How to Safely Remove Glass In a Garbage Disposal

Updated: May 08, 2024

Prevent breakages, blockages and injuries with these pro tips for removing glass in garbage disposals.

We’ve all accidentally smashed something in our kitchen at some point. But what if that vase or tumbler topples, and you end up with glass in your garbage disposal? You might be tempted to grind the glass. However, licensed plumber Shaylin King points out that hard objects are a no-go for garbage disposal units. While big bones, tough peels, and other things you shouldn’t put down your garbage disposal can lead to plumbing problems, glass is particularly risky.

I spoke to a professional plumber and garbage disposal manufacturer to get their tips on safely removing glass in garbage disposals, to help protect your plumbing, fingers and in-sink macerator.

Safety Precautions

Glass and garbage disposal blades are a gnarly pairing. To minimize any risk, take the following precautions when removing glass in garbage disposals:

  • “The first step should always be to turn off the garbage disposal’s power,” Jeremy Gattozzi, Senior Category Manager of Disposals at Moen, says.

  • “Never put a hand into the unit to try to retrieve glass, as the glass could cut you and introduce lots of bacteria,” King says.

  • Gattozzi recommends using appropriate protection. As a minimum, wear cut-resistant gloves.

How to Safely Remove Glass In a Garbage Disposal

1. Turn off the garbage disposal unit

It bears repeating that you should always turn off the garbage disposal before retrieving glass or any other item from it. If you want to be doubly protected, flip off the switch for the circuit breaker powering the unit.

2. Remove large shards with pliers or tongs

Trying to retrieve glass in garbage disposals by hand is a recipe for disaster. You’re unlikely to get a good grip, and you could easily injure yourself or break the glass into smaller, more tricky-to-pick-up pieces.

Use needle-nose pliers, mechanics grabber tools or kitchen tongs to pull out large glass pieces carefully. Don’t forget to don gloves, and King recommends arming yourself with a flashlight to get a better view into the hopper chamber.

3. Vacuum out smaller pieces

“Any remaining small pieces could be vacuumed out with a shop [wet/dry] vac,” Gattozzi says.

  • Use the hose attachment to access the base of the hopper.

  • Run the vacuum for a few minutes until you can’t hear any crunching.

  • If you have a double sink, block the other drain to increase suction.

  • Avoid using a standard vacuum cleaner unless the garbage disposal is completely dry. Getting the vacuum wet can lead to mold issues, malfunctioning, and, in worst-case scenarios, the risk of electrocution.

  • Carefully empty the shop vac of glass pieces.

If you don’t have a shop vac, try cutting a medium-sized potato in half, push it onto a fork and insert it into the disposal cut end first. The small glass pieces often attach to the flesh, allowing you to lift them out. If there are many small pieces, you might have to use several potatoes to clear the unit of glass shards.

4. Rotate the blades

Sometimes, glass can get stuck or hidden under the disposal’s blades. Never turn the blades by hand. Instead, insert the hex key (Allen wrench) provided by the manufacturer at the unit’s base to move them. Alternatively, carefully insert a long wooden handle into the disposal to move them manually. Run the shop vac for a few more minutes or use another potato.

5. Dispose of glass safely

Don’t just throw the broken glass in your trash. Wrap it in paper, secure it with packing tape, and place it in a rigid, sealable container first.

6. Restore power

“Once you believe the unit’s chamber is cleared of all glass, you can restore power,” Gazzotti says. Covering the opening with a colander protects you from any unexpected remaining pieces of glass that could lift when you switch the unit on.

Run cold water through the disposal to flush out any tiny glass particles. If you hear grinding noises, bigger pieces of glass could remain. Switch off the power, repeat steps one to five, and then check again.

When to Call a Pro

“It doesn’t hurt to call a plumber if you don’t feel comfortable removing glass from the garbage disposal,” Gazzotti says. “It’s especially beneficial to call one if a piece of glass is deeply lodged in the unit, you run into issues attempting to remove the glass yourself, or you don’t have the proper tools to do the job.” Making a mistake and having to replace your garbage disposal will cost more than hiring a professional to remove the glass.

If you can’t remove the glass from the top of the unit, King explains it’ll need to be removed from the flange by turning the unit over and dumping it out. “This requires the unit to be disconnected from the drainage system and the flange,” he says. This is often a job best left to the professionals.


Can a garbage disposal grind glass?

While a garbage disposal can grind small shards of glass, professionals don’t recommend it. Gazzotti explains that even the best garbage disposals are only designed to clean up biodegradable food waste. Hard, non-biodegradable objects can damage the blades and cause drainage issues.

Does glass break a garbage disposal?

“If you grind glass, it can damage the disposal, and glass particles may accumulate in the plumbing system, leading to clogs and further damage,” Gazzotti says.

What happens If I leave broken glass in my drain?

While small pieces of broken glass might wash away, avoid leaving it in your drains. Glass going down a drain can cause damage or clogged drains and be a hazard for individuals having to clear blockages in the sewer system.

About the Experts

Jeremy Gattozzi is the Senior Category Manager of Disposals at Moen. The company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of plumbing products, including garbage disposals; email interview, Apr. 22, 2024

Shaylin King is the Owner of Mr. Rooter of Tri-Cities, Yakima, and Hermiston, a Neighborly company. He is a 25-year journeyman plumber; email interview, Apr. 25, 2024