How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

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Home Improvement

Doing the dishes is an inevitable and unexciting chore, but a sink that refuses to drain is enough to make you want to sprint for greener (and less clogged) pastures. If your first thought is to call in a professional to deal with the mess of a clogged garbage disposal, you’re certainly not alone. Sticking your hand into a disgusting sludge of water and food remnants is, well, disgusting. (We’re being honest here, right?)

However, before you pick up the phone, you should know this fix doesn’t come cheap. Homewyse, a reference site for home products and services, estimates the average cost to have a plumber repair your garbage disposal is $200. But if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, this is a repair you can do on your own.

Our step-by-step guide will show you how to fix a garbage disposal without sacrificing any fingers in the process.

Tools you’ll need

•   Flashlight

•   Tongs

•   Allen wrench

•   Towels

•   Bucket

•   Adjustable pliers

 Step No. 1: Look for the clog

Make sure to turn off the garbage disposal—by either unplugging it under the sink or shutting off the associated breaker—before starting any maintenance. Once it has been turned off, use a flashlight to determine if you can see the clogged object from above the sink.

 Step No. 2: If you see the clog, use tongs to extract the object

Never stick your hand inside a disposal. We’ll emphasize that one: Never. OK?

 Step No. 3: Turn the disposal’s motor to clear the jam

If the object is too small to be seen or grabbed by tongs, locate the hole on the bottom of your disposal unit, under the sink. It’s meant to help clear jams from the motor. Insert an Allen wrench into the hole, and twist it back and forth. Continue until you can feel that the motor spins free without any resistance.

 Step No. 4: Reset the motor

Press the small red button on the bottom of the disposal unit to reset the motor. Plug the disposal back in and try to run it.

 Step No. 5: Prepare to disconnect the pipes

If the disposal is still not working, the clog is likely stuck in the sink piping that connects to the disposal. You’ll need to disconnect the pipes in order to remove the clog, which is a messy job.

Unplug the garbage disposal again. Prepare your workspace by laying down towels to protect the cabinet. Have a large bucket on hand to catch the mess.

 Step No. 6: Loosen the pipes

Use your hands or an adjustable wrench to loosen the pipes connected to the garbage disposal at their joints. While you may not be completely sure where the clog is, keep in mind that it is most likely to occur in places where the pipes bend or turn.

 Step No. 7: Allow the liquid in the pipe to drain into the bucket.

 Step No. 8: Remove the clog

Use your hands to remove the clogged material from the pipe. Optional: Some may want to completely disconnect the clogged section of piping in order to wash it out in another sink.

 Step No. 9: Reconnect the pipes

Move the pipes back into place, and tighten the connections until they are snug. Test the garbage disposal once again to make certain it’s functioning properly and to check for leaks.