How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

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Jessica had just finished preparing dinner when she noticed her kitchen sink draining slowly. Curious, she turned on the garbage disposal, hoping it would clear up whatever was causing the blockage. Instead, the disposal made a low humming noise, and the water continued to rise in the sink. Frustrated, Jessica turned off the disposal and realized she might have a clogged unit on her hands. But she wasn’t disheartened. She was determined to fix it herself, to take control of the situation before calling a licensed plumber. She knew she had the power to do it, and she was ready to prove it. So, she grabbed her phone to look up some DIY solutions.

As she scrolled through various articles and videos, she found several straightforward methods. One suggested using a mixture of baking soda and vinegar, followed by hot water, to break down any clogs. Another recommended checking the disposal’s reset button and using an Allen wrench to turn the blades and dislodge any trapped debris manually.

Jessica decided to try these methods, not just because they seemed effective, but also because they offered a potential cost-saving solution. She was relieved at the thought of avoiding an expensive service call, and she was hopeful that a little elbow grease and patience would do the trick.

How To Determine If Your Garbage Disposal Is Clogged

Determining if your garbage disposal is clogged involves a few simple steps. First, observe the sink’s drainage. If water drains slowly or not at all, and you hear a humming noise when you turn on the disposal, it’s a clear sign that something obstructs the blades.

food in drain

This humming indicates that the motor is functioning, but the blades cannot turn due to a blockage. Additionally, if you smell a foul odor emanating from the disposal, it could indicate trapped food particles that aren’t being processed properly. Common causes of garbage disposal clogs include putting large food scraps, fibrous materials like celery, or grease down the drain.

Next, perform a visual inspection. Before doing so, make sure to turn off the garbage disposal and unplug it for safety. Use a flashlight to look down the drain, removing any visible large object with pliers or tongs—never use your hands. You can also try gently pressing the reset button located at the bottom of the unit; if the disposal starts working again, it may have been overloaded rather than clogged. If these initial checks don’t resolve the issue, further troubleshooting or professional assistance may be necessary to diagnose and fix the problem entirely. For example, if the disposal is making a humming noise but not running, it could be a sign of a jammed motor or a faulty start switch.

Unclogging Your Garbage Disposal

Before we begin, make sure you have the following tools and materials ready: a flashlight, pliers or tongs, an Allen wrench, baking soda, vinegar, and a pot for boiling water. These items will be essential for the unclogging process.

Step 1: Turn Off and Unplug the Disposal



Before attempting any repairs on your garbage disposal, ensure it is completely turned off to avoid any accidents. Switch off the power from the disposal unit itself and unplug it from the electrical outlet under the sink. If your disposal is hardwired to your home’s electrical system, you can turn off the circuit breaker that controls the disposal. Safety is paramount, so double-check to ensure the device does not receive any power before proceeding. By following these safety measures, you can feel confident in your actions, knowing that you’re taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your home.

Step 2: Use a Flashlight to Inspect the Disposal

With the power off, use a flashlight to look inside the disposal through the sink drain. Check for any visible obstructions, such as food particles, kitchen utensils, or other debris that might be causing the clog. If you see any large objects, use long-handled pliers or tongs to remove them carefully. Never attempt to reach into the disposal with your hands, even when it’s off, as the blades are sharp and can cause injury.

Step 3: Use an Allen Wrench to Turn the Blades

Locate the small hex socket on the bottom of the garbage disposal unit. This is where you can manually rotate the blades using an Allen wrench (often provided with the disposal). Insert the wrench into the socket and turn it back and forth a few times. This action can help dislodge any debris stuck in the blades. You have cleared the obstruction if the wrench turns freely after a few attempts.

Step 4: Flush with Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Hot Water

Pour half a cup of baking soda and a cup of white vinegar down the disposal. Allow the mixture to fizz and sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. This chemical reaction helps break down any remaining food particles and grease causing the clog. After waiting, boil a pot of water and slowly pour it down the drain to flush away the loosened debris. This step not only helps clear the clog but also refreshes and cleans the disposal unit.

Step 5: Test the Disposal

Plug the garbage disposal back in or turn the circuit breaker back on. Run cold water from the tap and turn the disposal on for a few seconds to see if it’s functioning correctly. If it runs smoothly and the water drains properly, then the clog has been successfully cleared. If it still doesn’t work or you hear unusual noises, it may be time to consult a professional plumber for further assistance.

By following these steps, you can often resolve common clogs in your garbage disposal without needing to call in an expert. However, for more severe clogs that these methods can’t handle, you might consider using a plumbing snake or consulting a professional plumber for further assistance.


Alternative Methods to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

  1. Plunger Method

    Using a plunger can be an effective way to clear a clogged garbage disposal:
  • Prepare the Sink: Fill the sink with a few inches of water to create a good seal.
  • Plunge the Drain: Place a plunger over the drain and push up and down vigorously several times. The suction and pressure can help dislodge the blockage causing the clog.

Check for Improvement: After plunging, turn on the disposal with cold water running to see if you cleared the clog. Repeat the process if necessary.

  1. Manual Removal with Tongs

    Sometimes, physically removing the obstruction might be the best option:
  • Turn Off Power: Ensure the disposal is turned off and unplugged for safety.
  • Use Pliers or Tongs: Carefully use long-handled pliers or tongs to reach into the disposal and extract any visible debris. This method is beneficial for larger items that are easily accessible.
  • Test the Disposal: Plug it back in and test its operation under running cold water.
  1. Ice and Salt Method

    This method can help dislodge debris and clean the blades:
  • Add Ice Cubes: Pour a handful of ice cubes into the disposal.
  • Add Coarse Salt: Follow the ice with a cup of coarse salt (such as rock or kosher).
  • Run the Disposal: Turn on the cold water and then the disposal. The grinding action of the ice and salt can help break up clogs and clean the blades.
  1. Use a Plumbing Snake

    . A plumbing snake can reach deeper clogs:
  • Access the Pipe: Remove the drain trap (the U-shaped pipe) under the sink by loosening the slip nuts with a wrench. Have a bucket ready to catch any water.
  • Insert the Snake: Feed the plumbing snake into the drain pipe leading from the disposal.
  • Break Up the Clog: Rotate the snake’s handle to break up and pull out the clog. Reassemble the drain trap and run water to check if you cleared the clog.
  1. Chemical Drain Cleaners

    Though generally not recommended due to their harsh nature, chemical drain cleaners can sometimes be used as a last resort:
  • Read Instructions: Carefully follow the instructions on the cleaner’s label.
  • Use Sparingly: Pour the cleaner into the disposal as directed, allowing it to sit for the recommended time.
  • Flush with Water: Rinse the disposal thoroughly with cold water to remove any remaining chemicals.

These alternative methods can be helpful if standard techniques do not resolve the issue. Always prioritize safety when working with electrical appliances, and consider consulting a professional plumber if you encounter persistent clogs.

Call A Licensed Plumber In Woodbridge

If you’ve tried various methods to unclog your garbage disposal and the problem persists, it may be time to contact Kinnett Plumbing, a licensed plumber in Woodbridge, VA. Kinnett Plumbing has a team of experienced professionals equipped with the right tools and expertise to diagnose and resolve even the most stubborn clogs.

They can safely dismantle the disposal unit, clear any deep-seated blockages, and perform any necessary repairs to ensure your system functions correctly. Their knowledge extends beyond just fixing clogs; they can also identify and address underlying issues that might cause recurrent problems, such as improper installation or broader plumbing concerns.

Choosing Kinnett Plumbing ensures that the work meets all local codes and regulations, providing peace of mind that the job is done right. With their reputation for prompt and reliable service, you can trust a licensed plumber to restore your garbage disposal to optimal working conditions, preventing future disruptions in your kitchen routine. By reaching out to Kinnett Plumbing, you not only save yourself from potential injury and further damage but also ensure a long-term solution, allowing you to return to your daily activities without hassle.

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