Clogs in the garbage disposal can be an absolute nightmare. Depending on where the clog is, the fix may be quick and easy. If it’s not in an easily accessible location, there’s probably going to be a bit more work involved. With that said, tackling clogs in sinks with garbage disposals is typically doable without the help of a plumber.
What Causes Garbage Disposals To Clog?
There are a few reasons your garbage disposal may clog. For instance, if you tried to grind some of the “no-no” items, like coffee grounds, starchy foods (pasta, rice, etc.), or stringy vegetables (celery, pumpkin innards, etc.), you may end up with a clog.
The food particles can build up in the drain, causing all sorts of issues. For example, stringy vegetables can wrap around the impellers, freezing them in place. Or, starchy foods may absorb water in the drain, swelling up and clogging the pipe or disposal.
How Do You Unclog A Sink With A Garbage Disposal?
Before you reach for an acidic drain cleaner to dissolve the clog, consider trying these methods. Commercial drain cleaners can damage your garbage disposal and plumbing, so it’s usually best to stick to homemade drain cleaners. However, removing a clog can generally be done relatively quickly without the help of a chemical concoction.
The method you need to use to unclog a sink with a garbage disposal depends on where the clog is. If the clog is beyond the disposal in the drainpipe, you can clear it easily enough. However, if the clog is in the garbage disposal itself, you need to free the clog before plunging the drain.
Before starting, make sure you clamp the end of the dishwasher line. If you have a dishwasher, clamp the end of the line where it enters the disposal. This prevents the hose from popping off the disposal nozzle while you plunge the drain.
Free The Impellers
When there’s a clog in the garbage disposal, the blades usually freeze up, unable to grind the food. If you’re unsure where the clog is, turn on the garbage disposal. If the unit hums instead of making its usual grinding noise, there’s a clog in the disposal.
Before you plunge the drain, you need to clear the clog. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Allen key
Start by turning off the power to the unit at the main breaker. Then, clear out the cabinet beneath the sink. While you don’t necessarily have to remove the items under the sink, it’ll be easier to get into the small space if you do.
Lay on your back beneath the sink. Near the bottom of the disposal canister, you’ll see a small opening that fits an Allen key. Insert the key into the slot, then turn clockwise. When you run into resistance, turn the key in the opposite direction (counterclockwise) until you run into resistance again.
Turn the key clockwise and counterclockwise, back and forth, until there’s no resistance. Once you reach this point, continue to the next step.
Plunge The Drain
If the clog seems to be beyond the garbage disposal, you can jump straight to this step. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Sink plunger
Using a sink plunger, place it over the garbage disposal drain. We don’t recommend using the toilet plunger, as that can introduce all sorts of fecal bacteria to your kitchen sink (yikes!). If there’s no standing water in the sink, add a few inches of water. This will help the process go somewhat smoother.
Push the sink plunger up and down over the drain, ensuring the seal remains solid while doing so. You won’t generate the suction necessary to loosen stuck debris if you release the seal. Push the plunger up and down 6 to 8 times, then lift it away.
The water in the sink should whirl down the drain rapidly, indicating the plunging was successful. If the standing water remains, you’ll have to plunge the sink a few more times.
Once the sink is free of water and draining normally, run hot water down the disposal while it runs for about three minutes. This helps encourage any residual debris to clear the drain.
If the plunging method didn’t work, you could try creating a science experiment in your sink with baking soda and vinegar. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to bail out the excess water and dump it outside or down a normally functioning drain.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 cup of baking soda
- 1 cup of vinegar
- Hot water
Once the sink is as empty as possible, pour one cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow it with one cup of vinegar. If you have a double sink, do this for both drains. Wait five minutes, allowing the reaction to occur and do its thing, hopefully releasing the clog.
After five minutes, run hot water down each drain to clear it of the solution. Try to steer clear of chemical drain cleaners, particularly if you have a septic tank. These cleaners can mess with the biology in the septic tank and damage the plumbing.
How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal With Standing Water
To clear a garbage disposal with standing water, follow the same steps we outlined above. Make sure to verify the clog isn’t in the disposal itself before plunging the sink.
How Do You Plunge A Double Sink With A Garbage Disposal?
If you have a double sink in your kitchen, the process looks slightly different, as one side of the sink houses the disposal. The process still looks much the same, as you need to free the clog in the disposal before plunging the sink (if applicable).
Before you plunge the drain, place the drain stopper in the opposite drain. Then, fill the garbage disposal side of the sink about half-full with water. Once that’s done, follow the same process, plunging the garbage disposal side.