How to fix a jammed garbage disposal

When looking inside a jammed garbage disposal, use a flashlight and tongs to remove any items that may be causing the problem, says Christmas. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz).

When looking inside a jammed garbage disposal, use a flashlight and tongs to remove any items that may be causing the problem, says Christmas. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz).

While hiring a knowledgeable plumber is a good idea for large jobs, there are some service jobs that many homeowners can do themselves that can save them money. One of those jobs is un-jamming a garbage disposal. 

Many times when speaking to a customer, the disposal has stopped running and they can hear a humming sound. This usually means that the disposal is jammed, and in many cases it can be easily fixed.

Below are steps to take to fix a jammed garbage disposal.

1. Turn it off

It’s very important that you turn off the disposal before you begin. Also, shut off the water in your sink.

2. Look inside

Look inside disposal with a flashlight to see if there is any visible blockage. Never, under any circumstance, place your hand into the disposal’s grinding chamber. Instead, use tongs or a similar tool to remove any object you see.

3. Look from underneath

If you don’t see anything inside, look underneath your sink. In the center on the bottom of disposal, insert a quarter of an inch allen wrench into the hole provided. Work it back and forth until you can turn it in a full circle. Again, look inside disposal and remove any object with tongs.

4. Move the blades

If a hole is not present at the bottom of the disposal, try using a broom handle or similar item and stick it through the sink hole into the disposal. Position the handle against the blades and work it back and forth until they move freely. Look inside the disposal again and remove any object with tongs.

5. Reset the disposal

Check for the reset button on bottom of the disposal. When you find it, push the button to reset the garbage disposal.

6. Turn it on

Turn the water on and return power to the disposal. You may need to repeat the entire procedure until item is cleared.

It’s important to never stick your hand into the garbage disposal itself, even if it is turned off. Trying the steps above may very well resolve the issue and un-jam your garbage disposal. If not, call a professional to have them take a look.

About this Angie's List Expert: Bill Christmas is the general manager of Peed Plumbing Inc., providing plumbing services in Manassas, Va. Since 1980, Peed Plumbing has provided expertise in plumbing, including drain cleaning, water heater service, water treatment, wells and pumps, video inspection and more. 

As of July 3, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


in most cases you can not unjamm a disposal with a broom handle. 90% of disposals come with a wrench that goes in under the bottom of the disposal connecting to the motor and blades which will be even more safe than using a broom handle or any other foreign object in side the unit. if you don't have the original wrench a allen wrench works best most of the time. if after you have tried this please call a professional because a disposal can be very dangerous to work on.

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