Dropping objects into the garbage disposer, simply depositing sticky foods like banana or potato peelings or forgetting to run a steady flow of water when using the disposer can cause a worrisome clog. Before giving up on the appliance, take a few steps to remove the plug.

First, determine if an object is stuck in the garbage disposer.

  1. Shut off power – NEVER put your hand in a garbage disposer or attempt to unplug a disposer without first cutting power to the unit. Locate the power switch beneath the cabinet near the disposer or cut off power at the main breaker.
  2. Look into the unit – Using a flashlight, see if there is an object caught in the disposer. If so, use pliers to remove the object.
  3. Let disposer cool – After removing the object, let the disposer cool for approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Restore the power – Restore electrical power and then push the reset button to see if the unit is functional.

If an object is not the problem, remove the offending food plug.

  1. Shut off power – Turn off power to the disposer again.
  2. Free the blades – Using a dowel, broom handle or wooden spoon, push against the grinder blades, rocking them back and forth, to free the plug.
  3. Let disposer cool – When the blades move freely, allow the unit to cool for 15 minutes, restore power and push the reset button.

If neither of the above methods unclogs the disposer, turn off the water to the sink, dismantle the S-shaped pipe below the sink and check the trap. If there is no plug in the trap, the blockage may have lodged in the plumbing system running beyond the wall. You will need a drain auger, a flexible metal cable, to snake into the drain and loosen the plug. (Contact a professional plumber to assist you with blockages farther into your plumbing system.)

Don’t panic when your disposer fails. With a few simple, safe steps, you can easily diagnose – and solve – the problem, eliminating a plugged garbage disposer.