How to Prevent And Remove Garbage Disposal Clogs (Step-by-Step)

Learn how to prevent and remove clogs in garbage disposals.
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Putting food scraps into garbage disposal

Garbage disposal units play an important role in disposing of kitchen wastes and keeping the kitchen free of any rotting food items. They are very popular in the USA but not so in other parts of the world.

A wide range of disposals with different features, capacity and power are available for you to choose from (so many that you will have to do an extensive research or read garbage disposal reviews to choose the right product). Like every machine the longevity of disposals depends on how you maintain them, one common problem all disposal units face is ‘clogging’.

UNCLOGGING A GARBAGE DISPOSAL – A STEP BY STEP GUIDE

Trust me; it is a nasty business unclogging a garbage disposal, especially if it is the drain pipe that is clogged. If the disposal is running but not draining then the clog is probably in the drain pipes. Assuming it is the disposal that is clogged please follow the steps below to unclog it;

1. TURN OFF THE DISPOSAL AND MAKE SURE YOU DON’T ACCIDENTLY SWITCH IT ON

Many instructional videos and articles out there stress very much on doing this first step, unarguably safety is important but aren’t we all adults? But anyway to be on the safe side, make sure your garbage disposal is electrically disconnected.

2. FIND OUT WHAT IS CAUSING THE CLOG

Clogs can happen for many reasons. Look down the drain using a flash light and see what is causing the clog. May be you accidentally dropped a fork or a spoon down the disposal, in such cases remove that object using a set of pliers (do not put your hand in the disposal). Once you have done that turn on the disposal and see if it is working again (You may need to reset the disposal before that. For most disposals the reset button is at the bottom.)

3. MANUALLY ROTATE THE BLADES USING AN ALLEN WRENCH

On the bottom side of the disposal, at its center, there is a hole where you can fit an Allen wrench. Once you fit an Allen wrench there, rotate it back and forth, this is directly connected to the disposal blades so you are actually rotating the blades. By continuing to do this make the blades rotate freely. You can also rotate the blades from above by using a long screw driver or similar gadget but the first method is recommended. Once the blades are able to rotate freely without obstructions turn on the disposal and see if it is working properly. If not, follow the next step.

4. REMOVE THE CLOG USING A PLUNGER

Turn on the water and fill the sink till a few inches. Place a plunger on top of the sink hole and start plunging. This should remove any clogs near the drain pipe. Look down the disposal using a flash light and see if there is any debris, and remove them. Start the disposal and see if it is working.

The above 4 steps should remove any clogs in the garbage disposal. If the disposal is not still draining, there is a clog in the pipes. If that is the case then follow the steps below;

5. DETACH THE DRAIN PIPE

Clear everything from under the sink and place a basin to collect water (and other nasty stuff that come with it). Detach the drain pipe from the disposal and inspect for any clogs there. If the drain pipe and the hole on the disposal are clean then the clog is in either the T-line or in the P-trap.

6. INSPECT THE T-LINE AND P-TRAP

Remove the T-line and see if there is anything that blocks water flow. Do the same with the P-trap. Remove the clogs, connect the pipes and get the disposal running.

If the disposal is still not draining after following all these steps you better call a plumber.

Here’s a video if you like a visual presentation:

HOW TO PREVENT CLOGS?

Man fixing garbage disposalThere are many reasons why a garbage disposal clogs,

1. AVOID ADDING ITEMS THAT ARE NOT MEANT FOR GARBAGE DISPOSALS

The main reason for disposal clogs is putting the wrong kind of wastes into it. In the manuals of every garbage disposal, manufacturers clearly state what not to put into them. Some of those items include;

a. Fibrous products

Fibrous products like Banana peels are notorious clog makers. Does that sound silly? Well, these fibers are not so easy to grind, and they clog the drain with ease by forming an organic net that prevents water and other wastes from flowing out of the disposal.

b. Starchy products

Starchy products like rice and pasta swell when kept in contact with water. When kept in a disposal they expand and make it difficult for the cutting blades/discs to move and eventually create a clog. These starchy products also stick to the walls and in the gap between the disposal’s parts which can cause long term damages.

c. Egg shells

You wouldn’t have ever thought that these tiny items can make a disposal unit clog. But yes, they may not seem to be a problem when used once or twice but rise out to be a great problem with regular use. Egg shells have a thin non-permeable membrane under them which on grinding sticks to the blades and the walls. Over time as these accumulations increase they will prevent the free flow of water and causes clogs which are difficult to remove.

d. Grease & oil

While they seem harmless, grease and oils tend to solidify when cold. Garbage disposals are usually operated by continuously running cold/normal water, and that’s enough for grease and oil to solidify. Once solidified they cannot be ground, they remain as a non-permeable heap of paste which doesn’t pass through the drainage pipe and causes clogs.

2. ADD FOOD WASTE IN SMALL BATCHES

Garbage disposals cannot process a large volume of food wastes at once. Overloading the disposal by adding too much waste to grind usually breaks its electrical circuit (where you can restart the disposal by resetting it) but can also cause clogs. So to prevent this add food wastes in small batches and add them only after the previous batch is completely disposed.

3. RUN COLD WATER

A continuous flow of water is necessary for the working of most disposals. If you fail to do that the disposal won’t be able to drain the wastes properly, this will immediately lead to a nasty clog. And do not use hot water since it will liquefy any fat/grease present in the food wastes and they will eventually solidify and cause clogs.

4. KEEP THE DISPOSER RUNNING

Do not turn off the disposer immediately after using it; keep it running for some more time to prevent the wastes from accumulating in the drain pipe and causing clogs. The best practice is to keep the disposer ON with water running for about 30 seconds even after the disposing of is done. This will eliminate any tiny waste material left in the disposal and keeps the pipelines clean.

5. CLEAN THE DISPOSAL ONCE A WEEK

Cleaning your disposer regularly not only avoid clogs but also is a hygienic practice. You can occasionally grind some ice cubes to sharpen the blades, some lemon slices to get rid of any smells and using a combination of baking soda and vinegar to clean its insides. Uses of any chemicals are not recommended though.

Here’s a video on how to clean a garbage disposal:

As in the case of any machine proper maintenance and responsible use are key to the smooth working and longevity of a garbage disposal. Hope you are able to avoid and remove clogs with the tips above. Do let me know your comments.







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