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Troubleshooting and Fixing Common Garbage Disposal Issues

Garbage disposals are great. They make meal cleanup easy, they keep stinky waste out of the garbage, and they’re so easy to use. They’re also incredibly easy to break. With so many moving, mechanical parts, a lot can go wrong in your garbage disposals. Luckily, disposals are usually also pretty easy to fix.

We’ve listed the four most common garbage disposal issues–jams, leaks, clogs, and loss of power–and how to fix them below.

Your garbage disposal is jammed.

Garbage disposals jam when something gets caught between their blades and prevents the blades from rotating. Jams are relatively quick and easy to fix, but you need to follow these instructions very quickly for safety. First, turn off the power to the disposal at the electrical box. Then, insert an offset wrench inside the disposal unit’s bottom slot. Turn the wrench clockwise, then counter-clockwise.

Essentially, you’re trying to loosen up whatever is causing a blockage. 9 times out of 10 this simple procedure works. You’ll be able to both hear and feel things loosen up. Remove the wrench, turn the power back on, and flip the switch to see if it’s working again.

Your garbage disposal is clogged.

A clog is different than a jam. A jam means something’s lodged in the disposal. A clog means that something that something’s blocking the drain. All kinds of materials clog drains, from hardened grease to garbage to coffee grounds.

To clear out a clog, you should disconnect the drain trap attached to the bottom of the unit. It’s easy to find the drain trap beneath the sink. Clean it out, rinse it, and reattach it. Remember: not everything can go through a disposal.

Your garbage disposal is leaking.

With any plumbing apparatus, there’s a chance for leaks. Garbage disposal leaks are reasonably easy to address. First, turn off the disposal and make sure it’s disconnected from electricity. Take a look underneath.

If the top flange is leaking, remove the disposal in order to replace the flange. If the leak is occurring where the disposal connects to your dishwasher, tighten the connection. If neither of these solutions work, it’s time to call a plumber. They might have to replace the gasket for you before putting everything back together.

Your garbage disposal has no power.

First things first: make sure that your disposal isn’t working because of power loss, and not because of a jam. If it turns out but makes a buzzing noise, then it’s jammed. If there’s no noise, then you’re out of power.

Make sure the disposal is actually plugged in. Then, check the reset button at the bottom of the unit and press it if it’s popped out. Check your circuit breaker and reset it if necessary. If it still isn’t working, then you probably need to replace it.

Remember: your garbage disposal isn’t the same thing as a garbage can. Never throw things like grease, fat, fibrous vegetables, or potato peels into your disposal. Disposals are for clearing off crumbs from plates and emptying out old cups of tea, not processing entire meals.

Treat your disposal well and it’ll be an asset to your kitchen for years to come. If you need any help with troubleshooting replacing your disposal, call up the pros at Ben Franklin Plumbing. We’re always ready to help.