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How to Clog and Unclog a Garbage Disposal like a Pro

By Edited Sep 3, 2016 1 3

I consider myself to be a professional garbage disposal clogger. I'm a certified expert at destroying most small (and large) appliances in the home. If it can be clogged, I've clogged it. If it can be melted, I've melted it. If it can be mangled … well you get the idea.

One of the very first things that I learned about the garbage disposal is that it does not like cabbage. You should never put cabbage down the garbage disposal. One little leaf might not hurt anything but more than that will clog that sucker up quicker than anything, except maybe celery. Cabbage is a great vegetable but it is kind of stringy. Stringy veggies do two things to a garbage disposal system. They twine around the blades and they clog the drain.

The second thing that I learned about clogging and unclogging a garbage disposal is that a plunger normally will not do anything. Whenever a piece of plumbing gets clogged in my home I usually grab the plunger first. With a plunger you don't have to touch anything nasty and it normally works pretty well, but I've never managed to unclog my garbage disposal with a plunger. I still try but it has never worked.

After stuffing more food into the garbage disposal down the drain than it can chew up and swallow, it usually ends up being clogged. According to everything that I've read you're not supposed to stuff a lot of stuff down there, but it's so easy that I do, which is one of the reasons that I tend to clog the pipes quite often. Chances are the problem is your P-trap.

The P-trap is the curvy bit and the attached straight bit of pipe that takes things away. All sinks have one of these underneath them. The purpose of the p-trap (other than getting clogged) is to keep the stinky plumbing air out of your house. Without this piece of pipe all the bad smelling sewer aromas would come into your home, causing your house to smell bad.

I guess there are other things that could get clogged, but the p-trap is always what I have to clean to unclog my garbage disposal. Unclogging a garbage disposal is pretty easy, icky but easy.

Before doing anything with your disposal you need to unplug it. I like my fingers too much to do anything related to garbage disposal repair without unplugging it. Just go under the sink and look for the plug. Pull that thing out and you're ready to start playing plumber, which isn't nearly as much fun as playing doctor but you gotta take the good with the bad.

Put a bucket or something under the pipes to catch any water that comes out when you start disassembling the pipes. You don't want to have to learn how to fix a flood before you learn to fix the clogged garbage disposal.

Now I'm going to assume you've got PVC pipe under there for the next step. If you have a normal PVC pipe system you don't need any tools to take everything apart. Now just above and below the curvy bit … I mean p-trap there is a little collar to hold the pipes together. Just grab that collar and turn. If it won't turn you're probably turning the wrong way so turn the other way. When the curvy part of the p-trap has been loosened you can wiggle it off.

When the curvy bit of pipe is off you have to look through it. Scary, huh? Sorry but that's your problem. I don't know if it is cabbage, celery, egg shells, or coffee grounds but I'd hazard a guess that you see a mass of nasty food bits in there. Take that nasty piece of pipe outside (or somewhere) and blast the food out with a hose. You can push it out with your fingers or some sort of handle, but I prefer a hose if I have that option. Give it a good scrubbing since you've got it off, and then reattach it. Plug your disposal back in and flip the switch. It should work as good as new now that you've unclogged it.

A clogged garbage disposal is one of the easiest things that I've broken to fix. It isn't a pleasant job, but it is one that anyone can do. If you can get under the sink, twist, wiggle, and spray you can unclog your own disposal. There are other ways to break it that are much more difficult (and expensive) to repair. The hardest part, for someone unaccustomed to plumbing work, is figuring out what all those pipes are for. They can be intimidating but once you become familiar with them they aren't as scary as they first appear.



Oct 25, 2010 1:24am
This is hilarious as well as informative! I have never used my disposal but if I ever do, I'll be sure to try the plunger, just for the fun of it.
Oct 25, 2010 1:33am
LOL - Thanks. I'm a bit destructive when it comes to things in the house. My husband has put me on vaccum rations because I've broken...several of them.
Oct 25, 2010 3:54pm
Sounds like you are very handy around the house! I once clogged my garbage disposal by putting a bunch of potato peels in it; not my finest hour. Next time my disposal is clogged I'm going to give this a try! Thanks!! Oh and by the way, I've also gone through my share of vacuums! Great article and writing style ~ I'm a fan!!
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