How do you unjam a garbage disposal?

close up of garbage disposal

Why is my disposal humming and not working?

The garbage disposal is a wonderful kitchen appliance. Always there and ready to do its job, well almost always. There comes a time in the life of every garbage disposal, repair may be necessary. You rake off food from dinner plates, turn the water on and flip the switch, only to notice the garbage disposal is humming, not griding.  

When a garbage disposal stops grinding suddenly, only humming after flipping the switch, it is because of one of these two reasons: 

  • It is jammed
  • The motor is bad

How do I fix a garbage disposal that just hums?

Hearing a humming means the disposal has power, so there probably isn’t any electrical issue. That narrows down your problem to be one or the other issues not letting the disposal do its job. So, does this mean you need a new garbage disposal, or is a garbage disposal repair possible? With a jammed garbage disposal, repair is possible by following these steps: 

  • Turn the power off going to the disposal and unplug the unit too. 
  • Do a visual check for any food or a foreign object lodged in the disposal and remove them by hand, pliers, or tongs. If there isn’t any blockage, proceed to the next step. 
  • With a wooden spoon, gently push the blades manually, rotating them. If this doesn’t fix the issue, move on to the next step. 
  • Manually rotate the flywheel with a ¼” Allen wrench on the bottom of the disposal, turning it back and forth.  Give the disposal a test run and if you’re still just getting a humming sound and the water isn’t draining, you’ll need to call a professional plumber for a garbage disposal repair appointment. 

How do I know my garbage disposal is broken?

A garbage disposal is designed to grind and shred food and send it on down into the sewer line. A properly working garbage disposal will help keep the kitchen pipes clean and clear and when maintained according to the manufacturer’s manuals, you should get 15 years of food grinding and shredding. 

However, this does not mean 15 trouble-free years of grinding and shredding. When it is getting near the end of it expected lifespan, where garbage disposal repair can make it all better, you’ll know it by these five symptoms: 

  1. Noises – Strange or Unusual: A garbage disposal has several moving parts and they all make some noise. However, if you’re hearing a new or peculiar noise, it could be more than something stuck in the blades. With a flashlight shining into the drain, check for something that could be blocking the blades, like a spoon or dishcloth. If there is something, remove it with your hands, pliers, or tongs. If there isn’t anything stuck, then it is probably past garbage disposal repair and time to replace the unit.
  2. Constant Odor: When you’re smelling old food and other unpleasant odors, the garage disposal hasn’t been working right for a while. You can use homemade ingredient mixtures or buy over-the-counter products to eliminate the odor, but if they come back, you’ll need to call a professional plumber. If they can’t find any particles trapped inside the unit, you’re going to need a new one.
  3. Not Turning On: A garbage disposal that won’t turn on could have a serious problem. Push the red reset button on the outside of the unit under the sink. If this starts it working again, you don’t have to worry with garbage disposal repair or replacement. If that doesn’t work, check the electrical panel, and see if the circuit breaker has flipped off. If the unit still won’t turn on, time to call a professional and price a new unit.
  4. The Garbage Disposal Is Leaking: Appliances won’t last forever, even the garbage disposal. If your unit is leaking, it is beyond any type of garbage disposal repair, it is time to replace the unit. Even if it could be repaired, that won’t last forever either. 
  5. Pressing the Reset Button Frequently: The reset button shouldn’t need pressing very often, so if you are having to press it often, it is time to replace your garbage disposal. 
garbage disposal under sink

When I turn on garbage disposal water comes up?

If the garbage disposal is backing water up in the other sink, there is probably a clog in the lines from the garbage disposal to dishwasher. This isn’t just annoying, but unhealthy too because that food is trapped, and the odor will begin to emit through the house. Fortunately, this is one garbage disposal repair you can do yourself and save the money a plumber would charge: 

  1. Fill the opposite sink with 4 inches of water. 
  2. Close off the drain on the garbage disposal side and place a sink plunger on the other drain. 
  3. Pump the plunger up and down rapidly, there should be suction between the drain and the plunger. 
  4. Remove the plunger, unplug the garbage disposal drain and plug the opposite drain, then let water run in the garbage disposal drain. If it isn’t flowing, repeat the process.
  5. If the drain still doesn’t unclog, you’ll need to get under the sink and remove the U-shape pipe called the P-Trap
  6. Next, remove the elbow between the drain and the garbage disposal and check it for clogs. Rinse it out and replace. Still have a clog? 
  7. Time to get the plumbing snake, insert into the drain and turn the handle. Once you feel any resistance, keep turning. That is the clog you’ve it and the purpose of the snake is to push it through. 
  8. Now, turning clockwise while gently pulling the snake out, you should have debris on the end of the snake.
  9. Replace all the pieces you’ve removed and then running hot water in both drains will remove any debris left and allow you to see if there are any leaks. 

What if you wanted to attempt replacing your garbage disposal yourself instead of hiring a plumber. How hard is it to replace a garbage disposal?  If you have even a small amount of mechanical knowledge, installing a garbage disposal isn’t as difficult as you may think. First, you want to make sure you have the right garbage disposal for your plumbing and sink, then you want to make sure you have the right tools. When choosing the garbage disposal, they have garbage disposal without switches or wires! Make sure they will fit your application before making that investment though. 

Every new garbage disposal should come with instructions, but if the don’t, you can find them online.  These are extremely basic steps that we’re sharing here: 

  • Turn off the power.
  • Disconnect the dishwasher hose and waste line.
  • Take the disposal and mounting assembly off.
  • Plug in your new disposal or follow the instructions from the manual at this point if you went with the wireless unit. 
  • Install the drain flange, mounting ring and install the disposal.
  • Connect the disposal and P-trap. 
  • Test run the disposal. 

Need help with your garbage disposal in West Los Angeles, CA? Call Sunset West Plumbing & Rooter Inc. at (310) 454-2010 today!