Dropped Glass In The Garbage Disposal? (We Have A Fix!)

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

Garbage disposals help shred discarded food into tiny pieces, making it easier for food to travel through the plumbing system. Disposals help prevent clogged pipes and keep water flowing freely down the drain. However, you need to be careful not to throw non-food items down the sink, but accidents happen.

Glass shards can easily end up in your garbage disposal; all it takes is dropping something while you’re washing dishes. You certainly don’t want to reach your hand into the disposal. Instead, kill the power and try using needle-nose pliers, a shop vac, or manually moving the blades.

For more information regarding repairing the blades, refer to How To Fix Loose Garbage Disposal Blades.

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Issues from Glass in the Garbage Disposal

The obvious problems you’ll encounter with glass in the garbage disposal are malfunctioning, dulled or damaged blades, or complete breakage. If you attempt to run the garbage disposal despite the presence of glass, you’ll undoubtedly dull the blades. Dull blades will render your garbage disposal pretty useless.

Additionally, depending on the size of the glass, you could end up with a jammed disposal. If, when you turn it on, your disposal hums but nothing happens, there’s probably something stuck between the blades.

It might be tempting to let the disposal break the glass, especially if it’s a powerful model. However, insisting on running your disposal with glass inside of it will result in destroying the device.

Even the most top-notch, heavy-duty garbage disposals have limits, and glass is a big one. Therefore, if glass ends up going down the drain and into your disposal, it’s essential to follow the proper steps.

How to Remove Glass from the Garbage Disposal

If glass ends up in your garbage disposal, don’t despair. All you need to do is gather a few supplies and have a little patience. You can likely solve the problem with a bit of DIY effort and skill.

If the disposal is off when the glass goes in, leave it off to avoid causing any damage or complications. If the disposal is already running when the glass falls in, shut it off immediately. Hopefully, you act fast enough to prevent damage from occurring.

Tools You Need for the Job

  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Allen-key or Hex-key wrench
  • Hammer (or broom — you will be using the handle)
  • Empty disposable container, like a cardboard box (to contain the broken glass shards as you retrieve them)
  • Shop-Vac
  • Your garbage disposal’s manual
  • Duct tape
  • Gloves and safety goggles (safety first!)
  • Headlamp

Step 1: Take Safety Precautions Before Dealing with the Garbage Disposal

Any time you’re dealing with DIY projects, safety is of the utmost importance. While it’s rewarding to accomplish tasks for yourself, it’s not worth injury (or worse).

Ensure you kill the power to the garbage disposal. Don’t just turn off the switch and unplug the disposal; cut the power at the breaker. You don’t want to risk an accidental flip of the switch while you’re working.

Once you’re sure you’ve cut the power, put on your goggles and gloves to avoid cuts and scratches, etc. You’ll be close to the disposal to locate glass pieces, and small chips can fly up easily as you’re working. Plus, you might end up needing to take apart the disposal.

No matter where your DIY efforts take you, you don’t want these tiny shards to end up in your eyes. Wearing a headlamp can make it easier to see what’s happening down in the dark disposal. This way, you can work more efficiently and ensure you get all of the glass.

Step 2: Remove Visible Pieces of Glass

Don’t jump right into disassembling your garbage disposal. Depending on what exactly fell into it, you might be able to snag the pieces and be done. However, even if you need to take it apart, removing large pieces of glass first will help.

Locate large pieces of glass and use needle-nose pliers to carefully grasp them and pull them from the disposal. Place any pieces you remove into the container, so you don’t end up with glass all over the place. Set the box aside for proper disposal later.

If you don’t have needle-nose pliers, do NOT put your hand down the disposal. This is never a good idea, no matter how easy it appears. Instead, try a pair of tweezers or kitchen tongs.

Step 3: Manually Turn the Blades

Even if you think you got all of the glass during step two, it pays to make sure. There could be smaller pieces inside the garbage disposal that you can’t see from above the sink.

Therefore, keeping your safety gear and headlamp on, open the cabinet under the sink. Take everything out, so you have plenty of space to work.

On the bottom of the unit, you should see a small port. Insert the Allen or Hex key into the port and slowly turn until you feel resistance. What you are doing is manually turning the blades of the disposal.

Once you feel some resistance, start turning in the opposite direction until you feel more resistance. This motion should help dislodge any other pieces of glass stuck under and around the disposal blades. You should also hear a grinding or scraping sound as you manually turn the blades with glass present.

You can then go back above the sink and use your pliers to grab the additional pieces you loosened. Note: Some garbage disposals don’t have a port to turn the blades. In this case, carefully insert the broom or hammer handle into the disposal opening. Then, use it to move the blades back and forth to dislodge the rest of the glass.

Step 4: Vacuum Up the Rest of the Glass

Once you’ve got all the large pieces, it’s time to use a wet-dry vac to suck up the rest. Use the vacuum to clear out the rest of the glass, going from above the sink. Repeat steps three and four a few times until you’re confident all of the glass is gone.

Once the glass is all gone, you shouldn’t hear the grinding sound any longer when you turn the blades. Make sure to clean out your vacuum thoroughly afterward, so you get all of the glass out. You can empty the contents into the container you used for the larger pieces.

Step 5: Reset the Garbage Disposal If Needed

After removing all of the glass, look under the sink at your unit. Many models feature a reset button, usually red, on the bottom. If you’re unsure about your particular model or can’t find the button, consult your user’s manual.

If your garbage disposal has a reset button, press it. It should stay depressed, but if it doesn’t, there could still be an issue. You can turn the blades, run some water down the disposal, and try the button once more.

But, if it still doesn’t stay pressed, then you might need to remove the disposal for a more thorough cleaning. Or, there could be significant damage, and you might need a new disposal.

Step 6: Removing and Reinstalling the Disposal (You Might Need a Pro)

Consult the owner’s manual for your garbage disposal for instructions on how to remove it. If you don’t have the manual, you can likely download a PDF version online. When you remove the disposal, you can also give it a complete assessment.

It could be that the glass damaged the disposal more than you initially thought. If this is the case, you’ll need to replace it. You can install it following the manual instructions, but call a professional if you’re not comfortable with your DIY skills.

Step 7: Properly Dispose of the Broken Glass

Remember that container full of broken glass you now have? Seal it up with some tape before throwing it into your trash bag. It’s essential to dispose of broken glass properly to avoid injury to yourself and others handling the garbage.

Never toss broken glass into the trash without placing it into a container first. Otherwise, shards can puncture the garbage bag, inflicting harm on unsuspecting garbage collectors or other members of your household.

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Related Questions

How much does it cost to have a plumber install a new garbage disposal?

A new garbage disposal costs anywhere from about $100 to over $500, with an average of about $250 to $300. On top of the unit’s cost, you’ll also pay for labor, usually about $50 to $100 an hour. Typically, a plumber can install a garbage disposal in about two to three hours.  Therefore, while you need to consider several factors, a professional install of an average disposal costs about $400 to $500. 

What are some good tips for maintaining a garbage disposal?

While it’s inevitable that the wrong things will end up going down your drain, all is not lost. You can still take some precautions to ensure your garbage disposal lasts as long as possible and functions at its best.First, you should only put food waste down the disposal, but even some food items aren’t a good idea. Consult your user’s manual and take note of which foods you should avoid tossing down the disposal. Usually, things like eggshells, banana peels, chicken bones, avocado pits, and similar items are no-nos.Run plenty of water when you use your disposal (cold, not hot). Then, let it run for about 20 seconds after you shut off the unit. Finally, regularly clean your disposal. Put a ½-cup of baking soda down the drain, then follow with a ½-cup of white vinegar. Place the sink stopper over the opening and let sit for about 15 minutes. Then, remove the stopper and run the disposal while you flush it with lukewarm water. 

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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