How to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal

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Is your garbage disposal all clogged up? Here’s how you can fix it without any professional help.

A Garbage Disposal can often face numerous common problems and one of the most apparent ones is clogging. No matter how careful you are, clogging is inevitable but there are a few ways in which you can keep a check on it. Often times, clogging is a result of overusing the appliance and taking it for granted but with a few simple steps, you can fix the clog and ensure that your garbage disposal drain remains clear.

Are you experiencing a clogged garbage disposal in your home? Not sure how you can fix this issue? If yes, then this guide is your savior. In this guide, we will discuss the causes of clogging, steps to unclog your garbage disposal and how you can prevent this from happening again.

Trust me, by the end of this article, you will become a master as unclogging your garbage disposal and will never face this issue again.

Badger Garbage Disposal Unit

Why Does the Garbage Disposal Clog?

As I said earlier, garbage disposal is an overused appliance which often gets taken for granted in your household. This means that it will easily grind the food waste but the process after grinding is often the cause of the clogging.

Most garbage disposals get clogged because either the ground food waste doesn’t have enough water to drain or the ground waste has a different reaction to the water. You will find that the problem is usually in the trap pipe which is located on the waste discharge side of the garbage disposal.

Usually, a garbage disposal clogs because after some time the waste line or the disposal trap gets filled with food waste which can often obstruct the path of the other waste coming down in the drain, as a result, the disposal gets clogged. Here are a few common causes of disposal clogging:

Absence of Sufficient Amount of Flushing Water

One of the surest ways to clog your garbage disposal is by not providing enough water to the disposal when it is grinding your food waste. If it doesn’t get sufficient water then the waste finds it hard to move through the pipes and will quickly build up which can obstruct the further movement of food waste.

So once the pipe blocks, you cannot simply move the waste by adding the water and you would need to fix the clogging by following the unclogging process which takes a considerable amount of time.

Grinding used coffee grounds and eggshells

You might think that grinding coffee ground and eggshell is not such a big deal but that’s not true. Ground eggshells and coffee grounds become sticky when added with a little water and can often end up sticking to the sludge found inside the disposal pipes. This can immediately create a clog and will not allow you to transfer your food waste into the drain.

Disposing potato peels

One of the most common reasons for garbage disposal clogging is potato peels which form a starchy paste once they are ground up in the disposal.

Since this starchy paste resembles mashed potatoes and is more likely to get stuck to the inside of your disposal, you end up clogging your garbage disposal by grounding it.

Disposal banana peels

Another food waste that is likely to get stuck to the drainage pipes of your garbage disposal is the banana peels which form a similar problem as a potato peel. However, it also adds stringy fibers to your drainage pipes which make it even trickier for the ground waste to move.

Unclogging your Garbage Disposal

Well, if your garbage disposal is clogged now because of one of the above-mentioned reasons then there isn’t much that you can do apart from trying to unclog it.

Don’t worry, the unclogging process is easy to understand but it will take a considerable amount of time and can be a little slow the first time you try it on your own.

Things You Will Need

  • Flashlight
  • Lemon
  • Ice cubes
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Gloves
  • Wooden Dowel
  • Bucket
  • Hex-Head Wrench
  • Drain Auger

How Do I Unclog the Garbage Disposal?

Shut off the Electrical Switch

Before you start looking into your garbage disposal, you need to switch off the electrical supply by turning off the switch of the disposal. If you don’t find the switch then you can cut the main power supply and turn off the breaker or remove the fuse which runs the disposal. Make sure that your disposal is completely dried off before you start working on it.

Wear strong rubber gloves because there might be numerous sharp components inside your garbage disposal which can hurt you if you aren’t careful. If you can then remove these sharp components before you proceed with the inspection. Avoid putting your hand in the disposal because a slight accident can be harmful to you.

Take a look inside

Try to take a look deep into the drain to figure out what is causing the clog. You can use your flashlight to see the inside of the disposal. If you notice some object that is stuck then you might need to pry it off to make your disposal work again. If it is a big object then use your needle-nose pliers to pull it out of the disposal.

A complete breakdown of your Garbage disposal
A complete breakdown of your Garbage disposal

Once this is done, let your disposal cool down for 15 minutes before you turn on the switch and test whether the disposal is working again or not. If the disposal is still clogged, then you might need to follow the next steps to unclog it.

Use water to unclog

A lot of time the disposal might be clogged due to some dry food waste getting stuck inside the garbage disposal because there wasn’t enough water to flush it out and carry it to the drainage pipes. Sometimes food waste like banana and potato peels can create a starchy paste or the eggshells and coffee grounds can cause tiny particles which are the reason for the clogging.

In such cases, one of the simplest ways to unclog the disposal is by running it again while you keep the faucet at full flow and let it run for a few minutes. The running water will force the food waste to move ahead and will help in clearing up the clog quite efficiently.

Use Lemon and Ice

If the above method doesn’t work to get the disposal completely unclogged, then you can grind some lemon peel and ice cubes in your disposal to clear the clog.

The lemon peel’s acid and the ice cubes’ coarseness will help you in clearing out the inside of the disposal quickly and efficiently. Once it is done, run the water down the drain to clean the residual.

Use a Dowel

Sometimes food waste can be stuck further down the garbage disposal and can be difficult to clear by the above methods. So you need to shine your flashlight again inside the disposal and see if you can see the blockage.

If yes, then use a wooden spoon or dowel and try to dislodge the object or push it further down. Make sure that your disposal is disconnected from the power supply to ensure your safety while dislodging the food items.

Manipulate the Flywheel

You can use your hex-head wrench to manipulate the flywheel, just switch off the power supply and then position your wrench at the disposal unit’s base. Make sure you use the instruction manual when you are trying to do this and turn your wrench back and forth in order to rotate the flywheel to dislodge the blockage.

If this doesn’t work then try the same process manually via the sink. Then turn the power supply on and test if the disposal is working perfectly now or not.

Check the Drain Trap

If your disposal is still clogged then you can dismantle your garbage disposal and look at the drain trap. For this, you will need to find the S-shaped pipe and then gain access to it by removing the fasteners.

Then you can remove the drain trap and clear the clogging which you find. If there is no clogging then there are chances that the clog is lodged further down for which you would need to use a drain auger.

Test the Garbage Disposal

Once you have finally gotten rid of the clogging and the blockages, you need to reassemble everything back and tighten all the parts together. Then plug in the garbage disposal fuse and turn on the power supply to check.

You should be able to dispose of your food waste again. However, if you still face issues with your garbage disposal then it would be wise to get a plumber check your drainage system.

Unclogging a Garbage disposal


How Do I Prevent Garbage Disposal Clogging?

While it is understandable then no one intentionally clogs their garbage disposal but a few careful steps can help in preventing the disposal from getting clogged.

Here are a few preventive measures that everyone can take to protect their garbage disposal from clogging and maintain their appliance for a smooth and easy disposal of food waste:

Use Adequate Amount of Water for flushing

As we have already discussed, one of the most frequent reasons for clogging is not enough water in the garbage disposal, so make sure that you add sufficient amount of water when disposing of the ground food waste. Always ensure that you flush the disposal with a lot of water when it is grinding the food waste and around 30-60 seconds after the grinding is complete.

This will ensure a smooth flow of the ground waste and is less likely to get stuck in the pipe causing clogs.

Cut waste into smaller pieces

Sometimes we often put food in the disposal which is too big for the blades and the motors to cut which can result in the food waste getting stuck inside the drain traps. So it is better if you first cut these waste into smaller pieces and then throw them in your disposal.

However, remember to put only a few pieces at a time so that you don’t overwork your disposal, clog it, or worse, break it completely.

Use Lemon and Ice to clean

One of the best ways to keep your garbage disposal clean and maintained is by grinding pieces of lemon and ice regularly. Lemon plays an important role by releasing the citrus acid which can react with the waste inside the pipe and the crushed ice makes it easier to slide down to the drain.

If you grind lemon and ice in your garbage disposal at least once a month then you can easily keep the insides of your disposal clean and free of any clogs.

lemon and ice for cleaning


Use Cold Water for your Disposal

Another great way to prevent disposal clogging is by making sure that you use cold water to flush your waste in the garbage disposal and not hot water. Hot water is great for cleaning things but if you use it with food waste, it can end up melting the waste which will then get stuck in the drain pipe and will clog your disposal.

On the other hand, cold water will harden your waste which will make it easier for the disposal to grind and then push it down the drain pipe.

Run your Garbage Disposal Daily

You need to take care of your garbage disposal so make sure you run your garbage disposal daily even if you have no waste to grind. This will help in keeping your garbage disposal in working condition and will protect it from getting freeze up or corroded.

Avoid putting sticky food waste

This is one of the most important preventive measures to keep your garbage disposal up and running. Avoid disposing of food waste which is not easy to grind like potato peels, plastic, paper, pasta, rice, food with bones or seeds, etc. These food items can often resist the blade and can cause damage to your disposal and end up sticking your disposal which ultimately leads to clogging.