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How to Repair a Clogged Garbage Disposal

If your garbage disposal is clogged, always remember to turn it off before attempting to dislodge the clog. Never pour drain cleaner solution into your garbage disposal. These types of solutions contain caustic chemicals that can be very dangerous if they splatter out into someone’s face or onto nearby food and dishes. Additionally, if the solution doesn’t break up the clog, you’ll have to deal with it leaking out when you disconnect the fittings to search for the issue.

A slow draining or fully clogged garbage disposal is usually due to a blockage in the drain trap. As food is ground up, it can build up inside of this S- or P-shaped plumbing fitting. This is especially common when very fine or “sticky” items are regularly put down the drain. Grease is a common culprit for clogs because it can solidify in cold pipes, resulting in a sludge that collects small particles as they try to pass by. Before removing the drain trap, put a bucket underneath to catch the water that will run out after removing the fitting. Use an old toothbrush or scrub brush to clean out the drain trap. If what comes out looks like it could reasonably have caused the clog, you’re probably done. If, however, there is no clog present, or if water still won’t go down after cleaning and reinstalling it, you’ll need to look for the problem elsewhere. Using a sink auger can help break up or force out a clog in the branch drainpipe or vertical drainpipe.

If these tricks don’t work, call a professional plumber to come and investigate your garbage disposal clog further. Experienced plumbers have the tools and expertise needed to diagnose and fix your garbage disposal quickly without doing any additional damage.

To avoid future clogs, remember these important tips:

  • Put problem items like eggshells, fruit/vegetable peels, and coffee grounds in the trash can instead of down the disposer.
  • Run plenty of water while the disposer is grinding up food to flush it out effectively and keep water running afterwards for 30-60 seconds.
  • Periodically clean grease buildup out the disposal by dropping a garbage disposal cleaner tablet down there or pouring a liquid disposal cleaning solution in and running the unit per the instructions on the package.

Additional resources:
The Most Common Garage Disposal Problems
How Not to Clean a Drain
Fixing a Leaky Kitchen Sink
Do Coffee Grounds Cause Problems in Garbage Disposals?