How To Unjam A Garbage Disposal & Other Tips

Faucet Water

You use and rely on your garbage disposal every day. Along with your garage door opener, it’s probably one of the most taken for granted machines in your home. You likely don’t think about it until it stops working. And when it does, it’s a hassle!

Unjamming a garbage disposal is really rather simple, and we can help you tackle a blocked garbage disposal with some quick tips on how you can maintain it on your own. With a little care, you’ll have your sink running smoothly in no time.


Garbage disposals are actually rather simple machines. They have a lot of moving parts but are easy to maintain with proper knowledge. These mashers can chew up and get rid of most any of the food-based items you throw at (or into) them. However, there are some things that may hurt the machine. Before we look at how to unjam your disposal, let’s look at what might stop it from working.


A good rule is to be careful of introducing anything fibrous or grainy into your disposal. Celery, rice and coffee grounds can clog up your machine horribly. Also glass, metal and rubber will hurt the blades and can burn out the garbage disposal motor if you continue to run the machine after it has started acting up.


Always run cold water when disposing of food. Hot or warm water melts fats, which are future clogs waiting to happen. However, if your sink starts smelling, the higher temperature is perfect. Cut up a lemon or lime, turn on the warm water and the disposal, then drop in the citrus. The smell will be gone in no time.

Legacy Plumbing Services


Regardless of how diligent you are with even the best garbage disposal, sooner or later it may get stuck. You’ll know you’ve got a jammed disposal when:

  • The disposal hums, but there is no actual chopping and grinding going on. This usually means that something is caught under the blades and is stopping the actual motion of the disposal.
  • The blades are overly noisy as they cut and dispose of the food. There is probably a piece of metal, glass or other foreign objects present that the blades are trying unsuccessfully to grind up.
  • The machine starts working then suddenly stops. More than likely, the disposal overheated and shut itself off.


You can unjam your disposal easily, but we would like to emphasize it is important to be safe when doing so. Like handling a gun as if it is always loaded, think of the garbage disposal as though it could turn on at any moment. Be sure the unit is turned off, then use a long set of tongs or pliers to reach down the sink drain and into the disposal. Wiggle these around until you get ahold of whatever’s in there and simply pull it out. This will keep your fingers and hands out of harm’s way.

If this doesn’t free up the blades, you may need to get under the sink. Insert a 1/4” or 5/16” Allen wrench into the hole in bottom of the disposal and work it back and forth pretty vigorously. This will allow you to free up any debris caught underneath of the blades.

When the machine has stopped working, getting it going can be as simple as resetting it. Push the little red button that’s on top of your machine under the sink and it should turn back on. However, if it doesn’t, your disposal may need to be replaced.

For more advice from one of our in-house experts, this handy video takes you through the process of how to unjam your garbage disposal:


At Legacy Plumbing, we provide the best service to meet your needs, and we are here to help should you discover your problem is more complex than a peach pit or chicken bone. Contact us and we’ll help you get things up and running in your kitchen, or anywhere else that you need plumbing repairs in your home.

Cindy P. from McKinney, TX asked our Master Plumber these two questions:

My mother has always told me that grinding a lemon in my garbage disposal will eliminate drain odor. Is that true?

When life gives you lemons, keep them out of your garbage disposal! Lemons will temporarily leave a fresh smell behind but that’s not all. They will also leave citric acid behind on your blades. This acid is can actually eat away at the metal parts within your disposal. Instead, cool nasty drain odor with ice! This noisy trick works by polishing the blades and blasting away the odor causing grime.

My mother-in-law always pours hot oil down the sink. She says if you run enough hot water and add dish soap the drain won’t clog. Is that true?

Be sure to steer clear of pouring hot grease down the kitchen sink. By doing so, the grease can cause your drain to clog up. Instead, a better way to take care of the hot grease would be to find a sturdy plastic container, and then dispose of it in the trash can once it has cooled.



Related Posts