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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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin July 24, 2016 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, 2016 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!

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