Ready To Dispose Of Your Garbage Disposal?

Sometimes, funny things happen at the worst time. Having attempted a new recipe for dinner (and failed miserably), we dumped the whole horrible mess into the sink and turned on the garbage disposal. A skull splitting grinding noise erupted from the sink along with a volcano of pulverized food. The veggie massacre was complete – purple-y red vegetable juice dripped from every surface.  Which raised the question, why do we have a garbage disposal and how do we keep it working properly?

 In the US, we throw out food for all kinds of reasons. Some people have estimated that up to 40% of our food is discarded. Whether it’s just past the “use by” date or the doggie bag isn’t fit for the dog, we can either throw it in the garbage or use a garbage disposal.  Garbage disposals perform some useful services. They can save energy by having fewer trucks driving back and forth to the dump. It’s easier (and less stinky) to wash the food remnants down the drain than to wait for garbage day. And, by not having tempting morsels in our trash, rodents and other pests are more likely to stay out of our garbage. But, disposals are only useful if they are working the way they should.

 Garbage disposals are designed to grind up most of our food waste, but they can’t chew up everything.  Grease, stringy vegetables, undercooked rice or pasta, or bones, pits, or seeds shouldn’t be put into the garbage disposal. That stuff will cause the disposal to jam or cause clogs in the pipes. Feed your disposal slowly and run cold – not hot – water at the same time to wash the waste down the drain. Leave the water running for a few seconds after you’re finished to clear the pipes.  To keep your disposal clean and smelling nice, put citrus fruit rinds into the disposal regularly or use a disposal cleaner.  To sharpen the blades, put ice cubes in it and turn it on for a few seconds.

If, for some reason, your garbage disposal does jam or get clogged, never ever, ever put your hands or anything else into the disposal without turning off the power to the unit. If you can’t unplug the unit under the sink, turn off the power at the fuse box.  Those blades were meant to puree the toughest foods.

If the drain line is clogged, use a plunger to dislodge the obstruction. Then flush the line after removing the remaining goop in the sink to make sure that the clog has gone down the drain. Plug the drain and fill the sink with a few of inches of water. Remove the drain plug and turn on the garbage disposal. All of the collected water should be pulled through the line. If the drain isn’t clear, call your licensed plumber.

If the disposal is jammed, don’t just jam a broom handle down there. You’ll just cause more damage. If silverware or bottle caps, etc. fall through the splashguard, use a flashlight to locate the object and use tongs to lift it out. If you can’t see what’s causing the problem, find the recessed hex-shaped hole on the bottom of the disposal. Insert the hex-head Allen wrench that came with the disposal into the hole and manually turn disposal’s motor shaft first counterclockwise, then clockwise until the obstruction is dislodged. Then remove the object. The motor shaft should spin freely. Restore power to the disposal. Turn on the cold water and the disposal. If it runs smoothly, you’re done. 

If the disposal is still jammed, you can try to turn it with a special garbage disposal wrench. You can find one in nearly any hardware store. After you’ve turned off the power, put the wrench down into the disposal from above and rotate it until it locks onto the cutter wheel inside the disposal.  Turn the wrench counterclockwise, then clockwise until the jam is cleared. Remove the wrench and the object.  Then plug in the disposal and test its operation.  If this doesn’t work, call your licensed plumber.

If the disposal won’t turn on, reach inside the cabinet under the sink and press the thermal overload button on the bottom of the disposal. Flip the wall switch again.  If pressing the restart button doesn’t work, call in your licensed professional.

Your licensed plumber is available to make repairs and install a new disposal, if you need one. They also may have maintenance plans, like Berkeys BAM plan, that can help save you money on service calls.

You can call Berkeys Air Conditioning & Plumbing 24/7 at 972.464.2057 or email us online thru our website at for questions and scheduling information. 

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