Your garbage disposal is supposed to destroy the food waste you put down the drain. Put too much of or the wrong type of food down the train, though, and you could place too much stress on the impellers, those parts that everyone thinks of as blades.
If your garbage disposal has started buzzing, but not grinding, when you turn it on, chances are it got overwhelmed the last time you used it. It’s easy to fix; however, it can also be an indication of more serious issues, especially if your current disposal is old.
Normally when you flip the switch to turn on the disposal, you hear a loud grinding sound. If all you’re hearing is a low buzzing, something has likely caused the impellers to stick. They’re jammed or they’re plastered in place by dried food, for example. After the buzzing, the disposal might stop making any noise.
To prevent this problem from happening in the first place, be careful about what you put in the disposal. Avoid putting rice (both cooked and uncooked) into the disposal; uncooked rice can become wedged under the impellers, forcing them to stop. Cooked rice can dry on the blades and make them stick in place. The same goes for cooked pasta.
Also avoid super-hard items like bones; those will only create more jams. Sticky foods like candy can also cement the impellers in place.
If you hear buzzing, turn off the disposal. Running it when it’s jammed will merely cause it to overheat, not solve any problems. Next, look under your sink for a hex wrench (it looks like a long Allen wrench) that came with the disposal. If you can’t find one, find a broom handle that you don’t mind damaging a bit.
Jams and Frozen Impellers
If you have the hex wrench, look under the disposal (a mirror would help here) for a slot for the wrench. Insert the wrench, and then try to move it back and forth. It will likely not move at first, but eventually the pressure will force the impellers to move, breaking up the jam.
If you have to use a broom handle, insert the handle into the disposal and try to push the impellers with the handle. Be sure the disposal is off! Remove the handle when done.
Turn on the cold water and try running the disposal. If you still hear only a buzzing sound, look for a red button under the disposal near the hex wrench slot. If the button is popped out, you need to reset the disposal. Press the red button back in; if it stays, turn on the cold water and try running the disposal again.
If the button keeps falling back down, you need a professional plumber to inspect the disposal.
Signs the Disposal Needs Replacement
If you’re careful about what you put down the disposal but keep having to unjam the impellers, it’s a sign the disposal needs to be replaced. The appliance could be too weak to effectively grind up the food you put down the drain.
Ice and Citrus Rinds
Once you have the disposal working again (or the new one in place, if you had to go that far), occasionally throw a few small ice cubes and small pieces of lemon or orange rind into the disposal. Run the cold water and turn on the disposal.
The ice cubes and rinds will both help clean out gunk that was splattered onto the undersides of the rubber gasket at the opening of the disposal and help deodorize the interior section.
If none of this is working, or if you keep having trouble and want to replace the disposal, contact Candu Plumbing & Rooter. Let a professional plumber make short work of those disposal jams.