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Home / How to Unblock a Waste Disposal Unit

So, you (or someone else in your home) has put something they shouldn’t have down the waste disposal unit, and now it’s blocked.  This might have been an obvious mistake, like a teaspoon – or it might simply have been a matter of putting too much food into the unit too quickly.  Whatever the problem, you’ll need to sort it before you can use the device again.

Step 1:  Turn it off

The first step is to turn off the unit, either via a switch at the back of the sink, or via the main breaker in your house.  Even if you’ve turned off the switch, never put your hand in the unit.  The grinding mechanism can seriously hurt you, and if the switch malfunctions (unlikely, but possible) you risk significant injury.

Step 2:  Visual inspection

Next, examine the interior of the unit using a torch.  You might be able to see the problem immediately; if not, try the video camera on your mobile phone – it might be able to see where you can’t.

Step 3:  Remove the blockage

Can you spot the offending object?  If so, reach in and grab it using a long pair of needle-nosed pliers.  Be careful – you don’t want to drop the pliers in there, too!

Step 4:  Wait

A blockage that prevents the mechanism from working will seriously stress the motor out.  Give it time to cool before switching it on again (fifteen minutes should be sufficient).

What if it didn’t work?

If your unit’s still not working, then it might be that there’s a smaller blockage that you can’t see or remove.  In this case, you’ll need to manually work the shredders loose.  Again, don’t do this with your hands.  Do it with a long wooden spoon or rod.  Push the end of the implement against the mechanism, and try to move it back and forth.  You might be able to free it this way – once you’ve moved it all the way around, simply wait fifteen minutes before reactivating, as we’ve already described.

If you’re still unable to get the device working, then this would suggest that the unit itself is broken rather than simply blocked.  If this is the case, it’s time to bring in a professional (or buy a new waste disposal unit).

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