In this video, This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shares some tricks for removing—and avoiding—stubborn disposer jams.
Steps for choosing and maintaining a garbage disposer
- Garbage disposers are available in a wide range of prices, starting at about $60. However, costlier units have more powerful motors, sound-deadening insulation and anti-jam mechanisms.
- If your home has a septic system, consider a disposer that features an enzyme reservoir, which helps break down food scraps.
- A disposer will jam if it encounters a foreign object, such as a piece of silverware, coin or jewelry.
- However, most disposer jams are caused by trying to grind up stringing food, such as celery, artichoke leaves and cornhusks.
- To free a jammed disposer start by inserting a hex-key wrench into the recessed hole in the bottom of the disposer. Forcibly turn the wrench back and forth to free the jam.
- Once the jam is cleared out, press the reset button on the bottom of the disposer to restart the motor.
- Never reach your hand into a disposer to clear a jam. Instead, use a pair of tongs or an extractor.
- To turn the jammed disposer from above, try using a pair of broom handles or wooden dowels. Insert the handles into the disposer, cross them, then lever the handles back and forth until the jam breaks free.
- The best tool for loosening a jam is a specially designed swivel-jaw disposer wrench. Swivel the tool's jaw vertically, drop it down into the disposer, then engage the jaw onto the disposer's grinding plate.
- Turn the wrench handle back and forth to clear the jam.