Garbage In

I was procrastinating. Rather than write the technical documentation that is my ostensible job, I went to the kitchen to deal with a sink problem that’s been a pain in the butt for the past month. The solution was so stupid, and left me so mad at myself, that I can only get relief by sharing the story with the internet.

Some time in February my garbage disposal stopped working in the kitchen sink. Flipping the switch did nothing. Resetting the breaker in the basement did nothing. Pressing the reset switch on the unit under the sink did nothing. With the switch on, there wasn’t even a hum, nor any vibration from the disposal itself. It’s a 1/2 horsepower motor, so I’d expect *something* if there was current running through the device. So I figured I had to call an electrician.

But that meant looking into reliable, recommended contractors. Calling said contractors. Hoping at least a couple actually answered and/or returned my calls, let alone actually showed up at a reasonably near-term appointment date and time to take a look at the situation. So I put it off. Putting it off had consequences: the sink started clogging up – not because I kept putting anything in there without a strainer, but because there was probably already stuff that was unground in the disposal that dislodged and stuck in the wastewater pipe. Now I had only the left sink, and running the dishwasher would cause gross water to bubble up from the right sink (if you didn’t know, dishwashers will often feed their wastewater through a disposal) before slowly draining. This is gross, yes, but more tolerable than trying to, you know, *call* somebody.

Back to the present where I reveal a key piece of information that I left out at the top. I had read the manual for the disposal. In addition to the reset switch on the underside of the unit there is a hex-shaped nut where you can insert some key (it is literally an Allen wrench in the illustration) to rotate the grinder in order to dislodge any stuck food. Buy why would I need to try this? It’s a high-draw electrical motor! If the unit was receiving power, it would have at least hummed, right? RIGHT!?

I got down on the floor and found the right size Allen wrench to fit the hole and rotated about one full turn in each direction. It was effortless – how on earth could anything be stuck enough to prevent the disposal from starting? Just for good measure I pressed and held the reset switch for a couple of seconds (as I had last month) afterward, and stood up to give it a last ditch try. And the disposal spun to life. Immediately.

At least I don’t actually have to call an electrician.