We use our kitchen sinks for everything. Whether rushing to cook breakfast in the morning or prepping dinner, it can be easy to forget that our garbage disposals aren’t designed to handle all kinds of food waste. In fact, they can’t handle many common food items, including banana peels, potato peels, rice, pasta, and coffee grounds.
Fortunately, learning how to unclog a garbage disposal isn’t as challenging as it might seem. You’ll need to have some supplies on hand, such as an Allen wrench, plunger, and pliers, so you might want to consider running to a home improvement store before you start.
Signs of a Clogged Garbage Disposal
Clogged disposals are common problems, but do you actually have one on your hands? Before we discuss the best way to unclog garbage disposals, there are some common signs you can look out for. These include:
- Strange Noises: Loud grinding noises often indicate that there’s a clog in the disposal, while clanking could mean there’s a foreign object, such as a spoon or fork, stuck in there instead.
- Foul Odors: If food waste is clogging up the disposal, you may catch a whiff of foul odors coming from the sink. The bacteria lurking in your sink makes food rot faster, which could also contribute to the odor.
- Power Loss: Is your disposal not working like it should, or are you constantly hitting the reset button? Heavy clogs can take a toll on your disposal’s motor, making it difficult for the device to work properly — if at all.
How to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal
When learning how to unclog a garbage disposal, there are a few different steps you might want to take depending on the stubbornness of the clog and the tools you have on hand. Before we get into any of that, it’s important to ensure that your safety is a top priority.
Remember to turn off the power to the garbage disposal by unplugging it. You’ll also want to shut off the breaker it connects to as an extra precaution.
Clear Away Visible Debris
Have you shut off the power to the disposal? If so, it’s time to move on to the next step. When you look into your garbage disposal, you might notice standing water. You can plunge the drain to remove this excess water or scoop it out with a cup.
Once you’ve cleared away the water, grab a flashlight and give the disposal a closer look. If you notice visible food debris or a foreign object, use pliers or tongs to remove it. Using one of these tools is more sanitary and much safer than putting your hand into the disposal. After all, knowing how to unclog a garbage disposal isn’t just about finding the easiest solution — it’s about finding one that is safe and effective.
If the blades are stuck on a clog, you can use an Allen wrench to turn the blades. You’ll know you’ve dislodged the blockage when the blades spin freely.
Use Baking Soda & Vinegar
Baking soda and vinegar can be excellent at removing food debris clogs, and many of us readily have these ingredients in our pantries. Pour ¼ cup baking soda followed by ½ cup vinegar down the disposal. Let the mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then flush it with hot running water.
Some homeowners may consider this to be the best way to unclog garbage disposals because it is easy and safe. These household ingredients are incredibly gentle on your disposal, unlike chemical drain cleaners, which can destroy the plastic parts they contain. Chemical cleaners are also known to damage drain pipes.
Try Plunging the Clog
Did you have to use a plunger earlier on to remove standing water from your disposal? You can also try using the plunger to remove the clog!
Fill the sink with enough water that it covers both the disposal and the very bottom of the sink. This water will allow the plunger cup to create a tight seal around the drain. Plunge up and down for a few minutes — it may take some time to successfully remove the clog — and then check to see if any blockage, such as food debris, has been loosened. If so, go ahead and remove it with your pliers. While this may not be the best way to unclog garbage disposals, as it can be a little messy, it’s proven to be effective.
Garbage Disposal Maintenance Tips
Now that you know how to unclog a garbage disposal, you probably want to know how to keep this problem from happening again. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to properly care for your disposal.
First, remember to use your garbage disposal unit on a routine basis. Don’t let it sit neglected for days on end. When you run your disposal regularly, you can prevent the parts from rusting and grind up any food debris that might have been left behind.
If you don’t like having a smelly kitchen, consider adding lemons to your disposal. When you’re ready to give your disposal a little cleanse, grind up a few lemon slices and a pot of hot water. This is a great trick to try if you’ve just finished removing a stinky clog.
Avoid a Messy Plumbing Disaster With Gold Star
Although we’ve discussed the best way to unclog garbage disposals, it’s possible that you’re still dealing with an issue. If you’ve followed the steps above to no avail, don’t hesitate to contact a licensed plumber in Nassau County, NY, for assistance.
At Gold Star Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, our experts have fixed countless plumbing issues in our local communities. Whether you have a sink draining slowly or the garbage disposal is making strange noises, we’re here to provide you with a dependable solution. Contact us for a NY drain cleaning service today!