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Which Way to Turn the Garbage Disposal Key?

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Garbage disposals are an integral part of many households, providing a quick and efficient way to handle food waste. However, like all appliances, they can occasionally experience problems. One such issue is clogging or jamming, which can be resolved using a specific tool called a garbage disposal key or Allen wrench. But which way should you turn this key? Let’s delve into the specifics.


To turn the garbage disposal key or Allen wrench, first, insert it into the hexagonal hole located at the bottom of the garbage disposal unit. Once the key is in place, turn it counterclockwise as much as you can, then turn it clockwise until it won’t go any further. Repeat this process until the wrench turns freely in complete circles in both directions. This back and forth motion helps to dislodge any obstructions, allowing the motor shaft to spin freely.

What is a Garbage Disposal Key?

A garbage disposal key, also known as a hex key or Allen wrench, is a tool designed to unjam garbage disposal units when they become stuck due to blockages or debris. It is a crucial tool that allows you to safely and effectively clear jams in the disposal unit without needing to call a professional plumber, thus saving both time and money.

The key is inserted into a hexagonal-shaped hole under the garbage disposal unit, usually found in the center. Once inserted, the key is manually turned back and forth to rotate the blades and dislodge any blockages.

How to Correctly Use the Garbage Disposal Key

When it comes to turning the garbage disposal key, the correct method is to first insert the hex-head Allen wrench into the hole located under the sink at the bottom of the garbage disposal. This hole is typically located dead center, facing the floor.

Once the key is in place, use it like a crank and work it back and forth in both directions. Turn the wrench counterclockwise as far as you can, then turn it clockwise until it won’t go any further. Repeat this process until the wrench turns freely in complete circles in both directions. This back and forth motion helps to dislodge any obstructions, allowing the motor shaft to spin freely.

Remember to support the disposal unit while applying force to the wrench. It’s okay to use some force when turning the wrench, but be cautious not to apply excessive pressure that might damage the unit.

Potential Consequences of Incorrect Use

Turning the garbage disposal key the wrong way can potentially cause a few issues. The key can get stuck in the bottom of the garbage disposal, making it difficult to remove. In such cases, you may need to apply pressure in the opposite direction and tap it with a metal hammer to dislodge the wrench.

Another potential issue is jamming the garbage disposal. If the disposal is jammed, you can try rotating the key in the opposite direction until it turns freely in a complete revolution, both clockwise and counterclockwise.

Safety Measures to Consider

Safety is paramount when using a garbage disposal key. Here are some safety tips to consider:

  • Never put your hand in the garbage disposal, even when it is turned off.
  • Always run water in the sink when operating the garbage disposal.
  • Do not pour bleach or other harsh chemicals into the sink as they can damage the disposal and pipes.
  • Regularly run your garbage disposal to prevent rust and corrosion.

Troubleshooting Tips

If your garbage disposal doesn’t work even after using the key correctly, you can try the following troubleshooting steps:

  • Check the power supply
  • Reset the internal circuit breaker
  • Inspect the grinding chamber for any obstructions
  • Check for clogs or obstructions in the drain pipes
  • Ensure the reset button is in its original position
  • Try using a wooden spoon, dowel, or broom handle to manually rotate the blades

Remember, if you’ve tried all these steps and the garbage disposal still doesn’t work, it might be time to call a professional plumber or consider replacing the unit.

In conclusion, a garbage disposal key is an essential tool for maintaining the proper functioning of your garbage disposal unit. By understanding the correct way to use it, and by following the safety measures and troubleshooting tips, you can ensure the longevity of your appliance and avoid unnecessary repair costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the size of the Allen wrench or garbage disposal key that I should use?

The most common size of an Allen wrench used for garbage disposals is 1/4 inch. However, it’s best to check your garbage disposal manual to be sure.

I can’t find the hole to insert the garbage disposal key, what should I do?

The hole for the garbage disposal key is usually located at the bottom of the unit, in the center. If you can’t find it, refer to your garbage disposal’s user manual or contact the manufacturer for assistance.

What should I do if my garbage disposal is leaking?

If your garbage disposal is leaking, it may be due to a loose connection, a problem with the seals, or a crack in the unit itself. Tighten any loose connections, replace worn seals, and if there’s a crack, you might need to replace the entire unit.

Can I use a regular wrench instead of a garbage disposal key?

No, a regular wrench will not fit into the hexagonal hole designed for the garbage disposal key. You need to use a hex key or Allen wrench that is specifically designed for this purpose.

Can I use the garbage disposal key while the disposal is running?

No, you should never attempt to use the garbage disposal key while the unit is running. Always ensure that the garbage disposal is switched off at the power source before attempting to clear a jam or perform any maintenance.

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