Dealing with Jammed Garbage Disposal


While some people may think about it differently, the garbage disposal is absolutely a part of your home’s plumbing system. Like other parts of the system, it can experience issues — even including those that may require emergency plumber assistance in some cases. 

One problem that may occur within a garbage disposal, but one that some handy homeowners can remedy easily enough on their own, is when this component becomes jammed. What are some of the ways this can happen, and how can a jammed garbage disposal be cleared out, either on your own or with the help of quality local plumbers? Here’s a rundown.

Common Sources of Garbage Disposal Jams

If you can hear the garbage disposal humming when you try to turn it on, but it’s clearly not actually running and serving its normal purpose, it’s likely there’s a jam in the component. Here are some of the common causes of such jams:

  • Eggshells: Believe it or not, tiny shards of eggshell can cause big problems in a garbage disposal. Avoid putting these and other food waste products down the drain when you can, but if you must, try to run cold water while the disposal is on to help reduce the likelihood of a jam.
  • Celery: Celery is stringy and fibrous, and these characteristics can easily lead to jams in a garbage disposal. Again, try to avoid putting these items down the drain if you can, but if you must, chop them up into small pieces first.
  • Fruit pits: If you’re like most people and enjoy biting into a fresh fruit snack, beware of the pits! These can easily become lodged in a garbage disposal and cause it to jam. Be sure to discard fruit pits in the trash can, not down the drain.
  • Grease: If there’s one things that garbage disposals really don’t like, it’s grease. This thick, sticky substance can easily cause a jam. When cooking with fats and oils, be sure to scrape them into the trash can rather than down the drain.
  • Coffee grounds: Believe it or not, coffee grounds can also cause a garbage disposal to jam. When disposing of these, be sure to run plenty of cold water after doing so.

Steps for Clearing a Jammed Garbage Disposal

Before we get to our tips to homeowners for unclogging a jammed garbage disposal, a vital note: If you’re uncomfortable with any part of these directions, do not proceed. Improper handling of the garbage disposal creates major safety risks, plus risks worsening the damage.

If you’re comfortable proceeding, the first step in all cases is to cut the power to your garbage disposal. There should be no chance whatsoever of the component accidentally switching on and cutting your hands. Here are some themes to consider once you’ve done that:

  • Try resetting: In some cases, a garbage disposal that’s overheated will automatically turn itself off. In this scenario, the reset button on the bottom of the disposal can be pushed to get it up and running again.
  • Use a wooden spoon: If there’s something lodged in the disposal that you can’t see, try using a wooden spoon or another blunt object to dislodge it. Be careful doing so, as you don’t want to damage the blades.
  • Turn it off and on: This old standby sometimes does the trick when a disposal is jammed. Turning it off and on again can help dislodge whatever’s causing the issue.

If your garbage disposal is experiencing jam issues, consider these tips for remedying them — and look to avoid these in the future by limiting the harmful items you place in the garbage disposal.

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