Garbage Disposal Jammed (Troubleshooting Guide)

Is your garbage disposal not working, no matter what you do? If so, the blades could be jammed, and you might not expect which foods and household items could be the culprit. 

When your garbage disposal is jammed, troubleshoot the issue by checking the circuit breaker to confirm the power is on. If this is not the problem, use an Allen wrench to open the unit from the bottom and manually remove any clogs. If you can’t solve the issue on your own, consult with a professional for a repair or replacement. 

Garbage Disposal

How do you know your garbage disposal is jammed?

You will know your garbage disposal is jammed when you hear one of two noises: humming or complete silence. Each indicates a separate issue, but both are equally as concerning. 

You hear a humming noise

When the blades of your garbage disposal are jammed, you may hear a humming noise. This is because the motor of your disposal will still attempt to spin when you turn it on, despite being stuck on a foreign object. The spinning blades grinding against the source of the jam will cause a vibration, accompanied by a humming noise. 

You don’t hear anything

A jammed garbage disposal doesn’t always make a noise to indicate a problem. When food buildup is clogging your drain or a foreign object is lodged in the blades, they can become stuck. This results in no movement at all within your disposal, so when you turn on the switch you hear nothing. 

These items can jam your garbage disposal

Garbage disposal jams can be a headache to deal with. To prevent any problems in the future, pay close attention to the following items that can jam your garbage disposal to ensure they don’t make their way down the drain. If you are unsure about what can go in you garbage disposal then check this post here as it will give you a better idea.

Bones and Utensils?

Leftover bones from meat or utensils should not be thrown down your garbage disposal for any reason. The blades are not equipped to handle such hard substances. Instead, bones thrown into the sink can cause blockages or even break the disposal altogether. This also includes utensils which could cause your garbage disposal to smoke or break as well.

Bones on drain


Many people make the mistake of pouring grease from bacon or frying down their kitchen sink. Garbage disposals do not have a way to dispose of the grease, so it will just continue to build up on the blades. Over time, they can become less effective for this reason. 

Grease on drain

Banana peels

Banana peels are not ideal for a garbage disposal in large quantities. Although your disposal can handle a little bit at a time, it’s worth noting that the peels take years to decompose on their own, and leftover produce stickers can attach themselves to the blades. 

Banana peels on drain
Banana peels

 Egg shells

A garbage disposal is strong enough to break down delicate egg shells, but over time they can cause clogs in your drain. While you won’t have any immediate consequences after throwing egg shells down the garbage disposal, you will have blockages to deal with down the line. 

 Egg shells on drain
 Egg shells

Coffee grounds

Similar to egg shells, garbage disposals have no problem with coffee grounds when you pour them down the drain, but they can be responsible for clogs later on. If you frequently dispose of coffee grounds in your sink, they will collect at the bottom and obstruct the pipes. 

Coffee grounds on drain
Coffee grounds


Pasta is another unexpected culprit of sink drain clogs. When you send cooked noodles down the sink, you may not be aware of the problem that will occur later on. Since pasta easily absorbs water, any remaining noodles at the bottom of the sink will expand and clog the pipes over time. 

Pasta on drain

Troubleshooting Steps

When you have a jammed garbage disposal, it can be troubling and inconvenient. These quick and easy steps will help you solve the problem and resume your daily activities as soon as possible. 

Check your power and breakers

One of the most common garbage disposal issues is a lack of power or circuit break. When this is the case, you can simply flip the switch back on to resume use. 

To find the switch, locate the main circuit breaker in your house, which is usually found in the garage or basement. Use the key on the inside of the door to find the numbered switch that controls your disposal, and turn it back on if it’s resting in the “off” position. 

Checking power and breaker

If this isn’t the problem, you will need to get into the disposal to remove any clogs manually. This will require flipping the power switch off at the circuit breaker before getting started. 

Turn off the power when working

Before you get started with any work on your garbage disposal, it’s essential to turn off the power. When you’re working with any electrical components or your hands near the blades, accidents can happen easily. With no power on the unit, it’s impossible for the disposal to start while you’re in a compromising position, and injuries are much less likely. 

Turn off the power

Use the reset button

The reset button is usually red in color and found at the bottom of the garbage disposal unit. Regardless of the model, it will be fairly obvious where the button is located when you’re looking for it. 

Reset button on garbage disposal

To reset your unit, all you will need to do is push the button in. If your disposal requires a reset, the button will already be popped outward. 

Use a 1/4 “ Allen wrench to turn the flywheel

To open up your garbage disposal and expose any drain clogs, you will need to take an Allen wrench and insert it into the bottom. There will be a hole in the center that fits your wrench perfectly. 

Screwing the fly wheel

Once you’ve found the right spot, begin to turn the wrench left and right several times. The curved setup of the Allen wrench will allow you to use force without the consequence of damaging your unit. 

Use a wooden spoon

If you don’t have access to an Allen wrench or don’t feel confident in your repair skills, you can use a wooden spoon instead. To execute this method, stick the long end (handle) of the spoon down the garbage disposal and use it to wiggle the blades free of any clogs or obstructions. 

After your disposal unit is open, you will be able to see clearly into the chamber where any clogs are building up and blocking your blades. At this point, you can carefully remove any food or foreign objects using pliers or tongs. 

Run water and see if the disposal works

After you have manually removed any obstructions from the inside of your garbage disposal, you will need to run water from the sink to complete the process. This will push any remaining debris down the drain and allow you to test the disposal for normal functioning. 

When to call the plumber

While most garbage disposal issues come with easy DIY fixes for homeowners, there are some instances that require professional help. If you experience any of the below problems while troubleshooting your disposal, it’s best to contact a plumber for assistance. 

 The garbage disposal is still jammed

If you’ve tried all of the above steps and your garbage disposal is still jammed, it may be an issue with the unit itself. In this case, you will need to call a professional to assess the problem and come up with the best solution. 

The motor needs replacement or repair

 When your garbage disposal is turned on but you hear no spinning or noises, it could be a problem with your motor. You will need a plumber to repair or replace it, depending on the extent of the damage. 

Typical costs

 If you need a professional to help you unclog a jam in your garbage disposal, you can expect to pay an hourly rate for labor. The average cost for a plumber is anywhere from $75 to $200 per hour. This does not include any minimum fees that may vary per contractor. 

When you need other repairs for your garbage disposal, it costs an average of $250 to get the job done. This is the case for leaks, malfunctioning motors, and any other common issue you may face. 

In the event that a full replacement is necessary, you will need to pay for the new unit and labor for installation. The average cost for this service ranges from $700 to $2,000 or more. 

Best Care Tips for Your Disposal

The best way to avoid inconveniences and expensive repairs is to be preventative in your everyday life. Use the following tips to maintain your garbage disposal and avoid problems in the future. 

Always run the water when in use

When you run your garbage disposal, ensure the sink is on at all times. This will help soften and push food down more easily. 

Run your disposal often

Consistent use will keep your disposal running in good condition. Be sure to turn it on at least once a day. 

Clean it with soap and water

Lastly, cleaning your disposal with soap and water can get rid of any build up and lubricate the blades for smoother operation. 

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