In this video, This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shares some tricks for removing—and avoiding—stubborn disposer jams.

Steps for choosing and maintaining a garbage disposer

  1. Garbage disposers are available in a wide range of prices, starting at about $60. However, costlier units have more powerful motors, sound-deadening insulation and anti-jam mechanisms.
  2. If your home has a septic system, consider a disposer that features an enzyme reservoir, which helps break down food scraps.
  3. A disposer will jam if it encounters a foreign object, such as a piece of silverware, coin or jewelry.
  4. However, most disposer jams are caused by trying to grind up stringing food, such as celery, artichoke leaves and cornhusks.
  5. To free a jammed disposer start by inserting a hex-key wrench into the recessed hole in the bottom of the disposer. Forcibly turn the wrench back and forth to free the jam.
  6. Once the jam is cleared out, press the reset button on the bottom of the disposer to restart the motor.
  7. Never reach your hand into a disposer to clear a jam. Instead, use a pair of tongs or an extractor.
  8. To turn the jammed disposer from above, try using a pair of broom handles or wooden dowels. Insert the handles into the disposer, cross them, then lever the handles back and forth until the jam breaks free.
  9. The best tool for loosening a jam is a specially designed swivel-jaw disposer wrench. Swivel the tool’s jaw vertically, drop it down into the disposer, then engage the jaw onto the disposer’s grinding plate.
  10. Turn the wrench handle back and forth to clear the jam.



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