Garbage Disposal Jammed? Here's How to Fix It

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Updated December 8, 2021
A woman washing vegetables in the sink
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If you flicked the disposal switch and heard a hum instead of its usual ruckus, your garbage disposal may be jammed. But there’s good news: While there are lots of problems around your kitchen that you may need a local professional plumber to solve, fixing a jammed garbage disposal is not one of them. 

Let’s walk you through getting your garbage disposal back up and operational in no time flat.

Difficulty: 1/5

Time: 30 minutes to an hour 

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Flashlight

  • Tongs

  • Allen wrench

  • Wooden spoon or broom

1. Turn Off the Disposal

A clean sink with a garbage disposal installed
Bill Oxford/E+ via Getty Images

While this might seem like a no-brainer (and garbage disposals don’t start at random), it’s still a serious piece of equipment and should be handled carefully. So before you do anything to address this jam, make sure your disposal is turned off. 

2. Examine With a Flashlight

In order to get a clear look at the inside of your garbage disposal, you’re going to need to use a flashlight—it’s dark in there! 

Shine the light inside of the drain to see what’s going on. If you can easily spot the blockage, do not use your hand to remove it. Instead, use tongs or another tool to gently remove the blockage. 

3. Check Under Sink

If you can’t spot anything blocking your garbage disposal from above, it’s time to channel your inner plumber and go under the sink. Put down a towel and lie on your back looking up at your garbage disposal unit.

From this position, you should be able to spot a small hole in the middle of the disposal’s base. Work your Allen wrench inside the hole until you can easily turn it in a full circle. The base will lower, and you can look inside your garbage disposal for any potential jams. 

Again, no hands allowed! If you spot a clog or jam that can easily be removed, be sure to use another tool. 

4. Move the Blades

If you cannot access the base of your garbage disposal from below and your garbage disposal is still blocked, don’t worry! Sometimes food or other clogs get trapped within the blades and need to be moved into your line of vision.

To do this, use a long-handled wooden spoon or the end of a wooden broom. Place your tool handle-first into the garbage disposal and move it against the edges, pushing the blades around manually. If this moves the blogs into your vision, remove the spoon or broom and use your tongs to remove the clog. 

5. Reset the Garbage Disposal

A man cleaning a garbage disposal unit
JodiJacobson/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Once you’ve successfully removed the jam from your garbage disposal, reset it before you use it again. Most garbage disposals have a “reset” button located on their base. 

If there’s no reset button there, consult your garbage disposal’s manual or look online. Once located, hit that reset button.

6. Turn It Back On

Now is the time to see if you’ve gotten rid of the jam! Start running water from the sink and turn on your disposal. If it starts running, good news—you’ve gotten rid of your jam and are once again in possession of a functioning garbage disposal. If it is still not working, repeat these steps two to three more times. 

If repeated trials of these steps don’t give you the results you need, then it may be time to contact a plumber in your area.

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