Is your garbage disposal not draining? Before grabbing the wrench and trying to disassemble the waste trap, there is an easier way that’s worth a try. All it takes is a clean plunger and a little patience to flush out the garbage disposal drain and get it working again.
A plunger is a special tool used for clearing out obstructions in your plumbing. While most people use plungers to unclog a toilet, plungers can also help clear out obstructions in your kitchen sink. Here’s how I recently repaired a clogged garbage disposal in one of my rentals in under 10 minutes.
Evaluate the problem. Before getting started with this repair, it’s a wise idea to take a closer look at the problem to determine what’s really going on. Has the garbage disposal stopped working or is the sink simply not draining? You can tell if the disposal is still functioning by turning on the switch. If you hear the motor whirring and see the water eddying around in the sink, then a clogged drain is the problem. If the motor does not turn on, even after pressing the reset button (located underneath), then something is wrong with the disposal.
Kill the power to the disposal. Before unclogging the drain, you must turn off the power to the garbage disposal. I turn off the electricity both at the switch and also unplug the disposal as well. (If the plug isn’t visible, turn off the power at the breaker box instead). I’ll double check that the power is indeed off by toggling the kitchen disposal switch a couple of times.
Start plunging. Place the suction end of a clean plunger over the opening to the garbage disposal. Without releasing any air, plunge vigorously half a dozen times. If you have a dual sink, plunge the other side as well, switching back and forth between the two drains. You may have to repeat this step several times before the water slowly starts to drain away.
TIP: Keep a second, separate plunger on hand for clearing out kitchen and bathroom sinks. You don’t want to be using a toilet plunger for this job!
Add cold water. Once the bulk of the water is gone, fill the sink on the garbage disposal side with 2-3 inches of cold water. Plunge again several times until the water drains away suddenly with a loud “whoosh”. Turn on the power to the garbage disposal, turn on the tap again and then press the “on” switch to the disposal. At this point, the garbage disposal should be back in full operation.
So what causes a clogged disposal drain? Clog generating foods and not enough flushing water are the main reasons. To cut down on clogs, avoid throwing food such as coffee grounds, potato and banana peels, egg shells and celery stalks into your disposal. (They should be going into a compost bucket instead.) Extra flushing water is also important. Running the water a full 30 seconds after the food has gone down the drain will give the sludge a chance to clear the waste trap.
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