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Why is My Garbage Disposal Stuck?

Don’t Panic If You Find Something Stuck in Your Garbage Disposal

John Turpin is our resident home service repair expert here at Service Direct. He’s got the knowledge and experience to help homeowners like you make sense of most home repair issues. And with Service Direct, we connect you with top-tier service professionals to help with any repairs needed.

Garbage disposals are greatly convenient for homeowners. But like any device, mechanical or not, it is bound to stop working sometimes. It can happen anytime and in the case of garbage disposals, it’s often the result of something stuck inside the machine. What can you do if this happens? Is it still possible to repair a garbage disposal stuck with something like food or even plastic or utensils stuck inside?

Yes, of course. You can still fix your stuck garbage disposal. This article will help you with tips and advice you can try on your own. At the same time, this article will educate you about reasons why your garbage disposal is stuck, which should help in your discussion with a professional. Read on to learn more about why you’re having issues with this kitchen appliance.

If your kitchen garbage disposal is getting stuck, our resident home improvement guru John Turpin can help you diagnose and fix the issue.

Should You Do DIY Garbage Disposal Repair or Hire a Pro?

The problem: your garbage disposal is stuck. You have two options here: call for an appliance repair pro or go for the DIY approach. Trying to repair the appliance by yourself is a cheaper option. The problem is it may result in complications that lead to more costly repairs or even replacement.

Sometimes, you can save more by hiring a competent local contractor who can solve the issue quickly and efficiently. But if you still want to try some DIY hacks, read the rest of the article. The tips below work with different brands and models of garbage disposals, including InSinkErator, Moen, GE, Frigidaire, and Waste King.

Clear Garbage Disposal Blockage

Is My Garbage Disposal Stuck or Dead?

Your garbage disposal hums after turning it on, but it’s not working. Nothing is happening and you are worried that the device is now dead and needs replacement.  There’s a good chance the garbage disposal has a faulty motor or a jam. The latter is one of the most common issues, which is easy enough to fix if the device has a fitting at the bottom where you can insert and turn an Allen wrench.

One way to identify if something is stuck in the garbage disposal is if it makes a loud electric sound the moment you turn it on. You can hear this sound because the objective inside is preventing the motor from turning. In this situation, you should switch off the device right away to prevent the motor from burning.

Don’t worry because there are ways to solve this issue. Most of the time, you can unstick the disposal on your own, unless the object was securely lodged inside. In that case, you will need the assistance of a professional appliance repair technician. In the meantime, you can try the following tips on how to fix a stuck garbage disposal.

How to Remove Something Stuck in Garbage Disposal

The way that garbage disposals work is generally the same or very similar for all brands and models. Follow these tips for common methods to get your garbage disposal back up and running.

Disconnect Power from the Disposal

It’s very important for your safety that you completely remove power from the garbage disposal and prevent it from having any chance of turning on and spinning the blades.

  • Find your home’s electric box control panel and turn off the switch powering your disposal. You may need to test a few of the switches to be sure you found the right one.
  • Disconnect the power cord of the disposal from the outlet to be extra sure that no electricity is connected.

If you feel unsure or concerned about this process, please contact a local appliance repair pro for assistance and save yourself the worry and hassle.

Use the Reset Button

The most common way to fix a non-functional disposal is to reset it using the reset button.

  • Once you have turned off and unplugged the device, locate the red reset button on the underside of the disposal.
  • If it’s sticking out it’s because it was automatically tripped due to a jam of the blades or the motor overheating.
  • Press it to reset the disposal but if it pops back out, you may need to wait and let the device cool down for another 10-15 minutes before attempting it again. Repeat this process until the button stays in place. If this doesn’t work, try running cold water down the sink.
  • After doing the instructions above, turn the power back on to the garbage disposal to test it out.

When the blades start spinning again, you should see the reset button flush back in its place rather than sticking out. If it’s stuck but the motor is humming, then the device is functional. If you don’t hear any hum and the power supply is on, your garbage disposal might be broken.

Garbage Disposal Reset Button and Wrench

Use the Allen Wrench to Unjam Disposal Blades

If resetting didn’t work initially, you can try dislodging the jam with an Allen wrench, a common tool designed to fit into the small opening located at the bottom of the unit. With it, you can manually rotate the blades inside the disposal, effectively dislodging any object that got stuck inside.

  • Like before, make sure that you unplugged the unit. Go under the sink and find the hole for the wrench below the disposal. It should be in the center of the unit and shaped like a hexagon. Grab your Allen wrench and put its head into the hole.
  • Crank the wrench to turn the unit’s motor shaft to manually rotate the grinder blades. Turn it anti-clockwise as much as possible and then clockwise so that the shaft doesn’t go any further. Continue cranking the wrench until it rotates in a full circle.  You may need to use a bit more force to rotate back and forth until the blades spin freely.
  • Remove the wrench and test the unit by turning on the water. Let it run until it rinses all debris that was stuck on the blades of the garbage disposal. If the unit still isn’t working, drain the water and try another method.
Garbage Disposal Allen Wrench Turn

Manually Remove Blockage

Besides an Allen wrench, you can try other tools like tongs or a plunger to help dislodge debris in the drain and remove any blockage.

Important: Never use your hands to reach inside the disposal as that could be dangerous, even if the unit is turned off or unplugged.

  • Using a pair of long, slender tongs as the tool can be a useful way for reaching into the garbage disposal and pull out debris or move them out of the way to free up the turning of the blades.
  • In addition, you can use a toilet plunger to create suction and dislodge various smaller pieces of stuck debris.
  • Again, make sure the reset button is flush and popped in. If it pops back out, you may need to continue the manual debris removal process.
Unjam Garbage Disposal Tools

Common Objects That Get Stuck in Garbage Disposal

There are a lot of things that can get stuck inside a garbage disposal. Your garbage disposal can have a spoon stuck inside or any other utensil. It may even be an Allen wrench that caused the garbage disposal to get stuck, which can happen if you are not careful. Some of the other common objects that can cause this kitchen appliance to jam are:

  • Cups
  • Forks, Knives, Spoons
  • Dishcloth
  • Coins
  • Screws
  • Plastic
  • Bones
  • Glass
  • Fruit Pits
  • Nutshells

Common Garbage Disposal FAQs

Where is the Reset Button on a Garbage Disposal?

Most garbage disposals have a red reset button at the bottom of the unit. They are designed to trip and pop out automatically to stop the unit in the case of a jam or motor overheating.

What Does it Mean If a Garbage Disposal Just Hums?

Humming garbage disposal could be a sign that something is lodged inside its blades. It is humming because the motor cannot turn. It is in this case that you can try the tips mentioned in this article. Try dislodging the object that is causing your Moen garbage disposal to be stuck. If this doesn’t work and resetting doesn’t do it as well, your garbage disposal is probably worn out now. However, you can still get it checked by an appliance repair pro to be sure.

What Tools Can You Use to Unblock a Jammed Garbage Disposal?

Never put your hands in the disposal since that’s extremely dangerous, even with the power off. Once you’ve disconnected power from the unit, you could use a pair of long, skinny tongs to grab and extract and dislodge stuck items in the blades. You can also try a plunger to move debris.

What Happens if Glass Gets into a Garbage Disposal?

If glass gets inside a garbage disposal, it could break into small pieces and cause it to clog. You can try removing them by picking them up using pliers or tongs. You can also vacuum them, but they might damage your vacuum.

What Things Can You Put in the Garbage Disposal?

The basic rule is you can put any biodegradable food inside a garbage disposal. Some of these things encouraged are most vegetable and fruit scraps, cooked meat scraps, citrus rinds, small bones, and small pieces of ice.

How Do I Open a Garbage Disposal?

First, make sure it is unplugged. Find the small hole under the garbage disposal. Insert the wrench in this hole to loosen the blades. Once they are loose, just continue turning the wrench until the unit is completely open.

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