How To Fix A Garbage Disposal

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Garbage disposals are an essential appliance in many homes. As these appliances age, it is normal for them to require repairs over time. In this article, we will go over some maintenance tips and provide some DIY fixes for common garbage disposal repairs.

Let's get started.

How to fix a garbage disposal

Follow these tips and you'll be sure to have a garbage disposal that will last for years to come.

Use ice cubes to help prevent jams

If the disposer is not shredding food properly, it may be jammed because of a lack of lubrication in the grinding chamber.

We recommend putting an ice cube into the disposal along with the food waste. 

This will provide a coating of water that will lubricate any parts as it passes through.

With that said, we recommend using ice cubes sparingly when trying to fix a garbage disposal, no more than one cube per batch of food waste.

Grind small amounts at a time

If you need to dispose of large amounts of food, try grinding them into smaller portions first.

If you don't do this, there is more chance for your garbage disposal to jam and for the motor to burn out. 

It's easier on your machine if you only fill it up halfway with whatever you are disposing of so that there is less weight to shred. Then once it grinds down, empty the amount that doesn't fit into your sink and fill it back up again until you are done clearing out all the leftovers from dinner.

If you don't do this, there is more chance for your machine to jam or overheat. Start with small pieces and move on from there. You can also use a wet/dry vacuum or pipe snake to dislodge any objects and place them in the garbage can.

Then take a towel or rag and wipe down the inside of your disposal so that there is no residue left behind. The above can also help when it comes to preventing garbage disposal leaking.

Use cold water when grinding coffee

Coffee and other oil-based products can harden in your disposer, clogging up the grinding blades. The same goes for grease and fats.

Coldwater will help these to liquefy so that they can be ground into smaller particles.

Use baking soda with vinegar if it's jammed

Baking Soda, Box, White, Powder, Sodium, Bicarbonate

If your disposal has nothing but sludge moving through it, it may be jammed. A quick, easy fix for this is to pour ½ cup baking soda down the disposal, and then add 1/2 a cup of vinegar. Now turn on the cold water and let the ingredients react in the pipes.

Once they have done their work, shut off the water and run your garbage disposal with cold water until it is clear again.

Turn off the water and let it cool down before repairing or cleaning

If your garbage disposal has stopped working, never try to repair it yourself when your garbage disposal is running.

Make sure that you turn the water completely off and allow your disposer to cool down for a few minutes before making any repairs. This allows any excess pressure in the pipes to dissipate without causing damage. If there is too much pressure in the piping, this can cause leaks as well as damage the sink flange. The last thing you want is an overflowing sink because of a clogged garbage disposal.

Use a wrench to unscrew the mounting ring or collar

If you have access to the underside of your garbage disposal, try using a wrench to loosen the aluminum or copper “mounting ring” or “collar”. These are usually seized in place and can be very hard to remove. If this is happening, use a pipe wrench that fits over the collar and slowly turn it counter-clockwise.

The collar should come loose in about 15 turns. 

Then disconnect it from the drainpipe by turning it back another 90 degrees, and pulling harder on the collar until it gives way. Leaks can happen when loosening or tightening these rings so we recommend using plumber's tape if available.

Check for clogs on all sides with an auger

If all else fails, you may need to resort to using an auger attachment to clean out whatever is clogging up your garbage disposal. Simply unscrew it from the bottom of your sink, put one end of the auger through the drain hole and into the disposal, then feed it down while slowly turning it counter-clockwise. 

Once the blade is below the impeller, crank it up and move it around to loosen any clogs.  Repeat this until you have cleared out all of the debris in your garbage disposal.

Don't use harsh chemicals or corrosive liquids

There are many products on the market that claim to help clear jammed garbage disposal, but we recommend against using them. Some of these products use lye, which may initially break down most of what's stuck, but can react with other materials and cause damage to your pipes over time. 

Using lye or caustic chemicals can also create fumes while trying to unclog the unit. This can be harmful to your health, so please use caution when taking on this job.

corrosive liquids for garbage disposal
Image Credit: Kitchen Infinity Photo

Other tips to get a long service life from your garbage disposal

There are several things you can do to ensure that you receive many years of great use and maintenance-free operation out of your garbage disposal. First, don't pour too much food down at once. The more room there is in the grinding chamber, the harder it will be for the blades to grind up what's inside. Try only putting small amounts at a time so that everything gets ground into tiny pieces.


Second, keep trash and grease levels low enough. The grease from roasts, meats, and other foods that contain fats will solidify inside the pipes and cause a clog. 

Third, keep your disposal clean. Run it regularly with cold water, but avoid putting too much at once. Many people recommend adding hot soapy water to help cut through oils and fats, but we recommend against this as you may accidentally pour down the drain something that gets stuck, like when you use bar soap in your dishwasher or washing machine.

Final thoughts on fixing a garbage disposal

In conclusion, garbage disposals are relatively simple appliances on the surface. However, as with any appliance, they do require some work to ensure that they keep working successfully.

If you follow these tips, your garbage disposal should last a long time and give you many years of dependable service.


Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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