Garbage disposals are one of those critical home appliances – oftentimes you don’t fully appreciate it until it's gone. This incredibly useful tool can be subject to clogging which creates a real challenge for the functionality of your kitchen. Read on to learn about why your garbage disposal can get clogged and how to unclog it.  

What Causes Garbage Disposals to Clog? 

The cause of clogged garbage disposal can be hard to identify as it can come from one source or many sources, as well as food items and non-food items alike. Clogs can begin in the blades, inside the sink drain, or inside the construction – but in general, they most often occur when objects bind the impeller blades or clog the drains of the sink system. 

When a clog occurs, the drain is likely to get backed up, leading to bad smells and leaks appearing under your sink. 

Some common causes of a garbage disposal clog include: 

Non-Food Objects: Foreign objects such as silverware, plant clippings, paper, plastic, and foil are not easily pushed down the drain and can prevent other items from going down the drain. Some of these items will actually cause the disposal blades to jam. 

Incompatible Foods: Some foods are detrimental to the functionality of your garbage disposal including sinewing fruits and vegetables, bones, eggshells, and coffee grounds. Food peels in particular can form a thick paste and easily clog the drain. 

Fats, Oils, and Greases: Liquid fat, oil, and grease often cause clogs because they quickly solidify into a tough substance that inhibits waste flow and cause other flushed foods to stick in place. 

Too Much Too Fast: Trying to push too much food down the garbage disposal all at once is a common cause of clogging. 

Lack of Proper Water: Not using water when operating the garbage disposal can create a clog incredibly quick. What is not so well known, is that hot water is also bad as it spreads grease, oil, and fat around the disposal and pipes. 

Read our insight into how other drains can become clogged in your home beyond the garbage disposal. 

How to Clean a Garbage Disposal

Before attempting to fix your garbage disposal, it is essential that you ensure the power is off. Consider switching the power off at the main service panel to guarantee your safety during the process. 

Four steps you can take to unclog your garbage disposal: 

  1. Manually check the garbage disposal – Inspect your disposal with a flashlight. If there is a clog that you can see, it might be possible for you to manually remove the clogging object yourself with pliers or tongs.
  2. Use a homemade cleaner – Try creating a natural solution using one part baking soda and two parts vinegar. Pour the solution into your drain and let it sit for 10-20 minutes. After some time pour regular water in to flush away the solution. Most food waste (including grease, fat, and oil) can be loosened with this technique. 
  3. Plunge the drain – Using a plunger can be one of the most effective ways to unclog your drain. Be sure to first clamp off your dishwasher connection hose to prevent backflow. Then put your plunger directly over the drain, add some water into the sink, and plunge the drain until it begins to flow. 
  4. Clean the p-trap – Most garbage disposal units have a pipe called the P-trap or S-trap because it looks like a P and S respectively. Place a bucket under the drain trap, then loosen the pipe and remove it for manual cleaning. Allow the standing water and food waste to flow into the bucket. You can also try to use a drain snake or drain auger to unclog these pipes. 

There are some things you should absolutely not try in order to fix your garbage disposal. Consider reading our advice on what not to do before getting started. 

Need Professional Help? 

If you are looking for more personalized advice regarding plumbing or fixing a clogged garbage disposal, call To the T Plumbing & Heating! Our team of trained professionals can deliver the solution you need for peace of mind.