How to Fix a Clogged Garbage Disposal

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Properly maintaining your house requires you to fix various appliances when they malfunction or break down, including your garbage disposal. While you should expect a garbage disposal to last for years, occasionally it gets clogged, which should usually just require a few minutes of your day. Fixing a clogged garbage disposal helps keep your sink clean and free of smells, germs, and bugs.

How to find source of clogged garbage disposal

Materials Needed
  • Flashlight
  • Rubber gloves
Over time, food can build up in your garbage disposal, causing a blockage. You can also get food items not meant for your disposal, such as animal bones, stuck inside. Some other causes for a clogged garbage disposal include plastic utensils, fibrous foodstuffs, such as watermelon rind, and a whole host of other objects that somehow find their way into the sink. That is why it is important to determine the cause before unclogging your drain and garbage disposal.
In order to safely determine what is clogging your garbage disposal, take the following steps.
Step 1: Turn off the garbage disposal. Start by cutting the power to the disposal.
This might be a simple as unplugging the disposal underneath the sink, or it might require you to cut the power at the fuse box.
Step 2: Check out the drain. Pull off the drain cover and look down inside the drain using a flashlight.
When looking, try to determine what kind of clog you have, including:
  • Blockage by food products
  • Blockage by a foreign object

How to removing a clogged garbage disposal

Materials Needed
  • Allen wrenches
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Plunger
  • Rubber gloves
Once you know what is causing the blockage, you can proceed to clear it and get your garbage disposal running properly again. The section below walks you through the process of fixing a clogged garbage disposal.
Step 1: Turn off power to the disposal. Start by making sure the power is turned off to the garbage disposal.
To ensure that all power is cut to the garbage disposal, turn off the breaker for the disposal in the fuse box.
For garbage disposals connected to the dishwasher, use a clamp to pinch the flexible part of the drain line off to prevent dirty water from flowing back into the dishwasher.
Step 2: Manually break up the clog. Start by manually turning the blades by inserting an appropriately sized Allen wrench into the hex nut at the center of the underside of the disposal.
Maneuver the Allen wrench to turn the blades of the disposal slowly in an attempt to break down any materials keeping your blades from turning.
Step 3: Pull out any loose materials. Next, use a pair of needle-nose pliers to try and reach into the drain and remove any larger particles causing the blockage.
Do not insert your hand into the disposal, as you could cut yourself on the sharp blades.
Step 4: Use a plunger. You can also use a plunger to try and dislodge any stuck debris.
Fill the sink with a few inches of water when using the plunger to help improve the suctioning forces.
Make sure to keep the water running during this process to avoid burning up the motor of the disposal.
Step 5: Remove loose material. Continue plunging until you are sure there is no more debris.
A good way to tell if any debris is left is to allow the water to run and see if it drains properly. If not, the drain is still clogged.
Step 6: Turn the power back on. You can also turn the power back onto the garbage disposal to see if you can use the blades to clear the blockage after removing some.
If the disposal is still clogged, make sure to cut power to the device before trying to continue clearing the blockage.
While you can usually fix a clogged garbage disposal using the above steps, you might have to resort to calling a plumber or handyman for more stubborn clogs. Keep in mind to always take the appropriate safety precautions when working on your garbage disposal, including cutting power to the device before working on it. And never sticking your hand into the disposal itself to avoid the sharp blades.

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