How Do I Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal?

C.B. Fox

The method for fixing a clogged garbage disposal depends on where the disposal is clogged. A clog can happen in the disposal itself, in the waste trap coming off the side, or in the pipes that lead out of the sink. Determining where the problem lies is important in order to repair the problem. Before beginning any repairs on a clogged garbage disposal, unplug the device from the wall or shut off power at the breaker. Once the device is unplugged, the various pieces can be taken apart and cleaned so that the clog can be removed.

Allen wrenches are often needed to fix a garbage disposal.
Allen wrenches are often needed to fix a garbage disposal.

The first step in fixing a clogged garbage disposal is to determine whether there is an obstruction in the disposal itself. If the clog is a result of something blocking the movement of the disposal’s blades, it may be possible to see the obstruction by looking down the drain with a flashlight. Remove anything that is visible, with tongs, to avoid the risk of getting cut by the blades of the disposal. Even though the disposal is not connected to a power source, it still has sharp edges, and it is never a good idea to remove obstructions by hand.

After pulling out whatever is on top of the disposal, the next step in fixing a clogged garbage disposal is to use an allen wrench to rotate the blades in the opposite direction that the disposal grinds food. Insert the allen wrench into the slot on the base of the disposal. Once it is in, turn it clockwise for a few rotations. Obstructions that were located further inside the disposal will have moved to the top and can be removed through the drain in the sink, again, using tongs to prevent the risk of injury.

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Repairing a clogged garbage disposal when the clog is located beyond the disposal unit itself is a little more involved. In order to remove a clog from this area, the waste trap, located on the side of the disposal, needs to be taken off the disposal and cleaned out. The other pipes that lead from the disposal to the rest of the plumbing can be cleaned out with a pipe snake to make sure that there are no other clogs.

The best way to fix a clogged garbage disposal is to prevent one from happening in the first place. Coffee grounds, eggshells, potato peels, and stringy vegetables, such as chard and celery, can obstruct the disposal and should be thrown into the garbage rather than down the drain. Running water for at least a few seconds after the disposal has cleared out all the food in it can also help keep the machine in good working order.

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