Garbage Disposal Backing Up into Sink: Causes, Solutions, and Prevention

Kitchen sink after a garbage disposal backup.

A functioning garbage disposal keeps your kitchen running. Without one, doing the dishes after cooking becomes a serious chore. So when your garbage disposal backs up into your sink, you need to diagnose and treat the issue quickly.

In this article, we’ll explain the causes of a garbage disposal backup, how you can fix it, and how to prevent it from happening again in the future.

  • Causes of a Garbage Disposal Backing Up into a Sink
  • How to Fix a Garbage Disposal Backing Up into Your Sink
  • How to Prevent a Garbage Disposal from Backing Up into Your Sink

Causes of a Garbage Disposal Backing Up into a Sink

Kitchen sinks take a lot of abuse. Most people use their kitchen sink constantly and rarely take the time to care for it. So, when it breaks, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Still, an out-of-order kitchen sink can bring your home to a halt.

When your garbage disposal backs up into your sink, you can only fix it if you know what caused it. Here are some of the most common causes behind a garbage disposal backup:

  • Clogged garbage disposal – A garbage disposal may have the word garbage in its name, but you can’t treat it like a trash can without causing issues. For example, putting excessive food waste into your garbage disposal can cause it to clog or even break.
  • Drain issues – Your garbage disposal sits on top of a drain pathway. If that drain pathway gets clogged, it can prevent the disposal from sending food down properly. When the clog reaches a severe enough state, it will float food back into your sink, even if the garbage disposal already ground it to bits. Drain clogs in kitchen sinks are especially common because of clog-causing materials like grease and fats, which solidify when exposed to cool temperatures.
  • Damaged garbage disposal – An old or damaged garbage disposal can’t handle food the way it used to. When the blades on your disposal dull, or the machine starts to break down, it allows full-size pieces of food to enter the drain. Over a long enough period of time, clogs form and push food back into your sink.

How to Fix a Garbage Disposal Backing Up Into Your Sink

Plumbing problems don’t offer much in the way of silver linings, but you can likely fix a garbage disposal backup on your own. Here are a few ways to stop your garbage disposal from backing up into your sink:

  • Clear out stuck material – If you are overzealous and put items into your garbage disposal that it cannot handle, you need to take them out. To safely unclog a garbage disposal, unplug it. Once you have unplugged the unit, put on a pair of gloves and reach into the disposal to find the stuck food items. If you’re having trouble, or your hand is too large to fit into the disposal, a long pair of pliers can help you grab hard-to-reach food. If the appliance still doesn’t work after you’ve removed any material, find and press the reset button on the bottom of the unit. Then run it again with the hot water on full blast.
  • Fix clogs – When a clog is to blame, your solution is simple — clear the clog. You can use a variety of methods to fix a kitchen sink clog, including baking soda and vinegar, removing the P-trap, or using a drain snake. Whatever method you use, test the disposal and run your sink after each attempt to see if it works.

Once you’ve searched for food and tried common clog-clearing techniques, your disposal may still be in disrepair. If that’s the case, it’s time to call a plumber to repair your garbage disposal or to install a new garbage disposal. Some common issues that indicate it’s time to call a plumber include a disposal that hums but doesn’t grind, louder than usual grinding noises, leaks beneath the disposal, and unexpected shutoffs.

How to Prevent a Garbage Disposal from Backing Up into Your Sink

Like most issues with appliances, prevention is better than repair. You can prevent your garbage disposal from backing up into your sink by employing the following good habits:

  • Dispose of food properly – You should only put biodegradable food items of a reasonable size into your garbage disposal. Whenever possible, scrape plates before rinsing them and toss out large pieces of food into your trash can. Also, make sure not to dispose of large amounts of pasta, coffee grounds, or fats. All these can gum up the blades or become a paste that creates clogs in your drain. When in doubt, throw it out (in the trash can) rather than in your garbage disposal.
  • Regularly clean and maintain the disposal – Routine cleaning goes a long way toward protecting your garbage disposal. Every so often, put a few ice cubes and some dish soap into the opening and run it. The ice sharpens the blade while the dish soap removes stuck-on fats and grease from the disposal.
  • Use a food catcher – A food catcher is a metal mesh that sits over the top of a drain to catch food before it goes into the disposal. Once it fills up, you toss the captured food into the trash. While disposals can handle a variety of foods, it’s best to toss out what you can.

Don’t Want to Deal with Garbage Disposal Backup in Your Sink? Call Mr. Rooter

Even when you can fix a garbage disposal backing up into your sink, it’s not a particularly appealing job. If you don’t want to deal with this issue on your own, Mr. Rooter® Plumbing can help. Our experienced plumbers have years of experience solving plumbing issues just like this one.

Whether you need help with a stubborn clog or require a full garbage disposal replacement, our courteous and professional plumbers will handle the job for a reasonable price, and your satisfaction is always guaranteed.

Call us to schedule a service today!