How to Deal with Glass in Your Garbage Disposal

It doesn’t matter how it happened, the fact is that glass in your garbage disposal is likely to cause you a major headache if you don’t handle it properly. We’ve got you covered with how to handle broken glass in your disposal.

To remove broken glass from your garbage disposal: First, do not run the disposal. Then, you can use tools or a vacuum to remove the shards. (We’ll cover what and how below, if you’ve already run it we’ll cover that, too.)

We’ve all been there, washing a vase that for some reason appears to self-destruct or having a glass slip from our fingers and shatter on contact. Not to mention, if you have kids, something is going to break eventually, and chances are, if it’s in the sink, you’ll get glass in the drain.

You can’t exactly go digging around in the disposal for glass shards. You probably get nervous enough reaching in the disposal for a spoon. So, if you have glass in garbage disposals, here is what you need to do to take care of the situation.

What You’ll Need to Deal with Glass in Garbage Disposals

When dealing with glass in garbage disposals, you don’t want to just jam your hand down into it. That’s a good way to slice up your hand. Blindly looking for sharp, broken glass, is dangerous.

Also: Unplug the disposal, completely, before you put anything in it. Your hand, a tool, anything. Just having it turned off is not enough.

Instead, you’ll want to keep a few tools on hand to help you remove the glass.

Needle-Nose Pliers and Flashlight

Needle-nose pliers help you pick out pieces of the glass. Hopefully, you don’t have too many pieces. Your best bet is to pick up the glass shards while the glass is still mostly intact.

You will also want a flashlight. You can use the flash on your cellphone, although it will be easier to use a handheld flashlight.

You might want to invest in a small penlight flashlight that you can hold in your mouth while you navigate the disposal with your pliers. You can also use a head-mounted lamp for this.

As the disposal has rubber flaps protecting the interior to block most objects from the disposal, you’ll need one hand to hold the rubber away, so if you can hold the rubber with one hand, use the pliers with another, and then have a head-mounted light, you’ll have greater success dealing with glass in garbage disposals.

Vacuum

Ideally, you’ll have some kind of vacuum to help you with this. A vacuum tube will work best in this particular situation, as you can push it into the disposal. Realistically, a Shop Vac works the best.

Shop Vacs have excellent suction and can handle moisture.

Removing Larger Chunks of Glass

When you have a glass in garbage disposal problem, hopefully most of the glass will be large chunks. The large chunks are easiest to work around and won’t take as long to remove. While you should always look through the disposal to see if there are smaller pieces of glass stuck, the larger chunk process is relatively straight forward.

Removing the Glass

First, you will want to disconnect the power of the disposal. Do this by unplugging it from the outlet under the sink. You don’t want to take any chances when working with a garbage disposal.

Now that the garbage disposal is off, get as much light as possible on the situation. If you have a light over the sink, turn this on. You’ll also want your flashlight to shine inside the disposal. This way you’ll know where to reach and where the glass is located.

Using your needle-nose pliers, remove the glass shards from the garbage disposal. If you dropped a cup (wine glasses are often the most likely to be broken in a garbage disposal because of the thin nature of the glass), you’ll have a good idea of how much glass you need to be removing.

If you only dropped large pieces of glass into the disposal, you should be able to remove the glass without an issue. However, just to be safe, you should take the needle-nose pliers (or the handle of a wooden cooking utensil) and turn the blades while looking inside. This will help you see if there are any glass specs clinging to the underside of the blades.

Should you find small glass shards you’ll want to follow the instructions from the previous section.

Removing Smaller Pieces of Glass

If you ran the disposal without knowing glass was inside, you will have smaller pieces of glass stuck inside of the disposal. Not to mention that some thinner glass will shatter again when it hits the blades.

However the glass ended up there, you need to remove it.

If you don’t, the glass poses a threat every single time you run the disposal in the future. Here is what you need to do when you have smaller pieces of glass in the disposal.

Power Down and Remove Large Pieces

As always, turn off the disposal and unplug it from the power outlet under the sink. You’ll be working inside the disposal, and the last thing you need happen is it kicking on for whatever reason.

Now, remove the large pieces with your needle-nose pliers. Hopefully, most of the glass in the disposal is larger pieces.

Removing the Hard to Reach Pieces

After using the needle-nose pliers to remove the large pieces, you’ll be left with smaller pieces that you probably couldn’t pull out with the pliers. When this is the case, you’ll need to try a different tactic to remove the smaller pieces.

Once again, we suggest using a shop vac, or wet-dry vac, for this job. Good suction helps dislodge glass particles stuck to the surface with water drops still in the disposal.

It may help to concentrate the suction of the vacuum hose with one of the slender attachments. If you’re worried about scratching up the attachment, you can cover the sides with some electrical tape to give it a bit of protective padding from the blades.

After you’ve finished moving the vacuum around, you’ll want to turn the blades. Use the handle of a wooden cooking utensil and turn the blades to expose areas of the garbage disposal that you haven’t had access to yet. Now, insert the vacuum back into the disposal and try to remove whatever glass shards you could not remove the last time.

Run the Disposal

There is a chance you were unable to remove every single piece of glass from the disposal. Sometimes when the glass shards are too small, it is difficult to remove everything.

Now that you’ve done all that you can for dealing with the glass in garbage disposal problem, you’ll want to run the sink and turn the disposal on. When you do this, make sure to have your face, and hands, away from the disposal. The water and the turning blades should wash away the remainder of the glass.

Listen carefully to the disposal as it runs. You shouldn’t hear any bouncing around or grinding.

If you do hear grinding, you’ll need to turn off the disposal and the water. Now, drop ice cubes down into the sink. Ice is a great way to clean up debris that is stuck to the bottom side of the blades. Ice will chop up and move under the disposal.

With the ice in the disposal, turn on the disposal and let the ice grind up, then turn the faucet on and let it run.

Still Isn’t Working

If you’re still having problems with the glass in your disposal, you don’t want to leave it running. There’s just too much of a possibility for the glass to kick back up at some point in time. And you don’t want to be forced to wear protective eyewear every single time you’re around the sink. So, if you are facing this problem, you have two potential solutions to the issue.

First, you can replace the garbage disposal yourself. If you’ve had it for years (if you bought the house and it came with the current disposal, or if you’ve had it for a good 10 or more years) now is as good of a time as any to replace it.

You can purchase a solid disposal for under $100, although you can also buy more expensive disposals with more powerful motors and stronger blades. The removal and installation process isn’t difficult, so you should be able to perform the installation on your own.

The second option is to contact your local plumber. This is a quick job for them, although they may need to disconnect the disposal and open it up to remove the glass. Either way, it is important to remove the glass.

When you have a glass in garbage disposal problem, hopefully most of the glass will be large chunks. The large chunks are easiest to work around and won’t take as long to remove. While you should always look through the disposal to see if there are smaller pieces of glass stuck, the larger chunk process is relatively straight forward.

Removing the Glass

First, you will want to disconnect the power of the disposal. Do this by unplugging it from the outlet under the sink. You don’t want to take any chances when working with a garbage disposal.

Now that the garbage disposal is off, get as much light as possible on the situation. If you have a light over the sink, turn this on. You’ll also want your flashlight to shine inside the disposal. This way you’ll know where to reach and where the glass is located.

Using your needle-nose pliers, remove the glass shards from the garbage disposal. If you dropped a cup (wine glasses are often the most likely to be broken in a garbage disposal because of the thin nature of the glass), you’ll have a good idea of how much glass you need to be removing.

If you only dropped large pieces of glass into the disposal, you should be able to remove the glass without an issue. However, just to be safe, you should take the needle-nose pliers (or the handle of a wooden cooking utensil) and turn the blades while looking inside. This will help you see if there are any glass specs clinging to the underside of the blades.

Should you find small glass shards you’ll want to follow the instructions from the previous section.

Conclusion

When you have glass in garbage disposal, it is important you take care of it right away. It’s dangerous to leave glass in the disposal as the glass shards may kick up out of the disposal whenever using it, putting anyone running the disposal in harm’s way.

As long as you follow these tips and suggestions for dealing with glass in garbage disposals, you’ll be able to remove the glass and return your disposal back to its full function.

Justin Curtis
 

I am not a professional plumber, but I do feel like I am pretty handy :). I would love to hear your comments about this post or others. Thanks for reading!

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