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How to Unjam a Garbage Disposal

How To Unjam A Garbage Disposal

The garbage disposal is a modern marvel that streamlines waste management in most kitchens.

Designed to help you get rid of food scraps after preparing meals, garbage disposals are powerful tools that can grind and pulverize food waste, so they’re small enough to flush out.

Despite the sheer strength of the garbage disposal and its rapidly moving blades, it’s still possible to get it jammed.

So when a chunk of hard waste stops your kitchen waste management system, what can you do to get it moving again? Here are some tips.

  • Garbage disposals can get blocked by hard materials, seeds, bones, utensils, and other similar items.
  • Check the manual first to look for specific instructions from the manufacturer about relieving a blockage.
  • Use the jam key to clear out food waste that might block the disposal. Alternatively, you can use a dowel.
  • Call a plumber if you can’t fix the problem using these solutions.

Garbage disposals are designed to crush and pulverize even the toughest food scraps, but it has their limits.

Bones and seeds, among other things, should never fall into your garbage disposal, but it does happen.

Fortunately, the people behind these disposal systems knew getting it jammed was possible. So they’ve devised several ways for homeowners to fix the problem themselves.

How To Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal

Before You Begin

A garbage disposal houses sharp, fast-moving blades that can easily lacerate and injure your hands and extremities.

Before you start, ensure you cut the power to your garbage disposal. While flipping its switch to the off position might work, you should flip the switch in your circuit breaker just to be sure.

If there are other people in your home, see to it that you let them know you’re fixing the garbage disposal so that no one accidentally turns the power on.

1. Check the Manual

Check The Manual

Before you try the following steps, make sure you check the manual. Most garbage disposal manufacturers provide instructions on how to clear a jam through their user manual.

Check through the manual to determine how the manufacturer recommends you go about the process.

2. Use the Jam Key

Use The Jam Key

Newer garbage disposal units come with a key that lets you clear jams through a dedicated hole in the bottom of the unit.

Check the original box and packaging to find the key that came with your garbage disposal.

If you don’t have the key or if you can’t find it, you might be able to use a quarter-inch hex wrench which is the standard shape and size that most keys use.

Locate the keyhole underneath the unit. This should be at the center of the garbage disposal’s bottom end.

Insert the key and move it back and forth repeatedly. You can keep the water running to see if the jam is cleared. If the water starts flowing down into the sink as you move the key, you can assume that the blockage has been removed.

To verify that, you can turn on the system to see if it will work properly again. If it does, then you can assume that the key worked.

3. Use a Dowel or Wooden Spoon

Use A Dowel Or Wooden Spoon

Older garbage disposal models don’t have a key to relieve blockages. So instead, you can go in with a dowel or the butt end of a wooden spoon.

Make sure that the garbage disposal system is turned off the whole time. Then, push the dowel against one of the blades and turn it counterclockwise.

Again, it would be best to have the water running as you do this to see if it will start to drain. Once the water starts flowing down the drain, you may have cleared the clog.

4. Call a Plumber

Call A Plumber

If these solutions don’t work for you, it might be time to call a professional. There might be a more serious issue keeping your garbage disposal from working properly, requiring more in-depth skill and know-how.

Disposing of too much waste too quickly, tossing in hard pieces of bone and seeds, and accidentally dropping small items like utensils can damage a garbage disposal’s parts and keep it from functioning properly.

Call a plumber to resolve the situation and repair your garbage disposal safely.


Before you call a professional, you can try a few things to remove a blockage from your garbage disposal.

The jam key or a dowel can help remove the clog and allow water and waste to pass through seamlessly. But if these solutions don’t work, be ready to contact your trusted plumber to check for more serious damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is My Garbage Disposal Humming?

A humming sound from your garbage disposal indicates that it is turned on and that there’s electricity running through the unit, but the blades aren’t moving.

This could indicate a blockage somewhere in the system. Unclogging the garbage disposal unit should restore proper functioning.

How Do I Restart My Garbage Disposal?

There’s a reset button underneath your garbage disposal unit. This button allows you to reset the system in case of malfunction or errors.

To reset your garbage disposal, press the button once to pop it out and then again to restore it to its original position.

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