloading the disposal and grind up citrus peels or ice cubes occasionally to help clean and sharpen the blades.

6. What should you do if your garbage disposal stops working?

If your garbage disposal stops working, first check to see if it has overheated and tripped the reset button on the bottom of the unit. If this is not the problem, check the circuit breaker and make sure the unit is plugged in. If the problem persists, it may be necessary to call in a professional.

7. How long do garbage disposals last?

Garden disposals can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years, depending on usage and maintenance. Regularly cleaning and maintaining the unit can help prolong its lifespan.

8. How much water should be used when running a garbage disposal?

A steady stream of cold water should be used when running a garbage disposal to help push the food waste through the pipes and prevent clogs. Hot water should not be used as it can melt and solidify fat, grease, and oil, leading to clogs.

9. Can a garbage disposal be installed in any sink?

Most sinks can accommodate a garbage disposal, but it depends on the size and type of the sink. It is best to consult with a professional plumber to determine if a garbage disposal can be installed in your sink.

10. Are garbage disposals environmentally friendly?

Garbage disposals can be environmentally friendly as they divert food waste from landfills, where it would produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. However, they do require electricity to run and can contribute to water pollution if not used properly.

11. Are there any safety concerns with using a garbage disposal?

Yes, there are a few safety concerns with using a garbage disposal. Never put your hand or any other object into the disposal while it is running as the blades are sharp and can cause serious injury. Also, make sure the disposal is turned off and unplugged before attempting any repairs or maintenance.

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