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How do I un-jam my garbage disposal?

The garbage disposal unit has become an integral part of a modern working kitchen. Ever since the first garbage disposal unit was invented by John W. Hammes in Wisconsin in 1927, it has greatly influenced and changed our domestic waste disposal habits. Since then, there have been constant attempts for improving and advancing this primitive technology to suit our needs better.

As a result of this continuous advancement, our domestic lives have been completely revolutionized in recent years. In this era, there is hardly a kitchen which does not have a garbage disposal unit installed under the sink. In 2019, unit shipments of disposers in the United States are forecast to reach 8.27 million units.

What is a garbage disposal unit?

A garbage disposal unit, sometimes also referred to as a waste disposal unit or a garbage disposer is a machine that is used to help get rid of kitchen waste – as the name suggests. It is usually powered by electricity and installed underneath the kitchen sink. What it does is that it tears up the leftover food and other kitchen waste into tiny pieces before they pass on into the dirty pipeline. Hence, in this way, a garbage disposal unit prevents the clogging of pipes and other plumbing problems.

How does a garbage disposal unit work?

All the food you wash down the sink is collected in the garbage disposal in a grinding chamber. Once accumulated, when you turn on the motor, this waste is shredded into small pieces. This is achieved by the spinning impeller plates which push the waste towards the walls of the grinding chamber. The pulverised food particles are then carried to the waste pipeline with the stream of water coming from the kitchen sink.

Dealing with waste disposal unit problems

If you are facing issues getting your waste disposal to work like it is supposed to, you have one of two options. Most people, in this case, would go for the easy way out and simply run a Google search for plumbers near me to get in touch with a service who could come and fix the problem for them. Others, who are not afraid to get their hands dirty, might decide that the issue is not big enough to call a professional over for. They might decide to make it a DIY project for the weekend and get on their knees to fix the waste disposal themselves.

If you can tell that the problem is not a major one, and decide to fix it yourself, you will need to understand the issue to the core. More often than not, this issue is a jammed up waste disposal. In such a situation, you can easily correct the problem following these simple steps.

1. Cut off the electrical connection before attempting to fix anything

Before you attempt to resolve the issue, it is important to ensure that the electrical connection to the waste disposal has been unplugged. Even though the garbage disposal has dull plates rather than a sharp blade to shred the waste, it is safer to ensure that the motor will not start working while you are trying to fix the blades.

2. Find and press the reset or overload button

On the underside of the garbage disposal, there will be a small red reset or overload button. Sometimes, pressing this button is all it takes to fix the device. At other times, the problem is more serious than this.

If the button comes back out after a while, this could mean that the garbage disposal is simply overheated. In this situation, wait a few minutes before trying to work the device again.

3. Open the cold water tap and check if the device has started functioning

To find out if pressing the reset button has fixed the issue, turn on the cold water tap and let it flow through. Plug in the garbage disposal once again and try to turn the motor on. Sometimes, this will be all it takes. If it still does not work, then continue with step 4.

4. Identify any visible occlusions

Unplug the garbage disposal once again. Grab a flashlight and look closely inside of the drain. At times, putting the wrong things down the garbage disposal can cause the plates in it to stop spinning. Shine the light inside and see if you can find any visible blockades such as pieces of solid waste, small coins, etc.

5. Take out the blockages with tongs

In the event that a small blockade or obstruction is visible, you will need to employ a creative tactic to remove it. This can be achieved by a pair of tongs, pliers, or tweezers. A smart solution would be to use a magnet to remove any steel or iron object. For the nonmagnetic objects that cannot be removed by a piece of strong holding double sided tape at the end of a pencil or a spoon.

6. Use an Allen wrench to spin the impeller plates

After removing the visible occlusions, try giving the impeller plates a spin with a special garbage disposal wrench or an Allen wrench. Here, the good idea is to pour down some dish soap in the garbage disposal. This would dissolve the grease clinging to the plates, act as a lubricant, and make it easier for the plates to turn.

If the above steps do not get your garbage disposal to start again, it is time to call a plumber.

Clogged or jammed garbage disposal is the most common problem with this device.

Now that we have a basic idea of the workings of the garbage disposal unit, let us consider the most common problems these devices are likely to face. You can have a variety of issues with your garbage disposal unit – depending on the quality of the device and how you treat it. 

For example, disposing greasy waste and potato peels by the garbage disposal might prevent the impeller plates inside to spin correctly. If this happens, then your garbage disposal unit might jam up and stop functioning.

Other problems that may impede the functioning of your waste disposal unit include trapping of small objects in the disposal, loosening of drain fittings, or clogging up of the pipeline under the garbage disposal – which may cause the waste to regurgitate back into the sink.

Author Bio: Michelle Joe is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on TwitterLinkedInFacebook