Garbage disposals are convenient for several reasons. By providing a fast and easy way to dispose of small food scraps in your sink, you reduce odors elsewhere in your kitchen. This is also a cleaner way to dispose of food, as long as you’re adhering to the guidelines for what you can and cannot place in your disposal.

Garbage Disposals Get Jammed

Even though they may be extremely convenient, no garbage disposal system is designed to function perfectly all the time. This is especially true if you are putting large items into your disposal that shouldn’t be there. We’ve all experienced that moment when you turn the disposal on only to hear humming without action. This happens when your garbage disposal gets jammed. Before you panic, let’s examine the reasons why this may happen.

Whole or Poorly Ground Food

A good garbage disposal grinds food waste into tiny bits for easy removal. But there are times when something gets stuck and fails to go down properly. It could be a bit of bone or large chunks of solid food. In any case, this impacts the unit’s impeller blade and causes the disposal to jam. Meanwhile, whole bits of food get stuck in the drain and can cause a jam or clog. Foods such as pasta and rice can cause jams by clinging to the inside of a disposal. Thick grease or fibrous material from fruits and vegetables can be difficult to break apart.

A leading cause of a disposal jam is overwhelming it with too much food all at once. This can cause a damaging accumulation over time. Blades can even become damaged. The rule of thumb is to only put tiny bits down your disposal at a time to prevent jams.

Faulty Motor Bearings

Motor bearings support the motor shaft while your disposal is in motion. Bearings that are worn or jammed will freeze up. If this happens frequently, you’ll want to call a professional. Chances are that your garbage disposal has outlived its lifespan and is in need of a replacement.

Issues With Your Circuit Breaker

Does your garbage disposal stop suddenly without warning? If so, the issue could be your circuit breaker. Garbage disposals use a separate circuit breaker called the ground fault circuit interrupter, which intercepts power within a fraction of a second. It does this in areas where water and electricity are close together as a protective measure. If your garbage disposal shuts down, it may be due to a lack of power.

Foreign Objects

Sometimes, solid objects get lost in your garbage disposal. Forks and spoons fall inside and cause a jam. A professional should be brought in to remove anything other than food in your garbage disposal. Metal objects can jam the blades and cause major issues with your disposal. Avoid running your disposal until the problem has been addressed to prevent more damage.

Drain Clogs

Drain clogs happen when solids like food or grease get stuck in your pipes. Unfortunately, this has an impact on your garbage disposal. You can experience standing water or water that drains slowly, preventing you from using your disposal. Your garbage disposal can also malfunction as food gets stuck. If you notice a smelly odor coming from your drain or disposal, call a plumber immediately.

Preventive Measures

An ounce of prevention goes a long way, and with garbage disposals, it can really help. You can lessen the risk of a jam by following a list of what not to put down your drain:

Grease or Fat

Once stuck, grease or fat can cause extensive damage to your garbage disposal. Grease and oil collect on the disposal’s blades and cause them to stop functioning.


Bones can jam or break your blades because of how hard they are. Extra caution should be used with meat products. It’s best to dispose of them in the garbage.

Whole Vegetables

Celery or broccoli stalks can become jammed inside your disposal easily. It’s best to throw them in the garbage to avoid jams.


Noodles tend to stick inside your drain and can cause a clog. Some noodles, like spaghetti are stringy. They can wrap around the blades and cause your disposal to malfunction. It’s best to dispose of them elsewhere.

Rice and grains

Rice expands and absorbs water, so putting it in your garbage disposal is not advised. It can cling to the blades of your disposal and cause a jam. It can also clog your pipes.

Clean Your Garbage Disposal

A thorough cleaning is an excellent preventive measure that helps keep your garbage disposal running well. You can do this periodically to prevent clogs and keep the blades sharp.

Begin by removing the black plastic flange. Pick up the flange and wipe down the flaps with warm water and soap. Set it aside to dry and grab a clean bottle brush. Dip the brush in soap and water and scrub inside the disposal. Thoroughly clean the blades and the sides. Turn on your faucet and rinse any remaining particles with warm water.

What Should You Do When There’s a Problem?

When things go wrong with your garbage disposal, the first thing that crosses your mind may be a DIY fix as you worry about the cost of garbage disposal repair. You can inspect a few details of your disposal, but calling in a professional is always the safest and best choice.

Check the Circuit Breaker

If your disposal is plugged in but not working, the circuit breaker may be the issue. Check the breaker to see if you can flip it back on. If not, there may be something else internally going on.

Push the GFCI Reset Button

Issues with the GFCI may be another cause of a disposal jam. Like a circuit breaker, it can trip and cause your garbage disposal to freeze. You can reset it by pressing the button at the bottom. Once you reset it, test your garbage disposal to see if it’s working properly.

If these events continue, the problem may be with a component of your garbage disposal. Call a professional immediately for an assessment. A replacement may be necessary.

Safety Protocols

Never put your hand inside a disposal to remove a jam. Even if food is stuck inside, reaching in there to get it is unsafe. You can turn your power off and use tongs to grab the object. If you’re not sure how to work with a circuit breaker, call a professional. A licensed electrician has the experience and training needed to deal with the issue.

Garbage disposal repair is at your fingertips in the Vacaville, CA, area. At Cozy Home Services, we provide a range of home repair services. We offer HVAC repair, plumbing, and electrical services. We also offer indoor air quality assessments, the installation of air purification devices, solar equipment, and much more. Call Cozy Home Services today to learn more or to schedule an appointment.