Garbage Disposals

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Most garbage disposers fail because of abuse. Many people tend to overwork their garbage disposers because they don't know what they are designed to do.

Here are some common mistakes:

- Overloading: Put stuff into your garbage disposer a little bit at a time. If you shove a whole bunch of stuff in there at once, it could clog the blades or burn out the motor.
- Running it dry: When you use your garbage disposer, always run some cold water at the same time. This will keep the motor from overheating. Continue to run cold water down the drain for at least a minute after you turn the diposer off. This will clean off the blades.
- Dumping in the wrong stuff: Try to avoid putting foods that have a lot of fiber into the garbage disposer. These foods tend to clog up the works. Avoid onion skins, chives, celery, carrot, and potato skins, at least in large doses.
- Over-greasing: Don't put animal fat down the disposer. When it cools, it will congeal and clog the blades and the motor. It's also smelly.
- Grinding up solid matter: If you think something solid has fallen in there, get out your flashlight and peer in. Pull it out (carefully!) with a pair of tongs.

If you have done one of the above things and your disposer no longer works, you have probably trippped the overload switch. Let the disposer cool and then you can reset it. Just push down the reset button, which is usually red and located beneath the sink. If you can't find a reset button, it may automatically reset after cooling.

If your disposer doesn't make a sound when you turn it on, the fuse may have blown or you may have tripped a circuit. Visit the breaker box and reset any switches or fuses. See our section on breaker boxes in Electrical Systems. Once your circuits are working, press the reset button or wait for the disposer to reset itself.

If the unit's motor is humming but not running, it could be jammed. Look under the sink. Your unit may come with a crank and flywheel that you can turn to release jams. If not, there may be a socket for a special wrench that came with the unit. If you've lost the wrench, never fear - just use an Allen key in the socket.

If you have none of these special features or if you can't get them to work, put a wooden broom handle into the sink. Move the blades back and forth until the jam is gone.

If your disposer is clogged, put a snake into the trap cleanout. Push the snake up towards the sink or towards the wall, depending on where the clog is. If you can't find a snake, take the trap out and see if you can get the blockage out. Check out our section on Traps.

Garbage Disposals

If your garbage disposer isn't grinding that well, try running more cold water down it while it's on. The garbage disposer might not like what your trying to put into it, either. If there is something rattling in there, take it out with some tongs. If your grinder still isn't up to snuff, call in a professional.