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Fixing Loose Garbage Disposal Blades Is A Fools Errand: Here’s Why

Today, I came across lots of articles about fixing garbage disposal blades. Those who wrote those articles clearly never opened up a garbage disposal or perhaps, never seen one.

A garbage disposal doesn’t have blades. They use free-swinging lugs, aka hammers on a rotating impeller, to throw food against shredder rings that break them down. These free-swinging lugs are called blades by many either due to ignorance or to make it easy for people to understand.

Garbage disposal lugs, aka blades, are supposed to be loose; that is how they work. They are blunt as well, so there is no way to sharpen them either. Even if the blades are looser than they should be, there is no way to fix them. The only option you have is to replace your garbage disposal.

Garbage disposal blades aka lugs
lugs in a garbage disposal (source)

The thinking that garbage disposal blades are like blades in a blender gives people very wrong ideas about how these machines work. Here is what the interior of a garbage disposal looks like.

To access the blades, you will have to open up the grinding chamber of the garbage disposal. For many garbage disposal models, this is not possible without special tools. Opening the grinding chamber will also destroy its seals that prevent leaks. So do not open up your garbage disposal unless you plan to discard it.

One Does Not Simply open a garbage disposal

How to loosen garbage disposal blades

As mentioned before garbage disposal blades are designed to be loose. But sometimes, they can be stuck when food waste gets in the free space between the blades and the impeller. In such a case, it is necessary to loosen them for the garbage disposals to grind food waste efficiently.

Garbage disposal blades can be loosened by grinding ice cubes. Here is how to do it;

  1. Turn off the garbage disposal
  2. Add two tubs of ice cubes into the disposal
  3. Turn on the hot water and run the garbage disposal
  4. Run the disposal until the ice is completely ground
  5. Repeat the process until the blades are loose.

The ice cubes’ abrasive action will dislodge any food wastes and rust that makes the blades immovable.


What to do is there is a clinking sound coming out of the garbage disposal

Sometimes a metallic clanking sound may come out of your garbage disposal. This is the reason why many people think that the disposal’s blades are loose and they need fixing. Most times the source of the clinking noise is some metallic objects like a spoon or a fork that fell into the disposal. If this happens, turn off the garbage disposal immediately and do as follows;

  1. Disconnect/unplug the garbage disposal to prevent any surprise accidents
  2. Use a flashlight to look into the garbage disposal and locate any foreign objects in it
  3. Remove any foreign objects with a pair of tongs or tweezers
  4. Reconnect the garbage disposal and turn it on

Following these steps should solve the noise problem. If you still hear the noise, then the impeller or the lugs are slightly bent. At this juncture, it is better to ask the help of a professional plumber to find out the issue. It is unlikely that you or the plumber will find a fix for it; the only cost-effective solution is to replace the entire garbage disposer.


It is funny how many people write articles about garbage disposals without knowing anything about them. Many of the blog posts I read on this subject suggest tightening the screws on the sink mounting to tighten garbage disposal blades! That is utter nonsense.

Keep reading my blog posts to learn more about garbage disposals and their maintenance. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments.

My name is Thomas Anderson, author of DisposalQA. I have 15 years experience working as a plumber in CA, and this is where I answer common questions about garbage disposals.