How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

by The Carpenter

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

So you look in your sink and see that you have some standing water over the garbage disposal. Well it’s a pretty common problem, especially for those of us who love to stuff potato peels or shredded carrots down there rather than just throw them out. So just how do you unclog a garbage disposal? Well it’s not as hard as you might assume, there are really two ways you can go about it and it depends on what is causing the problem. Let me explain.

Let’s say you dropped a piece of steak down the drain either on purpose or by accident (we won’t judge you), and as we know steak can be very tough so garbage disposal blades will probably have a hard time grinding it up. Since the blades can’t move through or around the steak chunk your garbage disposal is jammed and you need it unjammed in a hurry. The good news is that it really isn’t very difficult to free it up.

The first thing you need to do is shut off the power at the main circuit breaker. Let me repeat that… shut the power off! You are dealing with electricity and water here, don’t mess around.

Next, your disposal should have come with a special wrench that is essentially a big allen wrench (the one that looks like an L). If you cant find yours you can try using a regular allen wrench or you can buy an InSinkerator Jam Buster Wrench which will cost you around six dollars.

Once you have the power off and you have located your jam buster wrench, get underneath the clogged garbage disposal and you will notice a hole directly in the center of the disposal. Place the jam buster wrench or allen wrench in the hole and turn clockwise until you feel resistance. Once you feel resistance turn counter clockwise until you feel the resistance again. The resistance you are feeling is whatever is causing the clog, so in order to unclog garbage disposal you need to knock it out. Keep repeating until the resistance is gone.

When you no longer feel resistance, turn the power back on at the breaker and underneath the disposal press the red reset button. Flip the switch and test the disposal out to make sure it was unclogged. Just one suggestion… you may want to stand back from the disposal especially if there is standing water as debris and water may spray out when you start the disposal.

That’s it, you’re done.

Now some of you will try this and wonder to yourself why you don’t feel any resistance. If you don’t feel any resistance from your clogged garbage disposal, your garbage disposal may not be clogged… the drain pipe may be. What probably happened is that the disposal was able to process the food, but it was too much for the pipe to handle. This is very common with carrot or potato peels especially as they seem small but they stick together easily and don’t decompose as rapidly (just think of how long it takes for them to get mushy when you make soup).

Don’t worry this one isn’t hard to fix either. First find a plunger. I would HIGHLY recommend that you buy a new plunger rather than use the one that you use on your toilet, but hey to each their own. If you have a double sink, plug the non-garbage disposal sink with a rubber stopper, if you don’t have one buy one.

Place the plunger over the opening of the garbage disposal sink and press firmly which will force air down in to the pipes. Repeat a few times, unplug the non-disposal sink and try the disposal to see if it is unplugged. If not repeat a few more times and try again.

If the plunger still doesn’t work you could let the water stand for a little while (not too long though) and try the process again. Sometimes the pressure building from the standing water is enough pressure to clear the clogged drain, but more than likely you will need to call a plumber to take the pipes apart. If you are familiar with plumbing and drains you can try taking it apart yourself, but for 99% of the folks reading this article I would highly recommend a plumber.

There you have in, unclogging a garbage disposal isn’t that difficult, in fact if you have the right tools it can be downright easy.

© How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin July 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm

This totally worked for me: before i went to buy a plunger I tried gel drain cleaner (half a bottle!), baking soda and vinegar, boiling water (several times), and one of those little plastic sharp things. Nothing worked, and I was worried I was going to have to call someone. It took four plunges and everything is magically better! Thank you!

Emily August 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Same here! Couple plunges and all the carrot and cucumber peelings (^.^’) moved through the pipe! Thought that kind of stuff only worked in the movies. I was really dreading calling someone, so I’m really glad it worked. Thanks!

RAY September 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm

looked it up on google, “How to unclog a garbage disposal”. The carpenter workshop link was what I clicked on. Read the article in 2 minutes, got the plunger, from the bath room, never used. I plugged the 2 sinks, then plunged the garbage disposal about 30 seconds, and it cleared the whole system. It was carrots, tuna, eggshells and who knows what else. The total time from searching, reading and plunging was less than 5 minutes. And best of all, it was free. Thanks guys.

Jim DeMichele September 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm

it worked….oh my gosh…can’t believe it…thanks!

Crissta October 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I can’t believe how easy that was! I’ve been dreading it all day and plunged a few time then there she goes! Thank you!

Joy October 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Thank you! I feel so much better not having standing water in the sink. : )

JB October 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Thanks so much! Saved us a call to the plumber! No more potato peels down the drain next time.

Scurfie October 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Thank you! I never thought of using a plunger. Had a sink with standing water. I tried commercial liquid drain opener, vinegar and baking soda, and sticking my hand down in the mess. No luck till the plunger. 30 seconds and it was all clear!

anthony carinci November 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Used an allen wrench under the garbage disposal to turn the blades through the blockage, and voila! No more stuck disposal! Thank you!

Sylvia Bruce November 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thank you, thank you! Getting my Thanksgiving dinner dishes ready for tomorrow with a houseful of company coming. Put my sweet potato peels down the disposal and clogged it all up. No plumber available because it is a holiday. Came to your website and tried the plunger trick and just like magic it worked. Saved me having a nervous breakdown! One more thing to be “thankful” for!

alice November 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

my know it all sister put the carrots, parsnips and brussle sprout ends all down and then insisted she did all te time at home no problema… well plunger worked marverlously.. thanks!

Mike V November 24, 2012 at 9:28 am

Just used the plunger and it worked!!!!!!! Tryed everything else for two days. Read this got up and did it right away and walla the potato peels are gone!

Lucas November 30, 2012 at 8:36 am

Wow! That was easy! I was dreading having to call and wait for a plumber to come while my kitchen sink was all backed up, but on the very first try with the plunger the water went down!

Barb December 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm

How do you unclog a kitchen sink after dumping flour down the drain

The Carpenter December 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Thats a tough one… Ive never run across it personally so I am just speculating a bit.

If you don’t have standing water try dumping the hottest water you can down he drain to try and loosen things up. (Id assume you do have standing water though). Then I would try using a drain snake and run it down the drain to try to break the clog apart. You can find a snake at Home Depot or Lowes for around $20-30. If you can get it broken up a bit then you can try using the plunger method.

If this all doesn’t work it might be time to call a plumber. Good luck! Hope this helps!

Grace Hernandez January 11, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Thank you so much! It totally worked, my daughter was trying to make dinner for us and she ended us crying, she really wanted to do it on her own. The potato and carrot peeling she put down the disposal and it of course backed up.
I had done this a long time ago but couldn’t remember how to fix it. The plunger worked great…No more tears.. Thank you

nurselady07 February 4, 2013 at 12:46 am

I used the plunger trick, and it worked! No more carrot peals down the garbage disposal for this household! Thank you so much for the fabulous advice!

SJ February 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Thank you for the info. Got the drain unplugged (Used a new plunger) and saved 60.00 for a plummers’ services.

Julian April 2, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Plunger worked after nothing else did. Was about to take apart the pipes which I was dreading for a multitude of reasons. Probably saved me lots of my time and then the cost of a plumber to put it all back together

:- )

Becky G May 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I really wish I could hug you right now!! I had no idea that potato peels would cause so much trouble!!

Kamille Monroe-Anistopolous September 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm

OMG, thank you so much. I cooked with Kale for the first time yesterday and didn’t know it was on the list of things you shouldnt put down the garbage disposal. I tried baking soda and vinegar, boiling hot water, and drano. None of it worked. Got the plunger out and viola! Again thank you so much.

Mandy January 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Thanks so much for this! My husband was about to kill me. Make sure if you have a little spout from the disposal you clog that too. Clog opposite sink, spout, and plunger the disposal! Thanks worked after I clogged the spout Woo hoo

Sylvia June 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm

My garbage disposal clogged up with carrots, it made a weird noise and sent water to other side of my double sink. I went to the internet for help.. Yes, had to go buy a master plunger cost $4.75 at walmart. I closed the opposite side of double sink and plunged 2 or 3 time, heard air. Went back to turn on electricity, it worked. Thank you. and bless you.

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