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5 Tips to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

It’s a no-no to throw food waste down your kitchen sink drain as if it were a trash can. However, when we’re in a rush or entertaining guests for the holidays, it’s easy to throw our food scraps into the garbage disposal and call it a day. These items can include everything from grease and coffee grounds to whole banana peels.

Although your garbage disposal is designed to grind up food waste, there’s only so much it can take. In fact, many items can cause your disposal to become clogged.

Fortunately, learning how to fix a clogged garbage disposal isn’t as difficult as it might seem. You might need to dig through your shed for a few tools or take a trip to a local hardware store, but the equipment that’s needed for the job is fairly minimal.

Without wasting any more time, let’s go over five top tips to unclog a garbage disposal.

What Can Cause a Garbage Disposal to Clog?

Before we can discuss how to fix a clogged garbage disposal, it’s important to understand why blockages form in the first place.

For starters, some food items seem like they’ll be easily processed by the disposal when they go down the drain. However, items like grease can solidify in the disposal, causing a massive and unruly blockage. Other scraps, such as rice, can expand when they come in contact with water — and you can probably figure out the rest from there.

If you want to know what foods should not go in the garbage disposal, we’re here to help. We’ve created a guide to help you determine which food items you should keep far, far away from your kitchen sink.

What Can Clog a Garbage Disposal infographic

How to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal

If you’re dealing with a clogged drain or garbage disposal, it’s understandable if you’re feeling frustrated and desperate for a solution. Your disposal might start making strange noises, emitting foul odors, and worst of all — not working like it’s supposed to. 

Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to remove the blockage. We’ll discuss them in-depth below.

Before you start any work on your garbage disposal, however, you must remember to power it down. Turn off the power to the disposal and shut off the breaker. This is a crucial safety step!

Plunge the Drain

There are many tips to unclog a garbage disposal that you can use, but you might want to start with a trusty plunger. If there’s a lot of standing water in the sink, you’ll want to remove it with a cup or bowl. Leave just enough water in the sink that it’ll be able to cover the tip of the plunger — about one inch.

Now, it’s time to position the plunger over the sink drain so that it forms a tight seal. Once you’ve finished successfully covering the drain, use the plunger as you normally would. After some time, you might notice that water flows into the drain like it’s supposed to. If this is the case, then you know that the blockage has been removed. You should finish up by flushing the drain with hot water from the tap.

Manually Remove Food Scraps

If you’ve tried using a plunger on the blockage but to no avail, there’s no reason to start panicking just yet. There are various other tips to unclog a garbage disposal that you can use. In fact, you might find that you want to try removing the blockage manually.

It’s important to mention that you should never try putting your hand down the disposal — whether it’s off or on. If you want to remove the clog manually, you should use a specific tool, such as a pair of needle-nose pliers or tongs.

Since you’ll be getting pretty up close and personal with your disposal, you’ll want to don a pair of gloves before you get started. Use a flashlight to get a better look at the inside of the disposal. You might spot large pieces of debris, such as potato peels, or smaller food particles.

You’ll probably have an easy time removing the larger items. Once you feel like you’ve done a thorough job of removing them, you can turn the disposal back on and test it. You may have to push the “reset button” to reboot the device.

If you’re having trouble removing smaller food scraps, you might want to try using a different method altogether.

Use a Homemade Cleaner

Are you struggling to remove the blockage with a plunger or pair of tongs? There’s no reason to worry. One of the best tips to unclog a garbage disposal is to use a homemade drain cleaning solution. Believe it or not, you can make an effective drain cleaner out of equal parts baking soda and vinegar.

Measure out one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar. Pour the ingredients into the disposal in this specific order, then cover the drain with a stopper. Let the mixture do its work in the disposal for anywhere from five to 20 minutes. Afterward, flush the drain with hot running water.

Hopefully, this tip will help you remove your garbage disposal clog. If not, you might want to consider moving on to the next method.

Rotate the Disposal Blades

There’s a chance that food scraps have become stuck on the disposal’s blades. If you believe this is the case for you, there are steps you can take to fix the problem.

Every disposal has a hex socket, conveniently located at the bottom of the device. Some disposals come with tools that you can insert into the socket. However, you can also choose to use an Allen wrench or hex wrench to achieve the same results. Once inserted, you’ll need to turn the wrench all the way clockwise, then turn it all the way counterclockwise. This process is what will free up the blades.

Call Your Local Plumber

When learning how to fix a clogged garbage disposal, you might find that you don’t have the tools to solve the problem. Similarly, you might feel uncomfortable using an Allen or hex wrench to free up the blades.

Whatever the case, rest assured knowing that a professional plumber can help remove the blockage with a quick and effective solution. Many plumbers can perform drain cleaning in Tucson, AZ, and would happily assist with garbage disposal clogs.

Keep Your Sinks Running Smoothly With Rite Way!

Hopefully, you now know how to fix a clogged garbage disposal drain.

As you can see, it’s incredibly important to treat your plumbing system with the utmost care — or else you can encounter a frustrating problem down the road. Fortunately, this is where the experts at Rite Way can help.

We offer drain cleaning services that will ensure your bathroom and kitchen drain pipes are clean, clear, and odor-free. Our professionals specialize in various services, which means you can turn to us for everything from drain solutions to plumbing repair in Tucson, AZ.

Contact us to schedule an appointment today!