8 Steps To Safely Remove Glass In The Garbage Disposal


Broken glass in the sink is a common occurrence when handling wet and soapy kitchenware. If you have a garbage disposal, the bits and shatters can end up in the mechanism, posing a hazard.

Glass can be safely removed by doing the following:

  • Turn off the power source
  • Gather supplies for the DIY job
  • Use tongs or other tools to pull out larger visible glass
  • Flush the disposal with cold water and soap
  • Use a hex key to rotate the blades manually
  • Suck out pieces with a wet/dry vacuum
  • Use the hex key to rotate the blades again
  • Reconnect the power source, and test the mechanism

This article will offer you detailed step-by-step directions to help you get your garbage disposal free and clear of glass safely.

Safely Removing The Glass

Glass, and other hard items, can ruin a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals are meant to grind up things, but it is for small, soft food pieces without bones or kernels. 

Concerningly, if you turn on a garbage disposal with glass in it, it can send flying shards out of the mechanism and cause injury.

Keep safety in mind as you complete the following steps. You can easily take care of the issue yourself before calling a plumber.

1. Turn Off The Power

Turn off the power switch to your garbage disposal directly at the source, and unplug the connection. 

If you cannot locate the connection, or to take extra precautions, turn off the switch at the main circuit breaker as well.

Inform your family members to steer clear of the sink and to not use the garbage disposal until you have cleared it.

2. Gather Supplies

Gather the following to successfully and safely remove the glass from the garbage disposal:

  • Puncture- or tear-resistant gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Tongs/needle-nose pliers 
    • Alternatives: medium raw potatoes, sponge, duct tape
  • Sharp knife
  • Scissors
  • Hex key/Allen wrench
    • Alternative: wooden spoon
  • Large pot or pitcher
  • Towels
  • Small cardboard box or paper bag
  • Flashlight
  • Wet/Dry vacuum (with long-head attachment)
  • Garden hose (if the disposal is removed from the sink)

3. Remove Large Visible Shards

Wear gloves to pick up large shards of glass sitting inside the sink. Do not stick your fingers or hands into the garbage disposal. 

However, you can use small tongs or needle-nose pliers to pull out any visible pieces. Use a flashlight and look for shiny pieces that you can grab with a tool.

Option: Sponge Or Duct Tape

Another option is to cut up a sponge or make a wadded ball of duct tape. Dampen the sponge or use the wadded duct tape with your tongs to stick it down in the opening to pick up pieces.

Option: Use A Potato Tool

Alternatively, you can also use a raw potato to pick up glass pieces. Cut off the bottom of it, and stick it into the disposal’s opening. 

Push down with some pressure to get glass pieces to stick into it. Repeat with new potatoes as needed until you no longer see glass embedded in it.

Discard Glass

Broken glass should not be placed into recycling bins. Instead, it should go into a small cardboard box or bag and be sealed closed before putting it into the waste bin. 

This protects people that push down into the garbage bag. It also keeps garbage collectors safe from any protruding pieces as they handle the waste bags.

4. Use Water and Soap

Squirt some dish detergent into the garbage disposal’s opening. 

Fill a large pot or pitcher with cold water and flood the opening with it. 

Do this a few more times. 

This will rinse away any potentially remaining small pieces down the drain pipe. These pieces may temporarily rest in the P-trap and are not harmful to your pipes or plumbing system. 

Remember, your disposal should be disconnected from power and should not be turned on yet.

Note: Garbage disposals work best with cold water. This keeps fats and grease as solids, which are chopped up by the disposal, reducing the likelihood of a clog lower down in the mechanism.  

5. Rotate The Blades Manually With A Hex Key

An Allen wrench, or hex key, is a special small rod tool that fits into a hexagonal opening. They come in various sizes, and one should have been included when your garbage disposal was installed. 

If not, look up your brand and model online and find the right size. Or, you can purchase a variety pack of hex keys, and one is bound to fit.

Armed with eye protection and a flashlight, use and turn the hex key on the housing socket on the bottom of the garbage disposal. It is unlikely anything will come out into your work area, but it is always best to err on the side of caution.

The hex key will turn the garbage disposal blades from below. Rotate it back and forth until you feel the blades spinning without obstruction.

If you have an older model that does not use a hex key, you can stick the end of a wooden spoon into the opening up top. Use the spoon to push the blades back and forth to loosen any jams.

6. Use A Wet/Dry Vacuum

Use a wet/dry vacuum (if possible) plugged into a GFCI outlet, with a long-head attachment that can fit into the opening.

Use caution, if this power outlet is connected to the same power source as your garbage disposal, and there are no other GFCI outlets, you may need to skip this step.

No other type of vacuum is safe for this step. 

If you have a double sink, cover the opening that is not being used with a small bowl or plate, or suction cover. This creates an area for maximum suction power for the vacuum.

Vacuum up any debris from the bottom of the disposal.

Ideally, your goal is to eliminate as much glass as possible to avoid damage to the equipment or yourself.

7. Rotate Blades With The Hex Key Again

Use the hex key again to make sure you can rotate the garbage disposal blades from below. If they continue to move freely, move on to the next step. 

If not, rotate them back and forth, vacuum, and check again. 

If they still will not move, you may need to completely remove the disposal or call in a plumbing professional.

This video demonstrates how to remove a garbage disposal:

If you remove the garbage disposal, you can then take the garbage disposal outside. Shake it upside down and all around. 

Use a garden hose to forcefully spray it. Then, turn the gears with the hex key.

8. Operate The Garbage Disposal

Reconnect and turn on the power source for the disposal. 

Turn on the disposal by pressing the reset button. You can generally find it on the unit’s underside.

Run the cold water. 

Turn your face and step away from the disposal. Turn on the switch. 

If there are pieces left, you will hear the noise of them grinding. These leftover pieces will be ground and rinsed away through the disposal. 

What To Do If The Disposal Is Not Working After Glass Removal

First, make sure that the power source is on, the switch has been flipped, and the reset button is pressed. 

If you notice that your garbage disposal is struggling to grind food, making new or atypical noises, or shuts off during operation, the mechanism could be damaged. 

You can refer to the disposal’s instructional guide to see if you can replace any parts. 

Or, you may need to contact a professional or replace the entire unit.

In Conclusion

Clearing the garbage disposal of glass is an easy task if you have safety in mind and some simple tools in hand. Maintaining your garbage disposal, by removing glass and other debris, will increase its lifespan.

With the power turned off, you can remove large chunks of glass and flush the small bits down the drain. 

Then, use a hex key to rotate the blades back and forth until they freely spin. A wet/dry vacuum can be used to suck out any remaining pieces, before operating the disposal again.

When in doubt, or if you cannot get the blades rotating again, it is best to contact a professional for help.

Lisa Burlison

Lisa is a freelance blogger, literacy specialist, teacher, and self-published author with a vast DIY experience. When she’s not writing for PlumbJoe, Lisa enjoys testing homemade cleaners and doing repairs around her home. Her other hobbies include birding and bicycling.

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