How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal
It’s been a long day, and you’re trying to get dinner on the table so you can relax with a much deserved glass of wine. Then it happens: Your garbage disposal gives up on you. Fortunately, this common problem, though annoying and inconvenient, typically doesn’t require professional help. The experts at Mr. Rooter® Plumbing have you covered, teaching you how to handle it and prevent its return…

Steps to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

A clogged garbage disposal is usually the result of a P-trap that is clogged. But before you fix
the problem, it is important to ask yourself why it happened. Common reasons for disposal clogs include:

  • Insufficient use of water when flushing waste.
  • Failure to continue operation/water flow a few seconds after waste is ground.
  • Feeding the disposal too quickly.
  • Grinding egg shells or coffee grinds, which stick to sludge in pipes, creating clogs.
  • Grinding potato or banana peels, which can form a starchy paste and clog the drain.
  • Ignorance of items that are unsafe to run through the garbage disposal.
  • Neglected maintenance and corresponding sludge buildup.

Unclogging a Garbage Disposal Isn’t as Gross as You Fear

Most are simply from the aforementioned items clogging the P-trap beneath your sink. What’s a P-trap? A P-trap is the curved, U-shaped pipe under your sink that catches and traps food debris and holds water to prevent sewer gases from coming up through your drain. Clearing the clog typically involves the simple removal and cleaning of the P-trap. Here’s how:

  1. Know the ABCs of disposal safety.
    NEVER put your hands in the disposal. And NEVER use chemical drain cleaners to clear a clog, which can damage your disposal and splash-back onto you.
  2. Find your trap.
    Look for the P or S-shaped pipe beneath you disposal’s drain trap.
  3. Determine P-trap style.
    If your P-trap doesn’t have a quick disconnect, you may need some channel-type pliers or channel-locks. Similar to regular pliers, they include an extended adjustment section and angled jaw that allows them to grip pipes and plumbing parts of various sizes.
  4. Grab a bucket, towel, and tools.
    It’s not uncommon for water to spill out of the sink pipes when they’re disconnected.
  5. Disconnect the trap.
    Place the bucket under the trap, and using your channel-locks, disconnect the slip-nut fitting on the drain trap.
  6. Remove the trap.
    Try to stay out of the splash zone, then check the pipe for clogs/obstructions, which are commonly found in the sharp bends of the trap. You may need a small scrub brush to dig-out debris. (In the absence of a brush, a wire coat hanger may work.)
  7. Check for clogs downstream.
    If you don’t find a clog in the trap, it may be in the part of the pipe that disappears into the wall, or even in the pipes inside the wall. Clearing these pipes will require a drain auger.
  8. Reassemble the trap.
    Reassemble the trap and be certain to run water through the disposal system for several minutes to clear any remaining debris through the pipes.

Want to Prevent Further Disposal Snafus?

Learn how to properly clean and care for your garbage disposal and rid of nasty, lingering disposal smells with these garbage disposal cleaning tricks.

Don’t break out the waders. If you can’t bail yourself out, count on the fast, professional plumbing services of Mr. Rooter Plumbing. Learn more about our affordable, up-front, flat-rate pricing and exceptionally courteous service today.

This blog is made available by Mr. Rooter LLC, for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed plumbing professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.