DIY Guide: How to Clear a Clogged Garbage Disposal Without the Plumber's Bill

By Tara Mastroeni

No one looks forward to doing the dishes, but a sink that refuses to drain can turn a mundane chore into a plumbing nightmare. When faced with a clogged garbage disposal, many people's first instinct is to call in a professional. After all, sticking your hand into a mess of water and food remnants doesn't sound appealing. However, before you reach for the phone and incur a hefty plumber's fee (which averages around $238, according to HomeAdvisor), consider that you can tackle this repair on your own without breaking the bank.

In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through how to unclog a garbage disposal safely and effectively, all while keeping your fingers intact.

Tools You'll Need:

  1. Flashlight
  2. Tongs
  3. Allen wrench
  4. Towels
  5. Bucket
  6. Adjustable pliers

Step 1: Locate the Clog

Begin by turning off the garbage disposal, either by unplugging it under the sink or shutting off the corresponding breaker. Once it's safely turned off, use a flashlight to inspect the disposal from above the sink to see if you can identify the clogged object.

Step 2: Extract the Object

If you can see the clog, use tongs to carefully remove it. Remember, never insert your hand into the disposal. We can't stress this enough: NEVER EVER.

Step 3: Clear Motor Jams

If the clog is not visible or can't be grabbed with tongs, locate the hole on the bottom of the disposal unit under the sink. This hole is designed to clear jams from the motor. Insert an Allen wrench into the hole and gently twist it back and forth until you feel the motor spinning freely without any resistance.

Step 4: Reset the Motor

Press the small red reset button located on the bottom of the disposal unit to reset the motor. Plug the disposal back in and try running it.

Step 5: Prepare to Disconnect the Pipes

If the disposal still doesn't work, the clog likely resides in the sink piping connected to the disposal. You'll need to disconnect these pipes to access and remove the clog, but be prepared; it's a messy job.

Unplug the garbage disposal again and lay down towels to protect the cabinet. Have a large bucket on hand to catch any spills.

Step 6: Loosen the Pipes

Use your hands or adjustable pliers to loosen the pipes at their joints where they connect to the garbage disposal. While you may not be certain of the clog's exact location, it typically occurs at pipe bends or turns.

Step 7: Drain the Liquid

Allow any liquid in the pipes to drain into the bucket.

Step 8: Remove the Clog

Use your hands to extract the clogged material from the pipe. Optionally, some may prefer to fully disconnect the clogged section of piping to clean it in another sink.

Step 9: Reconnect the Pipes

Reposition the pipes and tighten the connections securely. Test the garbage disposal to ensure it's functioning properly and check for any leaks.

By following these steps, you can save money and maintain your garbage disposal without the need for professional plumbing assistance.

Note: The information provided is based on current knowledge and may not cover all situations. If you encounter any challenges or are unsure about the repair, it's advisable to seek professional assistance.

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