Broken Garbage Disposal? Don’t panic!

May 14, 2019
broken garbage disposal

Garbage disposals are among the most convenient amenities that we have in modern kitchens, but they do have their limits. Garbage disposals often malfunction because of misuse. To ensure that a garbage disposal functions properly for an extended period of time, it is important to know what to put in it and what not to put into it, as well as how much it can handle at a time. Knowing your disposal’s limits will allow it to work well for years.

Common Garbage Disposal Mistakes

There are a few common things that people do that can cause their garbage disposal to malfunction. The following mistakes can damage or destroy a garbage disposal. 

Food particles are too big in the garbage disposal

A garbage disposal can only handle a certain size of particles. Big pieces of food can clog the disposal and overwork the motor. This can stress the motor and damage some of the moving drive parts of the disposal.

Do not run the garbage disposal routinely

If a garbage disposal is not run for an extended period of time then the parts can freeze in place, corrode, or rust. This can severely decrease the lifespan of the garbage disposal. Garbage disposals should be run each day, even with nothing inside, to keep it working.

Putting harmful materials into the garbage disposal

There are some common wastes that should not be put into the garbage disposal. If you make a habit out of putting them in the garbage disposal it will be harmful and eventually destroy the unit or clog the system. A few things that should never be put into a garbage disposal:

Egg Shells

The small shell chips can stick to the drain plumbing and create clogs


Grease will solidify when cold and constrict the normal flow of your wastewater plumbing


The “strings” in celery can wrap about the disposal’s moving parts and jam them. Same goes for asparagus and other tough or fibrous vegetation.


They can shatter, but usually refuse to be ground up into small enough particles to make it down the drain.

Fruit pits

It’s like putting a small piece of hardwood in there- it’ll just clatter around and make noise.


Glass will damage the blades of the disposal, and certainly won’t make it down the drain or dissolve.

How to fix a broken garbage disposal

There are a few measures that you can take to ensure that your disposal runs properly.

Run water while using the disposal.

Hot water can soften food pieces and make them easier to grind, and cold water can actually have a hardening effect on the food which allows your disposal blades to cut the food more easily.

Don’t use drain cleaner

Drain cleaner contains harsh chemicals that can damage a disposal’s components.

Grind citrus fruit regularly

Citrus peels can help clean your disposal and eliminate odors caused by old particles from within your disposal. Ice cubes can also help dislodge the disagreeable sludge that can build up in the unit.

What to do if your garbage disposal is clogged

Most disposals include an electrical trip or reset button and an allen wrench that you can use to get your disposal turning again.

Look on the underside of the disposal under the sink for a red button and a socket for the allen wrench. After making sure the kitchen electricity if turned off, and clearing out as much debris as possible, try inserting the wrench and turning it back and forth. When all is well, it should turn smoothly.

If all else fails, you may need a professional to service or replace your disposal. If you do decide to try to work on it yourself, be sure to follow all safety protocols and turn the power off to the disposal unit.

It’s a credit to the invention that we think our garbage disposals can handle anything! However, they can be broken by misuse. If you put too much into it, or put the wrong things into it, it will most likely cause it to malfunction. Rule of thumb- if you can pick sink debris up and put it in the trash, that’s probably a good idea. Let your disposal handle the smaller stuff.

We handle all kinds of Savannah-area plumbing projects. Let us know when you need a Savannah plumber you can rely on!

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