Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

Unclogging a garbage disposal can be a nasty job. This is a guide about unclogging a garbage disposal.

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My garbage disposal is clogged after putting down a handful of frozen turkey. It spins, but will not drain. Where is the clog and how do I unstop it?

By Alice from Glen Allen, VA

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1 more confirmation that the vinegar, baking soda....pause 10-15 min....boiling water method works like MAGIC!

The other key tip I needed to use - picked up from skimming through the 29 responses to this Q and other similar Q's: there's a reset button on the bottom of your garbage disposal which I had to hit to initially since there wasn't even a humming of my g. d's motor when I flipped the wall switch on to try and operate it. Once I hit the reset button, voila - the humming of the motor a few other posters had mentioned. Now I only had the problems of the blades (apparently) not turning and the drain not emptying water, much less solids.

To go back, my problem started 6 weeks ago as I vaguely recall - motor stopped working. Water'd still drain ok. Think I stopped putting any solids in. Then went out of town, figuring I'd deal with it when I got back. Kitchen sinks looked nice and clean, no foul smell when I left. Returned much later than expected - 5 weeks later. Unloaded the clean dishes. Think the sinks remained clean even though the dishwasher had been run - pretty sure - after the g. d. stopped working. Anyway, soon I reloaded and ran the dishwasher and awful stuff (looked like soil plus some spoiled milk remnants (("mother" of the milk)) came up the g. d. and into that sink (have a double sink with g. d. on the far side of the dishwasher.) And said sink drained incredibly slowly over the next 3 or 4 days but then at a standstill and the foul odor became intolerable (I think I had absentmindedly poured spoiled, thickened milk into the g. d. forgetting it wasn't working. Groan!) - so was about to try my never-before-used Zip-it declogging tool (made in America!, from Cobra, highly rated for sink and shower clogs - $5 vs $200 for a plumber) who 1 reviewer of 900 on Amazon mentioned using (successfully!) on a sink THAT HAD A GARBAGE DISPOSAL So decided to google for potentially more frequently endorsed ideas specifically for g. d. clogs and found this great site, hooray!

So, all the (excessive!) details above just in case you have multiple issues like I did and can quickly recognize your problems in my post.

Also, fyi, I had a ton of cider vinegar on hand and used that, not white - worked great...It's the chemical reaction of acetic acid (aka vinegar) and baking soda (forgot the chemical name of baking soda but again the key appears to be the chem reaction, not a minor variation like the (apple) source of the acetic acid. Vinegar is a very weak acid - something stronger and you wouldn't want to be experimenting with it in your kitchen!

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After deciding to send potato peelings and carrot peelings down the drain, I immediately regretted it. They had gone past the disposal, but had clogged the pipe. I was home alone with 2 kids under 3. I happened upon this post and saw the baking soda and vinegar as well as a plunger tip.

So I took the plunge. I plunged the sink a couple times and got the clog loose. Then for good measure I did the baking soda with vinegar, let it sit while a kettle of water boiled. Then poured that down. Works like a charm!

As soon as I tell my husband, he is sure to say "I told you so" about the peelings going down the drain. But I fixed it myself. You live, you learn.

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    My waste disposal is jammed. The blades are going around because the water is spinning, but it won't drain. Any ideas?

    By Rebecca from TX

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    I had no idea about the potato skins! After reading about the vinegar, baking soda and hot water, tried it and Zappo! No plunging needed, less than a minute my drain was totally clear. Thanks a million.

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    Disposal apparently disposed of about 14-16 egg shells. However, the sink then began to fill with water and dirty grit. About a week earlier, I had about 3 ft. of cast iron drainpipe in the basement removed because it was badly cracked and repeatedly filled with pumber's epoxy. The dishwasher drain had been improperly connected into the cast iron pipe years before, so the plumber had to do a new connection into the new plasic drain pipe. I'm not sure whether I had run the disposal between the repairs and when the grit started filling up into the sink. But I had run water into the sink, the primary sink side I usually use. It has now been about 2 days of not letting water go down that sink, so I assume the disposal is empty. What should I do to ensure that dirty grit isn't filling up into my sink through the disposal? I'm worried that perhaps a lot of cast iron pipe fell down into the pipe when that section was removed. I don't have a picture and the water has now gone down. There is only grit on the surface of my sink.

    By Beverly

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    It is not uncommon to get a back up in your sinks when you have a disposal. I have some questions for you - does the disposal sink run water easily now? If so, I think your problem is solved. Is the dirty grit sand or ground up egg shells or something else?

    I would seriously doubt that replacing a pipe in the basement would affect your disposal. If it is ground up shells, and these are still there, your trap may be plugged. What I used to do is run water in both sinks. Work the plunger in the disposal sink. If it is the trap, the gunk will rise up in the other sink. Plug that sink with something; another plunger is the best thing. Then plunge vigorously in the disposal sink to dislodge the plug. If this doesn't solve your problem, call your plumber back. Do not use any caustic cleaners in your disposal sink.

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    My disposal still runs, but water won't go down drain.

    By Pam

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    If you have a dishwasher attached to the main line by the garbage disposal - run it. It unclogged my garbage disposal from too many potato peels, when all the other suggestions wouldn't.

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    My brand new KitchenAid dishwasher doesn't drain completely. There are about 3-5 cups of soapy, dirty looking water standing in the bottom of the dishwasher after every load. This is the 3rd dishwasher we have had in this same spot in the kitchen and we have never had this problem before. We cleaned our disposal and used vinegar and baking soda to get the disposal and drain to run freely, but the problem remains. Any suggestions?

    By Mary G

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    It's the drain and chopping mechanism. You have to take it apart and pull all the gunk that has made it past all the screens and filters. This happened to me and I thought I had the problem solved having exposed the chopping mechanism and pulling about about 2 dozen bits of chicken bone, corn, popcorn kernels, beans and bits of plastic. Well, I hadn't gone far enough into the machine and had one more cover to remove and more crap to pull out. That did the trick!

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    My wife put carrots and potato peels in the disposal and it is just a plugged up mess. It spins, but will not not drain. Any suggestions before I call the plumber? The disposal sits in the middle of the sink; it's not a divided sink.

    By Scott

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    Try pouring in a 1/2 cup baking soda followed by a cup or two of white vinegar. Run the disposal. If that doesn't loosen try a second cup of baking soda followed by pouring another 2-3 cups of vinegar from the gallon bottle, With the disposal and water running as well. Follow with a pan of boiling water.

    Then run cold water from the tap.Hope this works for you. It does at our house. And then run a weekly 1/2 cup baking soda and cup of vinegar down all drains in the house. Always follow with cold water to flush through. GG Vi

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    When using my kitchen sink it fills up with water and I have to run my garbage disposal to get the water to drain. Even then it doesn't drain all the way out. Can anyone tell me what's going on and how do I fix this problem?

    By mytroubleswontgodownthedrain from Washington, DC

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    The Baking Soda + Vinegar + boiling water worked for me! Thank you! Having a party tomorrow. After cooking all out, all day the garbage disposal stopped draining about 10:00 pm. Thank goodness for Google and all you good people who share. Based on an earlier post, I let the baking soda and vinegar sit for about 15 min. Then I added the big pan of boiling water. For about 15 seconds nothing happened. Then all of a sudden it drained all at once with a big whoosh! Luckily I didn't have anything in the other sink basin.

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    Like a dummy, I put tangerine skins with seeds into my garbage disposal. I turned it on and the light over my sink died as well as the disposal power. I turned the power off and let the water drain from both sinks. Then I used rubber gloves and cleaned all the mess. I used a flashlight and it looked quite clean.

    I turned the power back on, pushed restart button, but the blades did not turn, only humming. Will baking soda, white vinegar and hot water help? I am a woman and do not know what else to do except call a plumber. By the way, I can turn one of the blades manually with my finger, it seems quite loose. Many thanks for any suggestions.

    By A B

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    Whoa, why did you say "I am a woman and only know how to call a plumber." Just because you're a woman doesn't make you incompetent and stupid.

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    My disposal spins and the water goes down, but it comes right back up like a tornado. I tried a plunger. What is wrong with it and is there a simple solution? Thanks.

    By Dee

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    It sounds like you have a plug. Most disposals are in a double sink, and you have to seal one off and then use the plunger on the other one. I find that two plungers (and two people - one on each plunger) work the best. Seal off the second sink with the first plunger, fill the disposal with water, and plunge away with the second. Disposals are usually plugged with ground up food, like potato peels.

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    I read that vinegar, baking soda, and hot water was used to unclog the disposal. How much should I pour into the disposal?

    By Judy

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    Cleaning a Garbage Disposal

    Toss in a handful of baking soda followed by a cup or so of cheap white vinegar. This will foam and fizz. When the fizzing stops, add some more vinegar. Leave it in for about 20 min, then flush with very, very hot water. Easy, homemade and cheap, also non-toxic.

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    My disposal gets clogged, when using the dishwasher and backs up into sink. How can I stop this?

    By rooney72 from NY

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    As a property manager, I have had my share of this. There are some really good things to do.

    One, don't put things like celery or potato skins down the disposal, as they are stringy and starchy, and gum things up.

    Two, run water before and after you use the disposal.

    Three, once a week, throw in a few ice cubes and coffee grounds to keep the blades sharp.

    Four, if the trap is clogged, it's just a couple of turns with a wrench or even your hand (PVC is easy) with a tub or big bowl under neath. For those "plumbing challenged" folks, that is the "U" shaped one under the sink. Clean it out, reattach and you are good to go.

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    My drain is clogged in the the sink next to the garbage disposal. Every time I run the disposal the water comes up on the sink next to the disposal.

    By Pete

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    Pour about 1/4 cup dawn dish detergent in the sink drain and let sit for about 15 minutes. Then pour a kettle of hot water in the drain and use a plunger to clean out the drain. This should get the drain cleaned out and flowing good. I saw this tip on Thriftyfun and it has worked well for me.

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    My garbage disposal runs and grinds up the food but the food just stays in the bottom. Is something clogged and if so, how do I unclog it?

    By 9524mom from Phila, PA

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    Perhaps you are not running enough water while the garbage disposal is on? Perhaps you put some items in the disposal that are not supposed to go in there, like banana peels? That is all I can think of.

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    My garbage disposer drain won't drain. The disposer motor comes on and spins the water around and I see a flow of water coming out from the left side of the drain under the drain guard. All I did prior to this mess was put a bunch of old cabbage down the disposer. Help.

    By Lin


    Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

    The problem is probably the pipe under the garbage disposal being plugged. Try putting some drain cleaner in the left drain (which leads to a common pipe) to see if that will help. (08/21/2010)

    By pamphyila

    Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

    Run a little water into the sink and use your bathroom plunger. Always works for me. (08/24/2010)

    By Noella

    Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

    I have been without the use of my kitchen sink for days because of a garbage disposal clog. I even tried a plumber to snake the drain. I saw this blog with recommendation of baking soda and vinegar. I had to do it twice. The second time I went for broke and used 1 cup of each. I poured hot water down drain and then plunged until my hands hurt. I have my disposal and sink back Thank you so much! It really works. (11/09/2010)

    By ecorbrn

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    My garbage disposal will not drain. I tried the vinegar/baking soda/boiling water thing, as well as the plunger. The funky water retires to the top of the disposal/bottom of the sink level. When the disposal is turned on the water level sucks down an inch or so swirls around. When turned off it comes erupting up a few inches, then fills the sink about an inch or so, then slowly drains back to starting position.

    By Stan from Kansas City, KS


    Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

    Use 1/3 cup of white vinegar and 1/3 cup of baking soda and let sit. Use plunger. If it doesn't work, repeat. You don't have to turn on the disposal because it automatically will go down. We had to do it twice before it went down and you have to plunge it a lot. (07/13/2010)

    By joj129

    Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

    Your trouble is in the trap below the water level.
    You will have to scoop out the water, then you can unscrew the elbow from below, having a bucket underneath to catch the little bit of water you can't scoop.

    Once that is clean, keep these tips in mind.

    Rice, spuds, and other starchy fibrous veggies will swell and you will literally have glue.
    Don't use celery, cantaloupe skins, meat, or fats, or bones in it.

    Most people just stuff it full, then turn it on, then add the water.

    It goes water first, then a little of the substance at a time, then water still on for about 15 seconds to wash it down the drain.

    I guarantee that you will find what I have come to affectionately call "food buggers" so wear gloves.

    Good luck! (07/13/2010)

    By Poor But Proud

    Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

    If after you clean out the elbow as described in the previous post it still doesn't drain it could be a partial or complete clog in the vent pipe. You may need a snake to fix it. (07/14/2010)

    By Cleo1978

    CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    How do I unclog a garbage disposal using apple cider and baking soda?

    By Joel from Kansas City


    Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

    Take the allen wrench that came with the disposal and insert it into the hole at the bottom of the disposal and turn it counterclock wise. If you have lost the allen wrench go to a big box store and buy one. The size of the wrench is a standard size. The people in the plumbing dept should be able to help you locate one. Then after using it tape the wrench to the disposal so you know where it is the next time you need to use it. (12/02/2009)

    By foxrun41

    Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

    I hope you meant apple cider vinegar, and not just plain apple cider?

    To keep the drain lines clean from food fat/grease buildup, occasionally heat up about 1.5 gallons of water, pour into a bucket; then add 1 cup of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and pour into the disposal while it is "on", be careful not to spill this mixture onto the sink surface. It will dull/discolor. but it will definitely clean out the drain line. Years ago, it was used for cleansing car radiators.

    Oops, forgot to answer your question. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain; then pour 3/4 cup of vinegar (clear one). Let it remain for about 30 minutes, then pour 1-2 qts. of very hot water. This should eliminate the stubborn drain. (12/02/2009)

    By Cajun62234

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    My garbage disposal is clogged. What should I do?

    CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    How do you unclog a garbage disposal?

    CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    How do I fix a garbage disposal? It is stuffed up and won't drain.

    CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

    Click to read more ideas from older posts on ThriftyFun.
    CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
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