The garbage disposal is undoubtedly the most used tool in the kitchen, but with so much use comes many common problems. The powerful disposal motor usually powers a flywheel against a shredder. The pulp which results from this is usually washed down the drain.
The most common problem associated with a disposal is jamming. To prevent jamming, avoid packing the disposal. Also avoid grinding shells, glass, metals or other hard waste. In some cases thin bones, from fish or fowl, are acceptable as long as they are not too thick. The following suggestions can help prevent build up inside the unit. Cold water should be running when operating the unit. This helps to congeal grease and prevents clogging in the drain. After turning off the disposal, keep the water running for a minute or so to clear the drain. To unjam a disposal, shut off the power and move the flywheel back and forth using a broom handle. Hopefully this will release any object caught between the blades. Lift out the offending object with tongs. Never stick your hands into a disposal.
Another common problem is leaking, usually caused by loose screws and damaged or eroded gaskets around the areas of the sink, the drainpipe or around the motor. In most cases tightening these screws, replacing accessible gaskets or applying a sealant will stop a leak. However, if leaking continues, there could be a hole in the housing of the unit. The whole unit should be replaced to prevent further damage.
A noisy disposal can be caused by hard foreign objects, which can be removed with tongs. Also, loose mounting screws have been known to cause lots of noise. This can be checked by turning off the disposal then grabbing the unit and seeing if gentle rocking can move it from its mounting. Tighten the screws if this happens. Other causes of noise in the disposal can be from a broken flywheel or faulty motor; these cases warrant replacement of the unit.
Sometimes a disposal just will not run. After checking for a jammed object, check the power supply; an overloaded surge protector might have been tripped. If this is not the case, check the wiring from the switch to the disposal. A faulty switch or disconnected wiring may be the culprit. If everything checks out following the inspection, the unit may have a faulty motor. Replacement of the disposal is, again, suggested.
The last most common problem of a disposal is poor drainage. Most of the time this is caused by "over stuffing". Too much, too fast will cause clogging in the drainpipe. When this happens, with the unit switched off, remove detritus from the mouth of the disposal using tongs. Then, run the disposal with cold water on full. Sometimes this is enough to clear the clog, if not the drainpipe may have to be snaked by a plumber before the disposal is usable again. A dull shredder or damaged flywheel can also cause a disposal to drain poorly.