Updated July 24, 2023
A garbage disposal can be a great addition to your kitchen. Disposals work by breaking up food particles into tiny pieces, which reduces the chances of your drains getting clogged. The only issue is that garbage disposals can easily get jammed by things like fibrous vegetables and other foods. If you attempt to use the unit when it is jammed, you could cause damage or ruin the disposal altogether.
Luckily, there are a number of steps that you can take to attempt to clear the jam yourself before calling in a professional plumber. To make this easier, here is a full step-by-step guide to using a broom handle to clear a jammed garbage disposal.
Make Sure the Disposal Is Turned Off
The very first thing you’ll need to do is make sure to turn off the unit. This ensures that you can’t accidentally start the disposal while working, which would obviously be dangerous and could also seriously damage the unit.
There should be a power switch under the sink on the side or bottom of the unit. However, we always recommend unplugging the power cord from the wall just to be safe. If your unit is hard-wired into your electrical system, you will need to switch off the circuit breaker that controls it.
Use a Flashlight to Inspect Inside the Disposal
After turning the power off, take a flashlight and shine it inside the disposal. The inside of the disposal is extremely dark, and a flashlight will enable you to see if there is anything that is obviously clogging or jamming the unit.
Fibrous vegetables like celery and banana peels are usually the main cause of a jammed garbage disposal. When you attempt to run these foods through the disposal, they can often get wound around the blades or impellers. Hard items can also get stuck in between the blades and the side of the disposal, which will also prevent them from spinning.
If you see anything inside the unit, you’ll want to use a pair of metal tongs to try to pull it out. Even though you shut the power off, you should absolutely never stick your hands or fingers into the disposal.
If you were able to remove whatever was jamming up the disposal, you can then move on to resetting the disposal and testing that it works. If you can’t identify and remove what is obstructing the unit, you’ll need to try additional steps to unjam it and remove the obstruction.
Unjamming the Disposal From Underneath the Sink
The next step is to get underneath the sink to see if you can get the blades to spin. This will require lying on your back underneath the sink so that you can look up at the bottom of the disposal. If you’re not comfortable doing this or you can’t reach the disposal for any reason, you can skip to the next step.
The unit should have a small, hexagon-shaped hole on the bottom that fits an Allen wrench. Your unit most likely came with a wrench, but if you don’t have it, any 1/4-inch Allen wrench should fit.
Put the Allen wrench inside the hole and attempt to turn it one full circle in a counterclockwise direction. This causes the motor shaft to spin and should help to dislodge whatever is jamming it. After completing a full circle, turn the wrench a full circle clockwise. If you can’t get the Allen wrench to turn, you will then need to see if you can clear the jam from the drain.
If you were able to get the shaft to spin in both directions, the unit should be unjammed. Before turning the power back on and seeing if the motor will now spin, make sure to again inspect inside the unit and remove any visible obstructions with tongs or another tool. If you don’t remove the obstruction, the unit will most likely still not work even if you were able to get it to spin manually.
Clearing the Jam With a Broom Handle
This step is essentially similar to the previous one. What you’re trying to do is get the blades to spin, which can move the obstruction into your field of vision so that you can remove it.
Take a broom handle, stick it down inside the disposal, and then, use the handle to push the blades so that they spin. This can also be done using a long-handled wooden spoon.
After turning the blades, use your flashlight to again check to see if you can see what is obstructing it. If you see any clogs, use your tongs to remove them. If you still can’t see anything, try spinning the blades a few more times to see if this allows you to see the clog. If this doesn’t work, it is now time to contact the professional plumbers at Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing to fix the problem for you.
Reset the Disposal
If you were able to remove the obstruction, you will then need to reset the unit before you can test to see if it works. Virtually all new garbage disposals have an internal circuit breaker. If the unit becomes jammed, overheats, or experiences other issues, the circuit breaker automatically trips to prevent the motor from potentially burning out. Once this breaker trips, the unit won’t start until it has been reset.
There should be a button on the base of the unit labeled “reset.” Press this button in to reset the circuit breaker. If you can’t find the reset button, you will need to look in your owner’s manual or online to see where it is.
Test It to See If the Disposal Is Unjammed
The last step is to turn the power back on and test to see if you successfully cleared the jam. When testing the disposal, make sure to have the water running before turning the unit on. This will help to break down and flush any particles remaining inside the disposal. Water also helps to lubricate the unit and prevent it from overheating.
You will know the second you switch the unit on whether it is still jammed. If it instantly starts spinning as it should, you’re good to go. However, if you hear the motor hum but the blades aren’t spinning, you will need to hire a plumber to determine why it isn’t working properly. It could be that the motor is bad or it could be that you simply weren’t able to remove the obstruction. In either case, this is something you should have a professional plumber at Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing deal with.
Professional Garbage Disposal and Plumbing Services
If your garbage disposal is jammed or experiencing any other problems, the expert plumbers at Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Norcross are here to help. We specialize in the installation and repair of garbage disposals, and our team works on units from any manufacturer. We also offer a full range of other residential plumbing services including drain cleaning, sewer repair, and water heater installation and repair. If you can’t get your garbage disposal to work for any reason, give us a call today.