What if My Garbage Disposal Is Clogged With Popcorn Seeds?

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Popcorn seeds can clog your garbage disposal.
Image Credit: Bill Oxford/iStock/GettyImages

Among the garbage disposal rules you should follow to keep your unit running smoothly and safely is this one: Watch what you put in there. Some items are too stringy, some too starchy and some, like yellow and black popcorn seeds, are too small and hard for your garbage disposal to handle.

The garbage disposal impeller hurls popcorn seeds around the inside of the canister like bullets, and rather than getting mashed by the shredder ring, they fall into the gap between the ring and the rotor. When that happens, you've got a clog on your hands. Don't worry, because clogs are easy to fix, but you'll have to do something about the seeds that aren't stuck, or they'll just create another clog.

Unclogging the Garbage Disposal Rules

When it comes to clogging the garbage disposal, all popcorn brands are capable of the job, but black popcorn seeds are small and do it best. The tiny seeds fit easily between the rotor and the shredder ring and prevent the rotor from spinning. When this happens, your garbage disposal switches off. Before you can reset it, you have to remove the stuck seeds. The instructions for unjamming a garbage disposal furnished by Insinkerator apply to most other brands with a few small differences:

  1. Unplug the garbage disposal or turn off the breaker for safety.
  2. Insert the self-service wrench or a 1/4-inch hex wrench into the slot on the underside of the canister and use it to spin the rotor back and forth until it moves freely. Models other than Insinkerator don't have a slot for the wrench, so you have to spin the rotor by inserting a wooden handle into the mouth of the unit and using that to spin the rotor. Never do this with your hands.
  3. Press the reset button on the side of the canister or underneath it.
  4. Turn on the breaker or plug the unit in. Turn on the tap and switch on the garbage disposal.

Dumped Popcorn in Garbage Disposal

If you don't get all the popcorn seeds out of the garbage disposal, they will just jam it again. Maybe there are just a few more, in which case grinding several ice cubes will probably force them down the drain. If there is a bagful, though, you'd better get them out, or you risk permanent damage to your appliance.

Don't pick them out by hand. You love your fingers and want to keep them, right? Instead, use salad tongs, or try sucking them out en masse with a vacuum or individually with a turkey baster. When only a few remain, grind some ice.

Items That Clog Garbage Disposal

You can grind all the popped popcorn you want in your garbage disposal, but if the bag contains seeds, put it in the garbage. Besides popcorn seeds, you should never grind coffee grounds, because they can get stuck too. The list of other things you shouldn't put in the garbage disposal includes the following items:

  • Starchy items, such as potatoes, potato peels, rice and pasta. The starch gums up the shredder ring and causes clogs as partially shredded food falls into the gap.
  • Grease or oils from the stove. They also stick to the shredder ring.
  • Stringy vegetables and legumes, including celery, artichokes, asparagus, pea pods and corn husks.
  • Bones from pork chops or steak. Small to medium chicken bones may be OK if you have a powerful unit.
  • Fruit pits.
references

Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.

View Work