How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal: 7 Simple Methods to Try

how to unclog garbage disposal

Garbage disposals are handy kitchen appliances that can quickly get rid of food scraps, reducing mess and smells. But even the most reliable disposals can get clogged, causing water backup and kitchen chaos. The good news is that learning how to unclog a garbage disposal is usually simple and something you can do yourself with basic tools and tricks.

Understanding Your Garbage Disposal

Before you start trying to unclog your garbage disposal, it’s helpful to know how it works. A garbage disposal is a kitchen gadget placed under the sink that breaks down food scraps into tiny bits, making them easier to wash away through the pipes. It works with electricity and helps reduce food waste by sending it down the drain instead of to the landfill.

What causes garbage disposal to clog?

Before we talk about unclogging a garbage disposal, it’s good to know what usually causes these clogs. Some common reasons include:

  • Fibrous foods like celery, corn husks, or artichoke leaves that get tangled in the blades
  • Expandable foods like rice or pasta that swell up and block the disposal
  • Pits, bones, and other hard materials that are too durable for blades
  • A gradual accumulation of food residue and fat
  • Foreign objects like utensils, bottle caps, or jewelry accidentally dropped down the drain

Trying to grind up any of these things can lead to a clogged garbage disposal that needs fixing.

How can you unclog a garbage disposal without taking it apart?

You can often unclog a garbage disposal without taking it apart. Here are some simple methods to try:

  1. The Allen Wrench Method: Most disposals come with an Allen wrench. Put it in the disposal’s bottom and move it back and forth to loosen the clog, but don’t force it too hard.
  2. The Plunger Method: Fill the sink with water and use a plunger to plunge up and down. This might help get the clog out. It may take a few minutes to plunge.
  3. The Baking Soda and Vinegar Method: First, pour a cup of vinegar down the drain, then add a half cup of baking soda. Let it fizz for 5–10 minutes, then run hot water to flush it out.
  4. The Wire Coat Hanger Method: Straighten out a wire coat hanger and use it to probe the drain opening. Try to hook and pull out the clog.
  5. Use a Garbage Disposal Tool: To move the trash disposal back and forth, use a wrench or hex key to free the impeller blades.
  6. Use Tongs or Pliers: If you can see the clog, use tongs or tools to remove it. Do not put your hand down the drain.
  7. Use Hot Water: Sometimes, simply running hot water for a few minutes can help break down the clog and clear the disposal.

How to fix a clogged garbage disposal by taking it apart?

If the above methods don’t work, you might need to take apart the disposal. Here’s how:

  • Turn off the power to the garbage disposal.
  • Take the drain lines away from the garbage disposal.
  • Get rid of the fixing ring or snap ring to take the disposal out all the way.
  • Look inside for the clog and use tongs or pliers to get rid of it.
  • Put the garbage back together.

This is more complicated, but it’s necessary for stubborn clogs. Always disconnect the power first for safety.

Tips for Avoiding Future Clogs

To keep your garbage disposal clog-free, follow these tips:

  • Only grind easily disposable food scraps.
  • Run cold water while using the disposal.
  • Pour a little dish soap down the disposal monthly to cut through grease.
  • Grind up lemon or orange rinds to freshen up the disposal.
  • Never use chemical drain cleaners in the disposal.

Your garage disposal can last a long time if you take good care of it and keep it in good shape.

When to Call a Professional

It’s best to call a professional plumber if you’ve tried fixing your garbage disposal and it’s still clogged or not working right. Here are some signs that it’s time to get help:

  • Clogs Won’t Go Away: If you’ve tried unclogging your disposal several times but it’s still stuck, a plumber can help with more serious problems.
  • Strange Sounds: Weird grinding, humming, or clanking noises from the disposal might mean a mechanical issue that needs a plumber’s expertise.
  • Leaks: Water leaking from the disposal or under the sink needs a plumber to fix and prevent damage.
  • Frequent Resets: If you often need to reset the disposal or it keeps tripping the circuit breaker, there could be an electrical problem that a plumber should check.
  • Bad Smells: Even after cleaning, if your disposal smells bad, there might be a buildup of debris or bacteria that a plumber can handle.
  • Slow Draining: If water drains slowly from your sink even after trying to unclog the disposal, there might be a blockage further down that needs special tools to clear.
  • Visible Damage: Cracks, dents, or broken parts on your disposal mean it’s time to have a plumber look at it to see if it needs repairs or replacement.

If you’re not sure how to safely fix your garbage disposal or if it’s a complex issue, it’s safer and smarter to call a professional plumber. Attempting to fix it yourself might lead to worse outcomes or even harm.

Learn the Right Way of Unclogging Garbage Disposal

Unclogging garbage disposal is something you can often do yourself with a few simple tools and techniques. You can keep your garbage disposal in good shape and avoid expensive fixes by learning how it works and taking steps to keep it from getting clogged. It is best to call a professional plumber for help if you can’t clear out your garbage sink on your own.


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