Kitchen Disposal

A kitchen disposal can make cooking and cleanup easy when used correctly. It’s important to regularly clean it to ensure it doesn’t give out when you least expect it. Follow these guidelines for using your disposal most effectively and safely, cleaning it properly and repairing jams.

Care and Maintenance

Follow these care and maintenance suggestions for the disposal in your home.

To Use the Disposal Correctly

Run the cold water, and then turn the disposal on before depositing food into it. Don’t deposit foods into an inactivated disposal and then turn the unit on.

Run cold water while the disposal is running. Running cold water helps to solidify any grease in the disposal so it can be chopped up and moved out with the remainder of the foods.

Insert foods loosely into the disposal. If you pack in too much at once, you can jam the disposal.

Keep the disposal running for at least 15 seconds after the noise of grinding has stopped to flush all food particles through the drain line.

Make sure all small objects are removed from the sudsy water before you drain the sink.

If You Have a Continuous-Feed Disposal

Move silverware and other small items away from the edge of the sink to avoid accidentally knocking them in while the disposal is running. 

To Use the Disposal Safely

With a continuous-feed model, use the cover as directed to protect yourself when grinding bones or fruit pits – the force of the disposal action could eject small particles. Avoid leaning over the disposal if you are feeding waste into it while it is running.

To avoid damage to the motor, all disposals have overload protectors. If the disposal should stall, turn off the disposal and the cold water. Retrieve the article causing the problem. Press the reset button on the disposal. If it won’t stay in, wait a few minutes and try again. If the disposal won’t start when you turn the switch on, check your electrical panel box for a tripped circuit breaker, and reset as necessary.

What You Can’t Put Into the Disposal

Follow the directions in the manufacturer’s manual regarding what shouldn’t be put through the disposal.

Don’t grind large bones or fibrous materials, such as corn husks, artichokes, etc.

Don’t pour grease or fat down the disposal.

Pour liquid fat into a jar or can, and then solidify it in the refrigerator. Dispose of the jar or can in the trash.

To Clean the Inside of the Disposal

Disposals may emit odors when food particles and grease collect in the grind chamber and on the baffle. This odor can be unpleasant and is typically the result of not running enough water during and after using the unit.

Clean the inside of the disposal by doing the following:

1. Unplug the disposal or disconnect it from the power supply by switching off its circuit breaker.

2. Use a scouring pad to clean the inside upper lip of the grind chamber and the underside of the splash baffle.

Never put your hands inside the disposal unit. If you drop something down the disposal unit, use long-handled tongs to retrieve it.

3. Stop up the sink, and fill it halfway with warm water.

4. Pour 1⁄4 cup of baking soda into the water and mix.

5. Plug in the disposal or reconnect it to the power supply by switching on its circuit breaker.

6. Turn on the disposal and remove the stopper from the sink at the same time to wash away loose particles.

To Clear a Jam in the Disposal

A jam is when the disposal’s motor stops while the disposal is running. Disposal manufacturers provide model-specific instructions on how to clear a jam, as well as how to keep one from occurring.

In general, to clear a jam in the disposal, follow these steps:

1. Turn the disposal’s power switch to the OFF position. Taking this step is essential in ensuring your safety while clearing a jam. If water is in the sink, wait for it to drain or bail it out.

2. Locate a hex wrench. Many disposal manufacturers automatically supply a hex wrench with the disposal. A hex wrench is a simple tool that’s also available for purchase at home care centers.

3. Look on the bottom of the disposal for a hexagonal-shaped hole. Insert the hex wrench into the hole. Work the hex wrench back and forth until it turns a full rotation in both directions.

4. Look into the disposal’s grinding chamber using a flashlight. You can see the grinding chamber by peering down the sink’s drain. Use long-handled tongs to remove any objects from the disposal.

Never put your hands inside the disposal unit.

5. Allow the disposal’s motor to cool for three to five minutes.

6. Push the red reset button on the bottom of the disposal. If the button won’t stay in, wait a few minutes and try again. If the disposal still fails to work, check your circuit breaker panel for a tripped circuit breaker and reset it. If your disposal is designed to plug into an outlet instead of being directly wired, make sure it’s plugged into the right outlet.

7. Run a steady to strong flow of cold water from the faucet, and then turn the disposal’s power switch to the ON position. The disposal should now work properly. If it jams again, repeat steps 1 through 7.

If you can’t clear a jam in the disposal, call a licensed plumber for assistance.

See also Circuit Breakers and Electrical Troubleshooting.

For more information about disposals, visit the manufacturer’s website.