How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

No matter how careful you may be at putting down your garbage disposal, there are times when clogs still do happen. Whether accidental or intentional, it’s an inevitable occurrence as there’s probably no household in the world that hasn’t ran into this clogging problem. This article is all about helping you to know how to unclog a garbage disposal.

Some of the common causes of these clogs are dropping a foreign object like your spoon or fork in it, feeding garbage rather rapidly and not being able to run enough water during the processing of garbage. What’s more, keep in mind that your garbage disposal is not a trash can where you can throw in just about anything. Food scraps like artichokes, corncobs or fish and chicken bones are actually items that can guarantee a clog to happen. You need to thoroughly read the manual to know the limits of your device.

If a clog has already happened though, here are the steps on how to unclog a garbage disposal:

Determining the Cause of Clog

1. Turn the electrical power switch.

You can find the switch under the cabinet near your disposal or on a wall nearby. If there’s no switch, check the main power panel and turn the breaker off or take out the fuse that gives power to the disposal.

It’s important that you always remember never to put your hand in the disposal. As the switch may be defective, it’s a safety precaution to keep your hands out of it EVEN when the device’s power is turned off.

2. Find out what’s causing the clog.

You’ll need your handy flashlight to be able to see what’s in the drain. If the cause is not food, don’t run water. Instead, try to unclog it as how you would with food. If it happens to be a valuable item, like your ring for instance, it’s ideal to call your plumber pronto so that it can still be removed.

If the clog you have is something that has developed over time, chances are there’s too much food debris in the drain with insufficient water. In such case, it would work better if you try to break the clog up by pushing it through.

3. Never pour chemicals down your garbage disposal.

The main reason for this prohibition is because chemicals can eat away plastic parts of your disposal.

Unclogging with Tongs or Pliers

1. Unclog with the use of long-handled tongs or pliers.

Stick the end of the tongs or pliers through your garbage disposal around the blades. Note that these blades are sharp and can easily cut you even if the motor isn’t running so again, don’t ever place your hands inside your garbage disposal.

2. If the cause if the clog is an object, try to pull it up using your tongs or pliers.

3. Wait and allow the motor to cool for fifteen minutes. This is especially important because the motor is, most likely all worked up, after trying hard to run even with a clog.

4. Turn the power of your garbage disposal back on. Run some water through it then run it if you’re certain that the clog has already been removed.

Unclogging with a Wrench or Handle

If the disposal is still clogged, follow these steps.

1. Look for the hex wrench that came with the disposal. Most garbage disposals are equipped with a hex wrench for the purpose of these predicaments. If there’s no hex wrench available though, you can make use of a wooden spoon, a long dowel or a broom handle. Never use your hand in place of the wrench.

2. Insert the wooden wrench, dowel or broom handle in between the blades where you think the the clog is located. Note that blades are called “impellers.”

3. Push the bottom end of your wooden probe against the impeller then rock it back and forth to loosen the clog.

4. Use tongs to pull up large food items or objects.

5. Try turning on the impeller. If it moves freely, that’s good news because it means the clog has been successfully removed.

6. Wait 15 minutes for the motor to cool and then turn the power back on and push the reset button. Run water to thoroughly flush the clog.

Maintaining your Garbage Disposal

1. Do away from feeding large or rigid items into your garbage disposal. Materials made of metal or plastics are definitely not ideal and allowed for disposers.

2. After your best garbage disposal system is done grinding food scraps, flush it with cold water for at least 30 seconds. Note that this is an addition to the running water even while the device is grinding.

3. Clean your garbage disposal with lemons. Cut the lemon in half and place it in the garbage disposal. Allow it to run for two minutes and you’ll see that the acidic juice of the lemon will start to clean the food and little clogs away. Do this every 2 weeks to 1 month, depending upon how frequently you use your disposal.


And that ends up this article of guiding you how on how to unclog a garbage disposal. As mentioned in the introduction part, clogging is inevitable as it happens; however, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be prevented. One way to avoid clogging is to make sure that you are aware of the limitations of your garbage disposal so that you’ll know what food items are safe to feed it. We can always do the method of unclogging or even repairing, but there’s nothing that beats prevention to ensure your device’s longevity.

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