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At Rooter Man, we understand the importance of having a functional garbage disposal in your home. It not only reduces odors but also brings added convenience to your daily routine. However, it is not uncommon for garbage disposals to experience jamming from regular wear and tear or from accidentally disposing of an item that shouldn’t have been put down the drain.

Should you encounter this issue, rest assured that Rooter Man is here to help. Our experienced staff can offer guidance and support in getting your garbage disposal running smoothly once again with our focused plumbing and drain-related services

Jammed garbage disposals are a very common plumbing occurrence. We want to share with you some things you can do to remedy this issue. There are also prevention tips to stop jammed disposals in the first place. 

Signs of jammed disposal: 

  1. A humming sound that does not grind or chop as it should
  2. The blades are much noisier than usual
  3. The disposal works then suddenly stop even though the switch is on

What to Look for When Issues Start

One major clue an issue has begun: you hear the whirring of a motor without the grinding action you expect.

Discovering how to unjam garbage disposals can be beyond most people’s daily expertise, but it is important to resolve the issue so you can return to using it.

Unfortunately, jams often mean several issues, including:

  • Used the Disposal Without Water, Causing Build-Up or Fog: Build-up can form when you use your disposal without water. It may be liquid fat, grease, oils, and other wax-inducing foods.
  • Ground Things That Shouldn’t Go Down the Disposal: Garbage disposals aren’t the place for all food items. Coffee grounds, potato or banana peels, and similar items can get trapped in the blades of your disposal and, over time, may jam it.
  • Has Dropped Foreign Objects in It: Having a disposal means an open area in your drain. It is what allows food to go down it. However, it also means that other things can venture in as well. Utensils, baby bottle items, jewelry, paper products or foil, and similar items can stop the grinder in its tracks and cause clogs or jams.

Regardless of what caused the problem, the first thing you should do when you hear the buzz but nothing happens is, turn it back off.


If your disposal is not turning on when you flip the switch, turn it back to the off position. Now, look for a red button at the bottom of your disposal and push it. If you hear clicking, you have successfully reset the internal breaker. If this doesn’t do the trick, you will have to check the breaker on your electrical panel and reset it. 

Jam or Clog

When your disposal is functional but jammed with debris, shut it off immediately. You can utilize household items to unjam the disposal. First, find something with a wooden handle, like a spatula or long spoon. Hold it upside down and insert the handle into the top of the disposal. Now move it around to break up and dislodge debris within the top chamber. You will need to get under the sink if this does not solve the problem. Use a 1/4” or 5/16” Allen wrench for this technique. Insert the Allen wrench into the bottom of the disposal and move it around vigorously. This should free up any clogs that are underneath the blades. 

No matter which technique you use, we always recommend you never put your hand inside a garbage disposal for safety reasons. 

Prevention Tips

  1. Run the disposal every few days
  2. Avoid disposing of food, peels, and shells through the disposal
  3. Do not use chemicals to clear clogs
  4. Clean your disposal every couple of weeks

Rule of Thumb About Garbage Disposals – Low Fiber, No Grain

To keep your garbage disposal functioning efficiently, it’s essential to avoid putting low-fiber, no-grain items down the drain. These types of foods, such as pasta, rice, and potatoes, can cause build-up and clogs in the disposal and pipes. Instead, dispose of these items in the trash to maintain a clean and clear plumbing system.

Quick Care Tips

Keep Your Garbage Disposal Fresh

Maintaining a fresh garbage disposal is crucial for a hygienic kitchen. Regular cleaning, using citrus peels and cold water, and avoiding putting grease, fibrous foods, or hard objects down the drain can help keep your disposal fresh and functioning properly. Rooter Man can provide additional tips and techniques for keeping your garbage disposal in optimal condition.

Disposal Not Working: Now What?

It is easy to unjam garbage disposals in many situations, but the way to do it will vary based on what is happening. For instance, if you can shine a flashlight into your sink drain and see a bottle nipple, spoon, or other foreign objects, you may use tongs to remove it. Remember, you should never put your hands into the garbage disposal!

If the issue isn’t something you can see, you may have to work harder to solve it. Some things you can try include:

Spin the Blades

Not everything can be seen with a flashlight. One thing you can try to do is spin the blades manually. To do this, use a wooden spoon to spin the blades around. Normally, it will move with ease, and you may bring whatever is clogging it into view, allowing you to pull it out with the tongs. If the blades don’t spin, or you still cannot see anything trapped in them, you may have to look harder to find the issue.

Go Under the Sink

Under the sink, you should see a small hole in the middle of your garbage disposal’s base. Using an Allen wrench, you can turn it. The base will lower, enabling you to look inside. Using the same tongs as you used above the sink, pull out any visible garbage.

Reset the Disposal

Sometimes, you may have a blockage and fail to notice it. However, your garbage disposal may not work as if it was still there. You can sometimes reset the disposal after ensuring nothing is clogging it. The reset button is most often located on the base of a garbage disposal. If you cannot see the button there, you will need to check with the manufacturer to see where it is located.

Test the Disposal Function

Once you have done all you can to unjam the garbage disposal, you will need to tighten anything you may have loosened under the sink and try to use it.

We suggest you turn on your sink’s water to help clean what remains inside it. Then you can flip the switch on your disposal. The water can rinse away anything dislodged or loosened during the repair, and the switch should start the blades turning correctly.

Rooter Man Is Here for Your Plumbing Issues

If efforts to unclog your disposal continue to be a problem, or you don’t have time to tackle all the steps repeatedly to discover where your problem lies, no problem.

Rooter Man services the Southeast Louisiana area, we will be happy to get to the root of your problems. Call us at (504) 464-0145 or contact us online for your drain and plumbing needs.


Image Credit: bogdych / Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

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