Indiana Homeowners: Here's How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal in Your Kitchen

garbage disposal

Every Central Indiana homeowner should know how to unclog a garbage disposal. A clogged garbage disposal is one of the most common summer plumbing issues we face at home. Clogs to garbage disposals are usually due to improper use, putting the wrong food into the disposal unit, and failing to take care of the maintenance every garbage disposal unit needs.

If your kitchen sink is not draining and you have standing water due to a jammed garbage disposal, you don’t always have to call a plumber to solve the problem! Mr. Plumber explains how to unclog a garbage disposal yourself, the safe and correct way. With these professional garbage disposal tips, you can easily unclog a garbage disposal and protect this convenient kitchen appliance.

Clogs in Garbage Disposals Happen Because…

There are many reasons why one’s garbage disposal might develop a clog. There could be a broken motor, damaged plastic parts and other components may jam up the blades, or the disposal unit may be overloaded with food waste. Sometimes, the clog isn’t even within the garbage disposal unit – instead, it lurks in the drain pipe.

Most garbage disposal clogs can be traced back to these key problems:

  • Not using water correctly with the garbage disposal. Some don’t use enough water while others use the wrong type of water.
  • Attempting to chop up large volumes of food waste at once, overloading the disposal unit and causing it to overheat.
  • Dropping foreign items into the garbage disposal, including kitchen utensils, silverware, and other matter.
  • Using the garbage disposal to dispose of inappropriate foods like coffee grounds, banana peels, fruit pits, potato skins, and more.

If you have a clogged garbage disposal, you’re going to notice some clear signs. Firstly, your kitchen sink won’t be draining nearly as well as it should be – if it even drains at all. Because the water and food waste cannot move through the unit and the drain, there is no place else to go but back up into the sink. This wastewater can produce a most unwelcome smell, giving most homeowners a reason to unclog a garbage disposal right away.

Tips that Teach You How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

A clogged garbage disposal can prevent you from using your sink, which makes cooking and other kitchen activities quite difficult. If you leave the clog to sit for too long, the drain will begin to smell which can make the job of unclogging the disposal unit even more unpleasant.

Even though how to unclog a garbage disposal isn’t all that complicated, it is very important that you do the job correctly, for your safety. If you put your hand into a garbage disposal drain, you’re asking for trouble. Our tips help you clean out garbage disposal clogs without every risking your health and happiness.

Before you start to remove garbage disposal clogs, collect the following tools for the task:

  • Allen wrench
  • Plunger
  • Flashlight
  • Pliers
  • Tongs
  • Bucket
  • Measuring cup
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar

One you have the tools you’ll need, these steps will help you unclog a garbage disposal in no time:

  1. Turn off all sources of power to the disposal unit – remove the plug, shut off the switch, and turn off the breaker.
  2. Standing water must be removed from the sink in order to assess the garbage disposal and work to remove clogs. Place the plunger completely over the sink drain opening, then plunge the drain. Water should move down the system and clear the sink and garbage disposal unit.
  3. Grab your flashlight to take a look down inside the cannister of the garbage disposal.
    1. If you don’t see anything stuck in the cannister, it is possible that the garbage disposal breaker tripped due to overheating or another cause. In this case, there is no physical clog to the disposal. You simply need to hit the reset switch to reset the garbage disposal. Find the reset switch on the bottom of your unit and push it in.
    2. If you find an item jammed down in the cannister, insert tongs or pliers to grab the item and pull it free. Never put your hands down into the drain!
    3. If the item is too stuck to remove or the parts are jammed otherwise, you need to use manual force to free the seized or jammed components. Take the Allen wrench (preferably the one that was included with your garbage disposal but if this is not available, use a ¼-inch Allen wrench) and insert it into the small slot at the bottom center of the garbage disposal. Forcefully turn the motor and flywheel all the way counterclockwise before moving them completely clockwise, and repeat. If this motion causes the components to free up, remove your tools and move on.
  4. Reconnect the garbage disposal to its power sources by plugging the unit into the outlet and adjusting the breaker in your home’s electrical panel.
  5. Set the cold water tap to ON and allow it to run while you turn on the garbage disposal.
  6. Watch the garbage disposal and your sink for a minute or two to see if you sport any slow draining or other signs of a problem.
  7. If everything seems to perform properly, shut off the unit, wait 30 seconds, then turn off the water supply.

If these tips for how to unclog a garbage disposal don’t get to the root of your plumbing issue, do not worry. Call the licensed Indiana plumbers of Mr. Plumber to perform garbage disposal repairs in your Indianapolis or Central Indiana area home.

Keeping Up with Garbage Disposal Maintenance

Homeowners create clogs in garbage disposals all the time simply by using this equipment incorrectly. Save yourself time and headaches when you practice these maintenance tips for your garbage disposal anytime you use it.

  1. Use the garbage disposal regularly. Even if there is no food waste to scrap, turn on the cold water and let your garbage disposal run for a minute at least every few days to prevent rusting.
  2. Only cold water should be used while the garbage disposal grinds up food. Using hot water causes oils, fats, and grease to melt and they will solidify in drain pipes as they cool. Buildup along pipe walls eventually causes clogs to form.
  3. Only certain foods should be treated by a garbage disposal and all others should be thrown away in the kitchen garbage instead. These items belong in the trash can: banana peels, potato skins, fruit pits, pasta, rice, coffee grounds, eggshells, seafood shells, fats, oils, grease, nuts, fibrous veggies, chicken skins, and bones.
  4. Instead of fitting as much as you can into the disposal unit at one time, separate food waste out into smaller batches and feed them into the disposal one by one. Smaller loads prevent overworking and overheating.
  5. Don’t skimp when it comes to water use. Make sure enough water is being used as the garbage disposal runs – turn the tap on to a full water stream. Also, don’t cut water flow as soon as you flip the garbage disposal switch. Allow water to run for another 30 seconds once the garbage disposal has finished.
  6. Clean garbage disposals regularly, about every 2 weeks.
    1. Fill the garbage disposal compartment with ice cubes and a cup of rock salt. Turn on the water and let the blades spin until the ice is all chopped up. This action scrubs caked on food particles and grime from the inner surfaces of your garbage disposal.
    2. Turn off the unit and fill it with a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda. Place a cover over the drain and let the products fizz until they stop. Then, flush hot water through the garbage disposal. This cleaning step disinfects and removes odors.
  7. If you suspect a garbage disposal clog, do not put drain cleaners down the unit! These cleaners can damage the appliance as well as your plumbing.
  8. To keep the garbage disposal smelling fresh, chop up some citrus peels periodically.

Central Indiana Garbage Disposal Repairs and Service

If you still haven’t fixed that clogged garbage disposal by the time you’ve worked through all the steps above, call Mr. Plumber. Our licensed Indiana plumbers are ready to help. We will eliminate those tough clogs from your drains and fix broken garbage disposals so they work good as new.

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