How to Unclog a Disposal Drain

You may have to go under the sink to unclog your garbage disposal.
You may have to go under the sink to unclog your garbage disposal. (Image: David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Your garbage disposal can help lessen the waste you produce in the kitchen. The units, typically installed under your kitchen sink, can handle food waste and food scraps by pulverizing them and then flushing them down the drain with your wastewater. A properly functioning disposal can adequately handle quite a bit of food if you run it regularly. Too much food or other items not intended to go down the drain, however, can clog your disposal.

Things You'll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Kitchen tongs
  • Allen wrench

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Turn on your garbage disposal to see if it makes any noise. A humming noise indicates a clogged drain. If it makes no noise at all, you may get it working again by resetting it by pushing a button located near the power switch.

Cut the power to the disposal by either unplugging it or flipping the switch to the circuit breaker that supplies power to the unit.

Shine a flashlight into the drain to see if any large pieces of food or other items such as silverware or utensils are in there. If so, remove them with kitchen tongs.

Use a kitchen utensil such as a large spoon or tongs to remove any loose food or debris from the drain. Continue scooping debris out until no more comes up.

Restore power to the disposal and turn it on to check to see if it is working properly. If not, you will need to unclog it from under the sink.

Remove the nut holding on the bottom of the disposal with either an Allen wrench or the tool that came with the unit.

Place a rod or a wooden spoon between the disposal blades and push them by hand to loosen any items stuck in the blades.

Replace the nut at the bottom of the disposal.

Restore power to the unit and turn it on to check to see if it is working. If it still does not work, you may need a repairman to look at it to see if it is a mechanical or electrical problem.

Tips & Warnings

  • Unclog your disposal during the day in case cutting the power to the disposal also cuts power to your entire kitchen and removes your source of light.
  • Consider using a wire sink trap in your drain to collect food debris. This can then be placed in the trash to help prevent the disposal from clogging.
  • Do not place your hand in the disposal to remove food and other items. Even with the power off, you may cut yourself on the blades.


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