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Sometimes your garbage disposal unit can really get you into a jam. Maybe a bone leftover from a Porterhouse steak manages to slip past the dirty plates piled in the sink and goes down the drain before it’s too late—we hate when that happens! But sometimes it’s something more precious, like a wedding ring, let’s say, that slips off your finger while you’re doing the dishes and suddenly disappears in the suds. Before you know it, it winds up in the disposer by mistake. Hopefully, you spot it before the blades find it in the grinding chamber.
Accidents do happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to despair over your garbage disposal.
In this recent installment of Alure Home Improvement’s “60-Second Fix,” Doug Cornwell, chief operating officer of Alure Home Improvements, gets to the bottom of the garbage disposal mechanism to reveal what you need to know to stay on top of this convenient kitchen appliance.
“What happens when it jams is that it shuts the power off,” says Cornwell. “Now you’ve got a situation where the disposal doesn’t work.”
As if that’s not enough, sometimes water may start surging back up into the kitchen sink with the possibility of overflowing and spilling onto the floor. It can be a nerve-wracking, frustrating predicament that every home owner dreads. Fortunately, thanks to Alure’s Doug Cornwell, the solution doesn’t mean you have to ditch the kitchen sink, throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, or go down the drain with your hopes and dreams of having a good day.
The first thing you’ll need is the special crank that came with the disposer when you bought it. Moral of the story: Don’t throw that tool away! Second lesson: If you kept it, remember where you put it. Third lesson: If you can’t find it, a suitable Allen wrench will do.
If you’re learning these lessons too late, that’s okay. But you’ll have to make sure that a new wrench you buy from your favorite hardware store will properly fit the screw at the bottom of the garbage disposal assembly. The slot is right in the middle of the bottom, the center of the axis. Insert the wrench there and start to turn it; if it’s in the slot, the crank will move the gears and the blades inside the disposer chamber. If the wrench jams in one direction, turn it in the opposite direction. Try to rotate it completely at least two full circles. Then try a full rotation in the other direction.
“Once it’s moving free, you’ve taken care of the jam,” says Cornwell.
There’s a mini-circuit breaker that may pop out when the electrical system is overloaded. You’ll see that it’s a little red button on the disposal assembly. Just push the button back in and the electricity will come back on and the disposal should be back in business.
That’s not too hard to get out of that jam, is it?
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One thing you never want to do is reach into the disposer with your fingers. Try tongs first. And remember the most important advice: For recovery missions, always make sure the garbage disposal’s power is shut off! As Cornwell says, when it’s jammed, the power shuts off automatically, but you still need to be cautious. If there’s a little object—though no less valuable to you—like a wedding ring involved, the grinding mechanism may still be able to function, so it’s always best to take precaution. And that goes for any home repair you decide to take on yourself.