Louisville Homeowners: Learn How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

garbage disposal

Every Louisville area homeowner should know how to unclog a garbage disposal. Clogs are quite common in garbage disposals due to improper maintenance, sending the wrong food down the drain, and overwhelming the disposal unit with waste. Putting too much waste and the wrong types of waste into disposals is a habit that can be easily corrected to avoid a clogged garbage disposal.

Learn how to unclog a garbage disposal to remedy clogging in your kitchen sink before draining stops altogether. Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling teaches you how to care for a garbage disposal unit and use it properly to prevent troublesome clogs, and shares tips to help you safely free up your disposal for easy waste removal.

What Causes a Clogged Garbage Disposal?

A clog can occur in a garbage disposal unit for several different reasons. If plastic parts of other components sustain damage, they may prevent the unit from performing correctly or grinding up waste. Items can become stuck inside the disposal, jamming the motor or its blades. Or, clogs may not even be within the garbage disposal at all – rather, the clogs have formed past the disposal, within the drain pipe.

Clogged garbage disposals are the result of a few different problems:

  • Failing to run enough water as the garbage disposal chews up food.
  • Using hot water instead of cold water when flushing debris through the garbage disposal unit.
  • Putting entirely too much waste into the disposal at one time.
  • Ignoring the maintenance needs that keep a garbage disposal running in good condition.
  • Using the garbage disposal to toss out inappropriate food and non-food items.

It doesn’t matter if the garbage disposal itself holds a clog or if clogs are deeper in the drain system, a clogged garbage disposal will show signs of a problem. If a garbage disposal cannot grind food or drain away waste, the debris as well as the water used during operation have no place to go. The mess backs up into your kitchen sink, leaving foul-smelling standing water to deal with.

Tips for How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

How to unclog a garbage disposal usually isn’t a very complicated or time-consuming task. This is lucky because clogs really aren’t something that should be allowed to linger in these kitchen sink appliances for very long. If you do not unclog a garbage disposal after clogs form, you will experience foul smells coming up from your sink drain. A clog can even cause damage to the garbage disposal if you run it before you fix it.

While it’s a pretty easy job to unclog a garbage disposal, you need to be careful about doing it the safe way. You could lose a finger or more if you put your hand down the drain and into a garbage disposal when it is still connected to a power source. Protect yourself while performing this home improvement plumbing task.

If you want to unclog a garbage disposal, start by collecting these tools which you’ll need to do the job properly and safely:

  • Disposal’s hex wrench (or Allen wrench if one did not come with the unit)
  • Pliers
  • Sink plunger
  • Tongs
  • Flashlight
  • Measuring cup
  • Bucket
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar

Stick to these steps as you work to rid your garbage disposal of bothersome waste clogs:

  1. Turn off garbage disposal power but unplugging the unit, turning off the wall switch, and flipping its breaker at the home’s electrical panel.
  2. When you have standing water in the kitchen sink due to a clogged garbage disposal, the water must be removed before further work can be done. Place a plunger over the drain opening down in the water and plunge the drain to force water through. If you do not have access to a plunger, use a cup or bowl to scoop water out of the sink and into a bucket.
  3. With all water cleared out of the sink, check down the drain with a flashlight.
  4. If you see something down the drain, insert the pliers or tongs to grab the item and pull it out of the drain opening. If there is waste wrapped around the blades or food particles sitting inside the garbage disposal cannister, use the tools to remove them – do not put your hand into the disposal unit.
  5. If you see a clog in the disposal but cannot get it loose, use the hex wrench or a ¼-inch Allen wrench inserted into the hole on the bottom of the garbage disposal to turn the blades with manual force. Rotate the wrench counterclockwise as far as it will go, then turn it completely in the clockwise direction. Turn the wrench back and forth to free a motor or blades that have seized up and become stuck in position.
  6. If there doesn’t appear to be anything stuck down in the garbage disposal cannister, there may not actually be a clog. If the breaker on the disposal unit tripped for some reason (overheating could cause this), the reset switch stops the unit from working until it is reset. Find the reset switch on the bottom or backside of the unit and press it in to reset the garbage disposal.
  7. Reinsert the garbage disposal’s plug into the outlet. Flip the breaker back on at your home’s electrical panel.
  8. Switch on the cold water facet and let water run.
  9. Turn on the garbage disposal via its switch.
  10. Take a minute or two to see how the garbage disposal runs. If water drains through, your garbage disposal is more than likely free of clogs.
  11. Shut off water when finished.

If your garbage disposal still doesn’t turn on or fails to drain, or if you are unable to dislodge a stuck item from the blades, you need professional assistance to solve your waste removal issue. The problem might be that clogs are deep within your drain lines and not inside the garbage disposal. Keep your garbage disposal turned off until a professional arrives to fix it.

Garbage Disposal Maintenance and Care

It’s easy to create a clog in your garbage disposal if you aren’t using it correctly and haven’t been caring for the appliance. Keep drains clean and clear and protect your garbage disposal from damage by following these important tips.

  1. Even when there is no food to dispose of, it’s important to operate your garbage disposal every few days. Just turn on the cold water and let it run for a minute or so. Doing so will keep components from rusting while they sit unused.
  2. Dispose of food using cool water only. Hot water worsens draining issues caused by fats, oils, and grease. These particles, when washed through a garbage disposal with hot water, liquify and easily flow into drains. As their temperatures drop, they solidify and stick to the walls of pipe within the drain system. These deposits expand over time, catching more materials and eventually forming a clog.
  3. Make sure that only appropriate foods find their way into the garbage disposal. Keep these items out and throw them into the garbage can instead: coffee grounds, eggshells, banana peels, seafood shells, fibrous vegetables, pasta, rice, fats, oils, grease, corn cobs, potato skins, bones, chicken skin, nuts, and fruit pits.
  4. Run smaller batches through the garbage disposal to stop the unit from overworking. Using your garbage disposal this way will limit overheating and overloading that leads to clogs.
  5. Error on the side of caution when it comes to water use. Run water before, during, and after the dishwasher and garbage disposal run, Turn on cold water, turn on the garbage disposal, and keep water running for about half a minute after all food is finished grinding.
  6. Clean the garbage disposal unit every 2 weeks.
    1. Stick ice cubes and one cup rock salt into the garbage disposal cannister. Run them, allowing blades to chop up all ice. This step removes debris from cannister walls.
    2. Leave the garbage disposal off but our one cup baking soda and one cup vinegar into the drain. Place a cover over the drain opening and leave the mixture to sit until foaming ceases. Rinse garbage disposal by turning on the hot water and running it for a minute or so.
    3. Help your garbage disposal smell fresh by running citrus peeks through on occasion.
  7. Stay away from using commercial drain cleaners if you have a clogged garbage disposal. These chemical cleaners can damage appliances and harm plumbing pipes.

Louisville Garbage Disposal Repair

If the tips above don’t solve your clogged garbage disposal, don’t fret! Call Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling today to schedule plumbing services and have your garbage disposal repaired or replaced by one of our licensed Kentucky plumbers. Whenever possible, we solve clogs quickly. We clean drains to remove deep clogs and safely remove items from your garbage disposal so that it will function like new when it’s time to use it!

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