What’s in your garbage disposal? These appliances can be a great benefit to any lifestyle, and most last between five and 10 years, depending on the quality and the amount of time it gets used. However, when a disposal is not operated or maintained properly, it can easily break down or clog and become a plumbing nightmare for a homeowner.
Make sure you know the proper way to take care of a garbage disposal and which foods should not be thrown into it. Also know that clogs do happen, even when you’re careful about the foods you place in it.
If water is not draining or the motor is not running, you may have a clog in the garbage disposal. If the motor stopped while using the garbage disposal, turn the power off as quickly as possible to prevent any damage to the motor. Consult your owner’s manual for proper instructions.
If you can’t find your owner’s manual, here is what you can do when a garbage disposal is clogged:
- First, gather a few items – a flashlight, some needle-nose pliers, a hex-head wrench (if this was included with your garbage disposal), a wooden dowel, and some heavy-duty work gloves. It is always good to wear heavy-duty work gloves when working on a disposal.
- Before doing any work, make sure the disposal is turned off and unplugged. Figure out where the breaker for the garbage disposal is located, then turn the power off at the breaker before attempting to unclog the disposal.
- Inspect the disposal by shining a flashlight down into it to see if silverware or some other object has lodged in it. You should never stick your hand inside the garbage disposal.
- If you see an object that may be causing the clog, try using a pair of needle-nose pliers to reach into the disposal and remove it.
- If the disposal is still not working or the clog is due to food build-up, insert a long dowel or a long wooden spoon into the drain opening of the garbage disposal as a probe. Push the bottom end of the wooden probe against the blades (or impeller) that grind up the garbage. Move the wooden piece back and forth to free any clog.
- Once the blades move freely again, wait at least 15 minutes for the motor to cool before restoring power to the disposal.
- Turn on the power and push the reset or overload protector button, which is usually located on the bottom of the disposal.
- Some garbage disposals come complete with a L-shaped hex wrench, a jam key or an allen wrench. If yours does, be sure to turn off the power, insert the wrench or key into the opening at the bottom of your appliance and move it back and forth until the impeller is free. Then wait a few minutes for the motor to cool before turning the power back on.
- A clog may be present in the drain trap. Turn off the power to the disposal. Find the S-shaped pipe under the sink and release its fasteners with a wrench. Remove the drain trap and clear any blockages you find.
- Use crushed ice to clean your garbage disposal or even clear a minor clog. Ice sharpens the blades and breaks up any grease build-up. Bleach and cut-up apples also work well to clean and deodorize your garbage disposal.
Follow the above tips for simple maintenance, but if these solutions don’t work, then it may be time to call a professional.
How do you prevent future clogs?
- Always look through the owner’s manual to find out what your disposal’s limitations are.
- Be sure to always run water when disposing of food.
- Don’t feed food into the disposal too quickly, do it gradually.
- A clog can occur when dry foods aren’t properly ground up.
Here are the top seven items NOT to put in a garbage disposal:
- Vegetable peels and skins
- Egg shells
- Coffee grounds
- Meat scraps
- Citrus rinds