Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

by Doris Donnerman
(last updated February 3, 2020)

Garbage disposals are a great tool for the kitchen, at least until they get clogged. When this problem arises, many people are faced with an expensive plumbing nightmare. For those who would prefer to do their own plumbing maintenance, it is good to know that the junk in that disposal can be removed. In order to do this you'll need to do some actual plumbing work. Nothing to fear, though, just use these simple steps and you are going to be able to complete the task.

Before beginning any home repair you want to make sure that you know exactly what the problem is. When you turn on the switch for the disposal and nothing happens then you may simply have a short in the electrical system. In that case, simply reset the disposal unit by pushing the reset button on the unit. Most units do have them either on the bottom or side of the disposal and they are clearly marked.

If, when you turn on the unit, you hear a humming sound, then the disposal is clogged. In this event—before you do anything else—try running hot water down the drain. The water needs to be as hot as you can make it, so boil it before pouring it down. This hot water will break up, or melt, any grease buildup in the drain. If that does not work, then you are going to need to resort to the "real" plumbing.

In order to do any work you will need to get together your tools. So, gather together a plunger (sometimes the easiest solution is the simplest), adjustable pliers, old towels and a large bucket. You can then follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the power to the disposal unit. Don't just assume the power is off, but unplug the unit from its power source or turn off the circuit breaker in the electrical panel for your home. This is to avoid any accidents that may happen.
  2. Try to use your plunger to clear the clog. This may work, and if so, you are finished.
  3. Make sure the water is turned off by using the shut-off valve located under the sink. This valve will look like the one used to turn off water to your toilet or to your sprinklers.
  4. Place the large bucket under the sink's pipe bend (the trap).
  5. Remove the bolts that hold the disposal unit to the pipe and also remove the pipe's bend. There will be some mess associated with this part of your job. Don't be surprised when this happens, that is why you placed the bucket where you did so that it can catch all of the resulting mess.
  6. Check the removed pipe and the disposal unit for any obstructions. If you find any you can go ahead and remove them. If you don't, then you may have to go ahead and snake the pipe in wall.

Author Bio

Doris Donnerman

Doris is a jack of all trades, writing on a variety of topics. Her articles have helped enlighten and entertain thousands over the years. ...


Organizing Your Desk Space

An organized desk is a vital necessity for today's individual, whether at home or at work. Here are some quick and easy ...

Discover More

Using Boxes to Organize Your Clutter

Boxes are what we often use to organize our cluttered lives. The only problem with this is that in an attempt to organize ...

Discover More


Extremely fast, the Whippet is used for coursing rabbits and match racing. He is quiet, dignified and affectionate.

Discover More

Cordless, Compact, and Powerful! DeWalt's 18-volt drill-driver kit packs a big punch in a small package, with a powerful high-performance motor tucked away inside a compact design. A great addition to the tool chest of any professional or DIYer! Check out DeWalt 18-Volt Drill/Driver Kit today!

More Home Improvement Tips

Unclogging an Utility Sink Using a Wet/Dry Vacuum

Since utility sinks are a little more difficult to keep from getting clogged, you may need to use more power in getting ...

Discover More

Unclogging a Bathroom Sink Using Chemical Cleaners

Unclogging a drain, such as in your bathroom, does not have to be as difficult as many people think it to be. You do not ...

Discover More

Unclogging a Utility Sink Using Chemical Cleaners

Utility sinks are put through a whole lot of abuse, and as such they are subject to frequent clogging. Use these steps to ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured home improvement tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is five minus 3?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured home improvement tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)