How to unclog your Garbage Disposal

by Team HomeServe |
How to Install a Garbage Disposal

The stench that can accompany a broken garbage disposal is something awful. (IMO, way worse than my kids’ dirty diapers.) So, like your kids, it’s important to give your garbage disposal some love. These are the miracle home systems that take on food waste like a champ. And you don’t even think about how wonderful they are until they break down and your clothes pinning your nose each time you walk by wondering, “how do I fix that smelly, malfunctioning garbage disposal?”


If a disposal clog is the issue, there are a few ways you can go about fixing it. Here are three methods you can use to unclog your garbage disposal:

Method No. 1: Remove the stoppage

Before you do anything, turn off the garbage disposal by either unplugging it under the sink or switching off the breaker. From there, shine a flashlight down the drain and look for a clog. Usual offenders can be large pieces of food or a foreign object (like the time I found my 4-year old’s Barbie doll head stuck in there!) If you do see something, use tongs or pliers to retrieve it. No matter how close the object may seem, emphasizes that you should never put your hand inside the disposal. Let the tools take the risk.

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Once you remove the object, turn the power back on and turn on the disposal. Hopefully it works like normal. If not, turn the power back off and move on to this....

Method No. 2: Reset the motor

You can manually turn the disposal's motor to dislodge more stubborn clogs. There should be a hole on the bottom of the disposal unit. Place an Allen wrench into the hole and twist until you feel the motor spin without resistance. Next, press the small red reset button on the bottom of the unit. Turn the disposal back on and test your work.

Method No. 3: Clear the pipes

If the clog remains, something is likely stuck in the drain trap or piping that connects the disposal. Lay down towels and grab a bucket to catch the water and debris that will likely come out. Start by using pliers to disconnect the fittings on the drain trap. The Spruce advises using a small scrub brush to remove debris that may be stuck in the trap.

From there, use your hands or a wrench to loosen the pipes connected to the garbage disposal. Allow the liquid from the pipes to drain into the bucket and use the brush to dislodge any clogged materials. Reconnect the pipes, turn on the power and test the disposal.

Note that if these methods fail to fix the clog, reaching out to a plumber for professional help may be your next step. If your disposal is back in action, follow these garbage disposal do's and don'ts to avoid issues in the future and try these tips on how to keep your drain smelling fresh no matter what food waste you send down.

It's always a good idea to be prepared for serious plumbing issues. See how plans from HomeServe can help with the costs of covered repairs.