Even if you’ve turned the disposal power switch off, don’t be tempted to put your hand down into the unit. Instead, use a flashlight to peer down into the disposal to see if you can determine what’s causing the problem. If you can see something, shut off the power to the unit either by unplugging it from the wall, turning off the breaker, or pulling the fuse. Then, use pliers, tongs, or a wooden spoon handle to remove the item that’s caught.
If the flywheel is jammed, you may be able to free it using the supplied tool or wrench that came with the unit. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about where to insert the tool and how to turn it.
If you can’t see anything obstructing the disposal, the unit may have overheated. Try pushing the reset button which is usually found under the bottom or on the side of the main disposal unit (under the sink), and turn the unit on again.
Don’t be tempted to use commercial drain cleaners. The chemicals used in these cleaners can harm disposal parts. Instead, try pouring a kettle or pot of boiling water down the drain to break up clogs. It may be necessary to repeat this several times to free the clog.
If plain boiling water doesn’t work, try pouring a half-cup of baking soda followed by a cup or two of white or apple cider vinegar down the unit. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes or so, then try pouring boiling water down again. You can repeat this process as many times as needed.
For stubborn clogs, a toilet plunger may do the trick. Place the plunger over the disposal opening, and run enough water over the plunger to create suction. If you have a double sink and one plunger doesn’t work, get two plungers and ask someone to help you. Have one person use a plunger to seal off the second sink side while the other person plunges the disposal side.
If you have a dishwasher attached to the main line that runs to the garbage disposal, you can try running the dishwasher to see if that helps clear the clog.
Of course, the easiest way to deal with clogs is to avoid them! When using your disposal, remember to run water during use and for at least 20 seconds after you turn off the unit. Read your manual carefully and avoid disposing non-food items or foods that are known to cause problems. Some common clog culprits include potato skins, carrots, celery, corncobs, artichokes, bones, and congealed grease. Feed food slowly into the disposal, and avoid dumping large amounts in at one time.
If you can’t clear a clog, or if your disposal isn’t working correctly after clogging, you’ll need to call a qualified repair professional.
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