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Troubleshooting Basic Garbage Disposal Problems

Ah, the garbage disposal. It’s a hardworking member of your appliance family that takes care of those potentially smelly food scraps that you don’t particularly want to place in the trashcan. And since the garbage disposal does work so hard, it’s not surprising that you’ll experience a problem with it every now and then.

One of the best ways to prevent difficulties with your disposal is to follow these basic rules of good grinding:

  1. Only use cold water when grinding food. (Hot water melts fats that can end up clogging the disposal and drain.)
  2. Don’t pour any chemicals (like bleach or drain cleaners) into the disposal.
  3. Never grind very fibrous foods and peels, bones or non-food items.
  4. Don’t overfill the unit.

So, you’ve tried to be a good steward of the garbage disposal, but one day, you flip the switch and there’s no grind…or you notice something spilling onto the floor of the cabinet below. What’s going on?

The most common problems with a garbage disposal are:

  • A clog or jam
  • A leak
  • The unit won’t operate when the switch is turned on

Some of these are an easy fix, some require a little know-how and some require a professional!

If the unit won’t operate when it’s switched on, check the circuit breaker — if it’s thrown, reset it. Next, if the unit still won’t operate, try pressing the reset button on the bottom of the disposal and then flipping the switch.

Still no luck? Don’t try to run the disposal if it hums but doesn’t grind! This means that the unit is likely jammed or has a clog. To clear a jam or clog:

  1. Cut the power! Unplug the disposal or turn off the circuit breaker that serves it.
  1. If there is a clog (generally something that shouldn’t have been put in the disposal like a banana peel, metal or glass), never use your hand to remove it — use a pair of tongs to reach in and pull it out.
  2. If there is a jam, you can try unjamming it by using a hex wrench. Look for a hex-shaped hole on the bottom of the disposal. There is often a wrench attached to the disposal that fits this hole, but if not, a ¼-inch hex wrench will work. Fit the wrench into the hole and force it back and forth a few times to free the impellers.

Finally, if your garbage disposal has sprung a leak, check for a loose connection at the source and tighten it.

If these DIY tips aren’t effective or you’d simply like to let a professional handle it, call your local plumber.

Howell Services can fix your garbage disposal problem, whether it’s a repair, replacement or new installation. We are proud to provide reliable, quality plumbing services to residences and small businesses throughout the Fort Bend area. Call us today to schedule your comprehensive plumbing inspection or repair service.

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