How to Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal in Minutes

September 30, 2014

If your garbage disposal is stuck, try this easy trick to get it grinding again in minutes. 

No need to call the plumber! 

If your disposal ever gets "stuck" and stops grinding your food, there's an easy fix to get it moving again. A lot of people don't realize how easy it is to fix your own disposal -- this is one of the easiest home repairs!

We recently got little bits of stuff that shouldn’t be down a drain…down our drain. It can happen when there's too much food waste clogging the blades or gumming it up. Or sometimes it's due to harder debris like glass or popcorn kernels. 

Ours involved an obnoxious cat. It always involves an obnoxious cat. 

Not knowing the little bits were down the drain, I turned on the disposal and the “rarrarrarrarrar” of death started up. Actually it’s more of a “grrrrrrr” or a humming noise when it’s not working. 

If you know what I mean by “long time listener first time caller” right now than you are my favorite person. If you don’t look up “Mr. Obvious, the critter” for a laugh. 😂

The little bits had gone down the disposal and it was jammed. There’s a few things you can do to fix this situation on your own. First things first, turn the disposal off at the circuit breaker.

If something gets stuck in the actual sink part you can usually get it out of there on your own. I’ve used the handle of a wooden spoon and kind of swirled it around to dislodge the item. 

Then you can put on rubber gloves and reach in and grab it if you get it loose. Or if it’s tons of little things like glass you can put your wet vac hose down in the sink and try to pull them up that way.

This is why it's important to turn the disposal off at the breaker box! You don't want to chance the switch turning on by accident. 

If the food waste or item has gone down into the disposal like ours did, you'll need to move to the next tutorial. 

The bottom of your disposal will look like this:

bottom of garbage disposal

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Tip: Turn your phone on "selfie" mode and turn on the flashlight to see what you're doing. 

There are two areas that are important. The red button on the right is the reset button. Sometimes you can just push that in after clearing out the drain part and it may work. (The button will be out if it needs to be reset. If it’s already pushed in it doesn’t need reset.)

The area in the middle is how you’ll fix most issues with a stuck garbage disposal. 

You’ll need the key that came with it -- most plumbers will leave this attached to the bottom of the disposal somehow.

It's basically just an Allen wrench:

disposal key to fix broken disposal 

Garbage disposal hex key

If you don’t have the specific one that came with your disposal, look for a disposal hex key

Or you can usually find a size that works on an Allen wrench set

allen wrench set

Although when I fixed ours the set did not work – I had to use the disposal key to do it. The allen wrench wouldn’t grab enough.

Stick the hex key inside the hole in the middle of the disposal underside and turn it. You should feel a bit of resistance, if. you don't, make sure the key is fully inserted.

You may hear everything inside moving around and this is a good thing. 

Every few turns I would try the disposal again – if it doesn’t work on the first try or two keep turning. 

You’ll want to hit the reset button again if it’s sticking out and then things should be moving again. It took about three attempts to clear ours out but it worked! fixing jammed garbage disposal

It just takes a few minutes and you’ll usually be able to fix yours on your own. Have you ever tried this? It’s a GREAT feeling to save hundreds of bucks! Or at least $75-$150 for a service call so the repairman can do the same thing. 

Now go look up Mr. Obvious. :)

Check out these easy hacks that will clear drains all over your house!:

salt to clear backed up drain

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  1. Love the Mr. Obvious referrence - I was crying in the car when I first heard it on the radio. I think of it everytime I turn on our disposal!

    1. As do I…I had to listen to it again as I typed this. ;)

    2. HA! As soon as I read "the disposal", I heard "raaraaraar" in my head. Good ol' Mr. O!

  2. Well this is extremely helpful! Thank you!

  3. Wow, I am in awe of your "skills." :) This would have been a "call Dad' kind of problem for me. :)

  4. You're my hero! Thanks! This is good info! Also, I love your fireplace and the remodel. I'm also a Hoosier girl, in Muncie. Lol love your blog!

  5. I pinned this for future reference. You really should have called yourself amazingly awesome-kick-butt decor chick.

  6. We have an amazingly temperamental disposal and every few days I have to get under the sink and 'wind it better'.

  7. True story... one year just before Christmas my disposal went out, I didn't want to spend the money or have the time to take care of it so I didn't but I kept jokingly saying I hope I get a new disposal for Christmas! (I would not have been happy if my hubby actually listened to me) Christmas day I reached for the light switch and accidentally turned on the disposal and it came on! It was making a funny noise, so I turned it off and reached inside and a small screw had somehow found it's way down the drain and had jammed the disposal. Apparently the water going down the drain had unlodged it and I didn't realize it until I turned it on. I actually got what I wished for for Christmas, a working disposal! Thanks for these tips, next time I will know what to do right away!

  8. I lived with a "broken" disposal & slow, stinky drain for several months until I happened to mention possibly needing a new garbage disposal to my dad & stepmom and they suggested using this key. I didn't have one for mine, so I went to Home Depot and found a universal key that would work the brand I had and it did the trick! Saved me tons of money!

  9. Ahhh!! (screams of joy) you SAVED my pocket book!! I am forever grateful for this post!! You are the bomb-diggity! :)

  10. I'm a first time home buyer and this helped alot such a simple fix!! Thank you!

  11. Bravo, ours was broken. I thought I was needing to replace it and your article saved the day. Excellent!


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