Can A Garbage Disposal Cause A Sink To Clog?

The kitchen sink is the hub of activity for most kitchens – from rinsing produce to filling pots or washing dishes, a sink is a busy place. So, when it backs up, progress in the kitchen comes to a screeching halt. It’s tough to wash dishes in a sink full of dirty water, and there’s no way clean dishes are coming out of the murky depths of water. 

Kitchen sinks are prone to clogging every now and again, generally due to food scraps being shoved down the drain and building up over time until a full blockage forms. Although a garbage disposal typically helps avoid this problem, as it grinds food scraps into tiny particles, it can be the culprit of the clog. 

So, how do you fix it? We’re here to help, so continue reading to learn more!

Can A Garbage Disposal Cause The Sink To Back Up?

Absolutely, a garbage disposal can be the cause of your backed-up kitchen sink. The device is designed to crush food scraps into tiny particles, creating smaller pieces that can easily go down the drain. However, in some cases, the device may malfunction.

Food might get caught in the garbage disposal when this happens, causing a clog. Since the drain pipe from your kitchen sink is hooked up to the garbage disposal, this means your kitchen sink will be out of commission for a while. If you have a double sink, chances are the same thing applies since they usually drain into the same drain pipe. 

How Do You Fix A Clogged Kitchen Sink With A Garbage Disposal?

InSinkErator Garbage Disposal with Cord, Badger 5, 1/2 HP Continuous Feed

Fixing a clogged kitchen sink isn’t overly complex, but it can become slightly more complex when a garbage disposal is involved. That said, this is a task most homeowners don’t have an issue with, so here’s how to do it.

Before you start, make sure you turn off the unit. Water and electricity don’t combine well, so turning off the power to the unit is vital before tinkering with the problem. Additionally, don’t stick your hand in the unit, even if it’s off. Getting rid of the clog isn’t worth the money you’d spend potentially getting medical care for the gash in your hand. 

Look For The Culprit

Before you try the following methods, peer into the disposal and check if you can see what’s causing the clog. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Flashlight
  • Pliers/tongs 

Use the flashlight to illuminate the disposal. Look around and see if you can find the problem. If you find something, use a pair of pliers or kitchen tongs to reach into the disposal and grab the object. 

Repeat the process until you remove everything that is causing the clog. Turn the disposal back on and check for proper drainage and operation. 

Use Baking Soda

If you can’t see anything that could be causing the clog, try this DIY remedy. Here’s what you need:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar

Pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow up immediately with ½ cup of vinegar. The combination will create a fizzy reaction that cuts through food clogs, grease, oil, and fat. On top of that, it’ll deodorize the unit. 

After adding both ingredients, wait about 20 minutes for the mixture to work its magic. Rinse the residue away with hot water. Flush the drain for a few minutes with hot water, then turn the unit back on and check for proper draining and function. 

Take The Plunge

In some cases, baking soda and vinegar might not be enough to remove the blockage. A plunger might be the perfect fix. While you could use a toilet plunger, a sink plunger is the better option. After all, who wants to mix greebles from the bathroom with the kitchen sink (not us!)? 

A plunger can help remove the blockage by creating pressure in the unit and loosening it from its spot. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sink plunger
  • Flashlight
  • Drain stopper for other sink (if applicable)

Fit the cup of the plunger over the drain above the garbage disposal, ensuring the cup fits all the way over the drain to create a good seal. If you have a double sink, block the other drain with the stopper. Without the other drain covered, you’ll have a tough time creating the pressure necessary to dislodge the clog. 

Fill the garbage disposal sink with a few inches of water, just enough to cover the cup of the plunger. Plunge the drain vigorously several times to loosen the blockage. After a minute or two, remove the plunger. 

Using a flashlight, look for any items that could be causing the problem. If you can see an object or potential culprit, use kitchen tongs or pliers to reach in and grab it. If you don’t see anything that could be causing the problem, turn on the cold water and let it run. The sink should drain with ease. 

You may have to repeat the process a few times to dislodge the clog fully. 

Turn The Blades

Most garbage disposals feature a small hole at the bottom of the unit. When the disposal is clogged, and none of the above methods work to dislodge the clog, this is a great way to attempt to loosen the clog. 

Generally, you’ll need a hex wrench (Allen wrench) to manually move the blades using the small hexagon hole in the bottom of the unit. However, some units come with a special tool designed specifically for that unit. If your disposal comes with one of these tools, use that. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Hex wrench or special tool
  • Kitchen tongs or pliers
  • Flashlight 
  • Long wooden handle

Insert the hex wrench into the hole at the end of the disposal. Rotate the wrench clockwise until you feel resistance. Once you meet resistance, rotate the wrench counterclockwise until you encounter resistance. Repeat the process until the blade spins freely in both directions. 

If your garbage disposal doesn’t have a hole to operate the blades manually, you can complete the process using a wooden handle. Stick the handle into the garbage disposal from above the sink, then rotate the blades back and forth, following the same process as above. 

Once the blade spins freely, look inside the unit with a flashlight. If you can see something that could be causing the blockage, use a pair of kitchen tongs or pliers to reach into the unit and remove it. 

Turn on the water and check for proper drainage. If it drains fine, turn the unit back on and check for proper function. 

How To Prevent Garbage Disposal Clogs

Tackling a garbage disposal clog can be a time-consuming process. So, to avoid spending hours trying to remove a blockage in the disposal, prevent them altogether by following a few essential tips. 

What Causes A Garbage Disposal Clog?

Garbage disposals can be somewhat finicky – if you don’t follow the guidelines, you might end up with a clog blocking the drain. A few of the most common reasons for a blockage in your garbage disposal include:

  • Grinding specific scraps: There are a few things that should never go in your garbage disposal. These items include eggshells, banana peels, coffee grounds, and potato peels. 
  • Not enough flushing water: For smooth grinding, garbage disposals require water. While running the disposal, ensure you run water the entire time. This ensures the food isn’t too dry and won’t get caught in the disposal.
  • Foreign objects: Garbage disposals aren’t designed to handle objects aside from food scraps. Foreign objects, such as silverware or toys, can result in a clog. Before you grind the scraps in the disposal, ensure there aren’t any foreign objects. 
  • Fat, oil, and grease: This one is well-known, yet many of us still think we can get away with it. A little bit of fat, oil, or grease won’t hurt, right? Well, in tiny amounts, probably not. However, this stuff will build up over time as it solidifies in your drain, quickly causing a clog. 

Tips To Avoid Clogs In Your Garbage Disposal

Moen GXS75C Host Series 3/4 HP Continuous Feed Garbage Disposal with Sound Reduction, Power Cord Included

Here are a few tips and tricks to avoid clogs in your garbage disposal altogether and save yourself some time:

  • Pay attention to the owner’s manual: We get it – the owner’s manual looks like one of those thick textbooks from college with equally (not so) exciting information. However, it’s worth paying attention to. If anything, skim through to find the section regarding what can and can’t go in the disposal.
  • Be careful of what foods go down the drain: Certain foods have no place in a garbage disposal. Putting these foods down the drain will only lead to problems, so avoid sending those to the disposal. 
  • Don’t rush the disposal: Take it slow when you’re grinding large amounts of food scraps. Don’t overfill the canister, especially if you have a batch feed disposal. 
  • Chop up waste before disposing of it: Larger chunks of food waste can cause issues, so it doesn’t hurt to give them a coarse chop before tossing them into the disposal. 
  • Use a strainer: A food strainer is a great way to ensure nothing goes down your drain that isn’t supposed to. Keep the strainer in the drain, then invert it to get rid of food that is safe for the disposal. 
  • Run water while using it: Water helps move everything through the system, so ensure you run cold (not hot) water every time you run the appliance. Additionally, flush the drain for about 30 seconds after the unit finishes grinding the food. 
  • Use it regularly: An unused garbage disposal is prone to rust and corrosion, so make sure you use it regularly. Even if you don’t have food scraps to dispose of, run it for about 30 seconds with the water running every so often.

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