Perhaps you’re cleaning your kitchen: wiping the counters, rinsing and loading dishes into the dishwasher, and straightening things up. Once you’re done, you scrape the food scraps into the garbage disposal to clean the sink. However, once you turn on the appliance, a loud, clattering noise fills the air.
As you reconsider what you put down the disposal, you realize your toddler was playing near the sink while you were cleaning up, so there’s a good chance a spoon is residing in the disposal. So, now what? Did it break the disposal?
Before you call a plumber to replace the system, read through our troubleshooting guide for answers on how to deal with the issue. Don’t worry: the problem might not be as bad as you think!
What Happens If A Spoon Goes Down The Garbage Disposal?
If a spoon gets stuck in your garbage disposal, it won’t cause any issues as long as you remove it before turning on the unit. Of course, it might not always pan out this way, so you might not realize there’s a spoon in the canister before turning it on.
It can damage the system, potentially burning out the motor. That said, if you catch it quick enough and turn the system off, you should be able to remove the spoon without any lasting damage to the appliance.
You’ll know a spoon (or another foreign object) is in the disposal, as it’ll make excessively loud noises when you turn it on. You might notice that the blades freeze up, preventing the system from grinding food scraps. In some cases, it can cause your sink to back up, especially if there are quite a bit of food scraps in the canister atop the spoon.
Will A Spoon Break A Garbage Disposal?
A spoon could damage a garbage disposal, especially if it clatters around in the canister for a while. However, since you likely turn the unit off as soon as you notice the horrible commotion, it might not break the disposal.
For example, let’s say you didn’t realize there was a spoon in the unit and continued running it to see if the commotion would go away on its own. Leaving the spoon in there could potentially burn out the motor in the system, rendering it useless. Since the disposal can’t chop the spoon (unless it’s a flimsy wooden spoon), the resistance as the silverware lodges itself in the disposal could cause all sorts of issues.
So, as a general rule of thumb, shut off your garbage disposal immediately if it sounds louder or different than usual. Sometimes, silverware and other items that have no place in a garbage disposal end up in the canister without our knowledge. They usually make quite a commotion when you turn on the system, so you should know if there’s something stuck in the canister.
How To Remove A Spoon Stuck In A Garbage Disposal
Although a spoon might seem dangerously unreachable as it sits next to the garbage disposal’s blades, the removal process is relatively simple. While we don’t recommend jamming your hands in there to grab the spoon (no need for a trip to the E.R.), we do recommend using a few tools to grab it for you. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Allen wrench
- Kitchen tongs or pliers
Unplug The Unit
First things first, you need to unplug the unit. If you leave the system plugged in, the blades might reenter spin mode once you remove the system. So, to prevent the same thing from happening again, but this time with a spoon and kitchen tongs, turn off the power to the unit.
Turn the unit off at the wall switch, then unplug it beneath the sink. If your garbage disposal doesn’t have a removable plug, you might need to turn it off at the breaker box. Either way, ensure the unit doesn’t have power before you start.
Loosen The Blades
After the power is off, it’s time to loosen the blades. In some cases, you might be able to reach into the canister with tongs and grab the spoon easily. However, in other scenarios, the spoon might be wedged in there, held in place by the blades.
So, loosen the blades by manually working them back and forth. You’ll find a small, hex-shaped hole at the bottom of your garbage disposal underneath your sink. Each garbage disposal has a special hex wrench to move the blades via this hole.
So, insert the tool into the slot, then gently work the blades back and forth. If they’re firmly stuck in place, you might have to try moving back and forth between working the spoon from above with the tongs and loosening the blades below with the wrench.
Grab The Spoon
Once you loosen the blades, grab your kitchen tongs or pliers. Reach into the garbage disposal canister and try to grab the spoon. You might need to hold the baffle out of the way and use a flashlight to peek inside the canister to visualize where the spoon is.
Once you grab the spoon with the tongs or pliers, carefully lift it out of the canister. Then, check the blades underneath the sink using the wrench to ensure they spin both ways freely. If they still meet resistance, check for other debris in the canister. Remove any additional debris as needed.
Check Your Handiwork
After you remove the spoon and ensure the blades spin freely, turn the power to the unit back on. Turn on the appliance and ensure it runs smoothly and sounds normal. If everything checks out, you’re good to go!
If it still makes unpleasant sounds, you might need to repeat the process to look for additional debris caught in the canister. In some cases, the spoon might have been in the canister long enough while the appliance was running to burn out the motor, so if it sounds funny, it could be the result of a damaged motor. You might need to try resetting the system with the reset button to see if that corrects the problem (if you can’t find anything in the canister).