Picture of an installed Whirlpool garbage disposal, top view, from sink.

How to Free Up a Stuck Garbage Disposal

When we travel, our garbage disposal might not run for several days to a few weeks at a time.  Disposals with iron inside are prone to seizing up when not run for a period.  When you turn the switch on and all you hear is a low hum, you know that your disposal has bound up.  Quickly turn it off, lest you burn out the stalled motor.  We just saw this in our Whirlpool disposal, and managed to get it running again.  So here’s a short example of how to free up a stuck garbage disposal that worked well for us.





Freeing it up however, is a pretty simple process, using common household tools.  The idea is, with the disposal turned off, and a trickle of water running in the same sink as the disposal, to insert something into the throat of the disposal that’s long enough to reach the rough bottom of it, yet protrude out far enough from it that you can bang it a couple times with a hammer, wrench, or other hard object.  We used a long, stainless steel wrench, as shown below.

Picture of a stalled garbage disposal, using long wrench to free its blades. How to free up a stuck garbage disposal.
Stalled garbage disposal, using long wrench to free its blades.

How to Free Up a Stuck Garbage Disposal

1. Choose a Solid, Rough Tool to Tap and Pry With

The tool you pick should have a rough edge, that will grab the rough bottom of the disposal without slipping too much.  Some people have used boards, long screwdrivers, or even chisels for this.

2. Put Tool Into the Disposal

Insert your tool of choice into the mouth of the disposal, being careful to position it on the bottom, away from the cutting blades to avoid possible damage to them.  Shown in the next picture.  Position it on a rough area of the blade drum, where your tool is the least likely to slip off during tapping, coming up next.

Picture of a stalled garbage disposal with a wrench inserted to unbind it. How to free up a stuck garbage disposal.
Stalled garbage disposal with a wrench inserted to unbind it.

3. Gently Pound the Outside End of your Tool

Then, gently tap or pound the end of the tool sticking out of the disposal two or three times.  Doing this does not require cave man strength.  Properly placed, yet gentle hits often do the trick. But knocking the disposal too hard could crack its casing.  This it may leak underneath the sink.  Bad, bad, bad!  So, don’t overdo the pounding!

Picture of a garbage disposal, wrapping inserted wrench with another wrench, to loosen rusted blade drum. How to free up a stuck garbage disposal.
Garbage disposal, wrapping inserted wrench with another wrench, to loosen rusted blade drum.




4. Remove the Tool to Continue with How to Free Up a Stuck Garbage Disposal

After you’ve decisively tapped it a few times, remove the object you stuck down into it, and quickly turn it on and off again. 

5. Test and Repeat if Needed

If it still just hums, and the blades still refuse to turn, then repeat the above routine, using slightly harder pounds.  Try running some hot water into it to warm up the parts, and dump a half-cup of cooking oil into the blade area.  This might oil the stuck parts enough to loosen them.

6. Get a New Garbage Disposal

If these hints on how to free up a stuck garbage disposal did not loosen it after two or three tries, your best bet is to replace the disposal.  Why?  Because there is likely severe rusting inside that’s causing the binding. This likely means that the disposal is near end-of-life.  Frequent freezing up like this is an early warning sign that failure near at hand.

7. Done with How to Free Up a Stuck Garbage Disposal !

Hopefully, running through these tips on how to free a stuck garbage disposal got yours working again.  But do keep an eye on it.  We find that once garbage disposals start locking up, they begin leaking soon after.

Disclaimers

We offer this advice on how to free a stuck garbage disposal for informational purposes only.  It does not substitute for service from a qualified home appliance repair person.    So we cannot be responsible for any damaged disposals due to wrong use of this information.





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References for How to Free Up a Stuck Garbage Disposal

  1. How to Fix a Garbage Disposal, from Home Tips
  2. Tips on How to Repair your Stalled Garbage Disposal, from Simply Organized

Revision History

  • 2019-05-04: Added key word targeting for ‘How to Free Up a Stuck Garbage Disposal’.  Added tags.
  • 2017-11-03: Originally published.

 

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