How to Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposer

  • 4.1.1
  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Well, one of the hardest-working appliances, at the busiest cooking season of the year, has got to be your garbage disposer. And you know what? Nothing puts the brakes on your kitchen cleanup like a jammed disposer.

    TOM: Well, fixing that jammed disposer is not hard if you know what to do. Here with step-by-step advice is Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, and plumbing expert, Richard Trethewey. A very useful appliance when it works; correct, Kevin?
    KEVIN: You got that right. Garbage disposers are great. They make cleaning up the kitchen after a big dinner a lot easier. But we often take them for granted, until they’re jammed.
    RICHARD: For sure. And what causes jams, well you name it: it could be coins – a little dime can wreak havoc down in there; bones; broken glass; we’ve seen turkey pins and even silverware.
    Now, what you want to do first is to identify, on the disposer, every one now has some sort of circuit breaker built in. It’s called a reset button. At the very bottom of the unit, you can find a little red button. If you hit that button, it will clear the circuit breaker that may have tripped and you may be back in business.
    But if it isn’t, you have to go to the next level. With the power off, you try turning the motor from underneath with a special Allen wrench that’s shipped with the disposer. If that doesn’t work, you can try turning it from above; reaching down in with a special wrench. And you know what? I’ve actually used two broomsticks. You put them down inside and try to turn that grinding wheel.
    KEVIN: Alright. Any other tips?
    RICHARD: Well, if you’re buying a new disposer, look for one with a little bit of power – 3/4 horsepower, I think, is about the minimum that I’d want. And there’s also a great feature called auto reverse that can help to clear a jam. And the best way to clear a jam is to actually prevent it from happening in the first place.
    KEVIN: Alright, good to know. And to watch a step-by-step video of clearing a jammed disposer, visit us at
    TOM: And to watch a step-by-step video of people jamming a disposer, come to my house any time.
    KEVIN: (overlapping voices, chuckling) Come to your house.
    TOM: Richard, Kevin, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great tips.
    RICHARD: Keep jammin’, Tom. (Tom chuckles)
    KEVIN: Always a pleasure.
    LESLIE: (chuckling) And you know what, guys? Here is actually a bit of trivia – if you’ll allow me to play Cliff Claven for a moment. Most people actually call them garbage disposals but that name is actually the brand name of the first type that was ever manufactured. You know, it’s sort of like Q-Tip or Kleenex; you know, the brand name became the way the product is known as.
    TOM: Good point.
    Hey, for more tips from the team at TV’s This Old House, you can watch them on PBS and it’s brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot – more saving, more doing.

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