How Do You Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal

Like many homeowners, you might not pay much attention to your garbage disposal until it becomes clogged and no longer functions at its best. This can be a big problem, considering that a clogged disposal can make it hard for you to properly dispose of food waste and might even cause water to back up in the sink. When left unchecked, it can cause your disposal machine to be completely damaged, forcing you to spend a substantial amount of money to have it repaired or purchase a new one.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to fix your garbage disposal and prevent it from getting clogged again in the future. If you’re ready to get started, here’s a guide that you can use:

Fixing a Clogged Garbage Disposal

The first thing you should do is to check if the problem is really caused by a clog or by something else. Sometimes, a garbage disposal won’t work because it doesn’t have power, so check if it’s plugged in. If it is and it won’t turn on, take a look at the fuse or circuit breaker to see if it’s in good condition. You also need to check the overload protector (located underneath the unit) and see if it’s popped out; if it isn’t, press it to reset it and see if the disposal works.

If you’ve taken all these steps but to no avail, you most likely have a clogged garbage disposal. But don’t just jump in right away; before doing anything else, turn off the disposal’s circuit breaker and shut off its electrical power switch. Doing these is important to reduce the chances of getting electrocuted while you work on your machine.

Inspecting and Removing Clogs

Once you’ve turned off the power supply, crawl underneath the unit and, using a flashlight, check if you can spot the object that’s causing the clog. You can usually see the blockage if it’s caused by a large item, such as a spoon, a fork, and other kinds of kitchenware. If you can see the object, get a pair of pliers and use it to remove the item that’s blocking the disposal. Never use your bare hands! The blades of your garbage disposal are very sharp and can cut your skin. You also don’t know if the machine’s switch is broken; if it is, the unit may accidentally turn on while your hand is reaching in through the blades, giving you serious injuries.

Once you’ve removed the clog using your pliers, turn on the garbage disposal and see if it functions properly. If it does, you can go back to using your machine; if it doesn’t, you’ll need to take additional steps to bring it back to good shape.

Other Ways to Remove Clogs

If you can’t see the object that’s causing the clog, or if you can’t remove it using pliers, you can take other steps to dislodge the blockage. Start by checking the bottom of your garbage disposal and looking for a hole in the center (called the center shaft). If the hole is there, get an Allen wrench from your tool box, insert the tip to the hole, and move it back and forth. Taking these steps turns the shaft and manually moves the blades of the garbage disposal. This, in turn, will hopefully dislodge the object that’s causing the clog and make it flush down the drainpipe.

If your garbage disposal doesn’t come with a hole at the bottom, you can try dislodging the clog from above. Get a broom handle or a long wooden spoon and insert it into the drain opening until it reaches the blades. Push it against the blades and rock it back and forth to force them to move and dislodge the blockage. Once the blades freely move without any obstruction, turn on the garbage disposal and see if it now functions properly.

Clogged Drain Pipes

Have you done everything you could to unclog the garbage disposal but it still doesn’t work properly? The problem may lie in the drain trap, which is shaped like a “P” or an “S” and can be found right after the discharge of your disposal. If this is the case, you can disconnect the drain trap (make sure to place a bucket underneath to catch dirty water), check it for clogs, and clean it to remove any obstructions as well as grime and grease.

Getting the Help of the Pros

If you have taken all the possible steps to fix your garbage disposal but it’s still clogged, you’ll need to have it checked by a professional technician. Call the manufacturer of your disposal and ask where you can find an authorized service center near you. If you think the clog is in your drainage, contact your plumber and ask him to take a look.

Preventing Your Garbage Disposal from Getting Clogged

A clogged garbage disposal can be a huge headache, but it’s luckily something that you can prevent by taking the right steps. These include:

  • Flushing the disposal with plenty of water while it runs. The food that you put into the unit can turn into a sticky mush after a while and, if you don’t run enough water through the disposal, this mush can end up sticking in the blades and causing a clog. Make it a habit to run plenty of water while your disposal processes your food waste.
  • Pouring waste at a too fast rate. Remember: eating quickly can make you choke on your food, and this can also happen to your garbage disposal. Feed your waste into it at a slow and steady pace to give it enough time to “digest”.
  • Keeping clog-inducing items away from your disposal. These include large fruit pits, potato peels, banana peels, flower stems, coffee grounds, chicken bones, eggshells, and artichoke hearts.
  • Cleaning your garbage disposal on a regular basis. Make sure to flush plenty of water after the disposal processes your food waste to prevent food particles from clogging the unit. Drop some ice cubes and lemon peel down the disposal every now and then to clean the blades and make the unit smell fresh.

Final Thoughts

Your garbage disposal machine is one of the most important part of your kitchen. Take care of it to keep it working properly and help it last for a long time.

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