How to fix jammed garbage disposal

Kitchen garbage disposals get jammed on occasion. While frustrating, usually the fix is a pretty simple process where you use the included hex key that came with your disposal (or if you can’t find yours, we can get you one here) to loosen the jam by manually turning the impeller.

Tools Needed - Flashlight, 1/4 in Allen wrench, needle nose pliers

1. Safety first – Unplug and verify its not working

    Unplug the garbage disposal by following the main power cord on the disposal to where it plugs in and unplugging it from the outlet. If the disposal is hard-wired (wired in directly), you will need to disconnect power from the service panel or breaker. Double check that it is not connected to an electrical source by cycling the on-off switch…., nothing should happen.

    2. Check and Clear

    Using a flashlight, look into the sink garbage disposal opening and see if you can see an obstruction that you can remove. Depending on your level of ‘jammed’, this may not really be possible, but it’s a great starting point. Needle nose pliers are great for removing any visible obstructions.

    3. Loosen the Jam

    On the underside of the garbage disposal in the center there is a small round hole in the motor housing where our hex key fits. Insert the 1/4 inch hex key and move it back and forth to free the impeller. It should turn freely after the obstruction is cleared. Using your flashlight, see if there is anything visible that can be removed before testing the unit. On many units, there is also a reset button on the underneath by the hex key entrance that needs to be pressed to regain disposal functionality.

    4. Restore power and give it a try.

    Running cold water into the faucet, turn on the disposal. If still jammed, you can try repeating the process a few times before throwing in the towel to get a new disposal. Again, be sure to verify that you've pushed the reset button before giving up.


    - What size Allen Key for Garbage disposal?

    1/4 inch Allen Wrench (Hex Key) – Most common

    - What does the reset button do on a garbage disposal?

    The reset button is generally a red button on the bottom or lower back side of the disposal that functions just like your home surge protectors for your power cords do. Once tripped, it will need to be reset to work again. Be sure to look into 'why' it tripped though first before resetting.

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