How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Checkout my video this is a summarized version of our in-depth article below. 

Do you want to know how to unclog garbage disposal because you think that something is clogging or jamming your unit? Unclogging a garbage disposal if it happens inside the upper hopper chamber can be easy. However, if the clog happens in the lower hopper chamber, this may require resetting or even the need for disassembling the unit to take out the clog. Other than these, there are also other ways on how to unclog garbage disposal using basic materials commonly found in our homes. 

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal uses small impellers that are mounted on a spinning plate and when the plate spins, the centrifugal force pushes food against the stationary grind ring where the food is ground into small particles to make it easy for the unit to expel it out. Moreover, there are few things you can do to prevent clogs and extend the life of your garbage disposal.      

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

To know how to unclog a garbage disposal, you must first avoid grinding fibrous vegetables like celery, sticky food like pasta, and hard to decompose food waste such as eggshells and bones. This is because these foods might either jam the unit or form a thick sludge while fatty or oily food can solidify under cold water and can clog the pipes.  

Why Do We Need to Unclog a Garbage Disposal?

When you switch on your disposal and there’s a humming sound while its breaker is on, this means the motor is alive but cannot be able to spin the axle that supports the plate because of probable clogging or jamming. If this happens, there’s no other way but to unclog your unit.  

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

To unclog a garbage disposal, you must first try to do simple tricks before deciding to look for a plumber or a technician to do the fixing. Probably the problem arises because the drain could be coated with gunk and grease and these are stopping the moving parts to work.   

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

The listed guides below will give you all the needed information on how to unclog a garbage disposal in three (3) simple ways: how to unclog a garbage disposal with baking soda, how to unclog a garbage disposal with standing water, and how to unclog the garbage disposal with a plunger.

1. How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with Baking Soda

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

This simple hack can be done in a matter of minutes. A DIY step-by-step of how to clean garbage disposal with baking soda only needs two ingredients which are baking soda and white vinegar. Mixing these, they can produce foam which can soften and dilute residues and oily substances that have accumulated inside the unit.  

Here are the steps:  

Don’t turn on the unit. 

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

Pour one pot of boiling water down the drain. 

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

Pour one cup of baking soda directly down the drain and wait to let it sit for about 10 minutes. 

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

Add one cup of white vinegar and pour it down the drain as well. Adding vinegar to baking soda will create a chemical reaction and foam will form. Wait for another five to ten minutes. 

Hot water

Pour another pot of boiling water down the drain. The hot water will now wash away the foam along with the softened residues. Wait for 3 minutes. 

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

Open the faucet and let the cold water flow then turn ON the unit and let it run for 3 minutes.

If the clogging is caused by accumulated hardened dirt, this method should do the trick and there should not be clogging.     

2. How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with Standing Water

Using only water can be the simplest hack on how to unclog a garbage disposal. Here’s how to do it: 

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Do not turn the unit on but let the cold water run for about 10 seconds. After 10 seconds water should be about to come out from the hole in the sink. 

Sink stopper

Put in the sink’s water stopper then let the cold water run from the faucet. The water stopper should stop the water from draining into the garbage disposal. 

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

When the water level reaches about 3/4 of the sink’s depth, turn the unit ON then pull out the stopper to release the water. The force from the water plus the whirling effect of the draining water will forcefully push the clog out from the unit and wastewater along with the clog should drain out into the drain pipe.  

If this won’t work, there are still other ways we can try and this is how to unclog a garbage disposal with a plunger.  

3. How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with a Plunger

This procedure on how to unclog a garbage disposal with a plunger is very simple but it can be messy for some people. What you need is a plunger that you DO NOT USE in your toilet bowl plunger. Here’s how to do the unclogging trick: 

Don’t turn the unit on.

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Run cold water from the faucet for about 10 seconds then put the water stopper right on the drain of the sink. 

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Let the water flow and wait till about 1/2 of the depth of the sink is filled up with water.

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Pull out the water stopper and try to cover the whole hole of the sink with the plunger so as not to let water pass through the sides. 

Pump the plunger with a bit of force. Pump 5 times then release. 

As you pump and release, open the faucet to let the water run. 

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Some of the clogs that were stocked in your garbage disposal may now come out into the drainpipe. 

Pump more until the water drains out from the sink. You know that unclogging was successful if the water drains out fast and freely.   

Now, remember that if all these tricks won’t work and you still got the clogging while the motor of the unit is running fine, the problem could be from the drainage piping itself. You can disengage the garbage disposal and take a peek inside your drain pipes. We have a dedicated article for detaching the unit – “How To Remove a Garbage Disposal”.   

Tips on How to Prevent Clogged Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals with proper maintenance can last for about 8-10 years. But although these are very powerful kitchen aids, you have to know how to protect and preserve them especially from clogging which when this regularly happens can lead to further breakdown. 

Here are some effective maintenance tips to preserve your garbage disposal’s life:  

Keeping the Blades Sharp With Ice

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Once every six months or so, grab 2 handfuls of ice cubes and put some right on the drain.  Make the cold water run and then turn the unit on. The impellers will now crush the ice and the fragments will clean up the clogs that get stuck into the grinding wall and under the impellers while also cleaning out the edges of the impellers making them sharper.  

Adding Citrusy Fruits for Fresher Clean Smell

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Every time you consume citrus fruits whether it’s an orange, a lemon, a grapefruit, or lime, dump the peelings down the drain and turn the machine on for about a minute. These can keep your unit smelling fresh.

Manually Releasing the Clog Using Wrenches

Reset Button

When you try to run your disposal and it doesn’t work, there’s this reset button you can press to reset it to its default mode. Because chances are your unit has jammed and you need to reset it. Find this reset button at the bottom center of the unit and push it. Make sure the unit is turned off and you should hear a click sound and the button should remain “pushed” inside. If the button doesn’t want to get pushed, wait for 5 minutes then push it again. 

Allen wrench

Still not want to get pushed? Get an Allen wrench that fits into the hole near the reset button and insert the wrench and turn it back and forth. This should release the jamming as the axle that’s connected to the motor could be the jammed part. So this is also one way on how to unclog a garbage disposal. Again, make sure that the machine is in OFF position while you do this or better to unplug the unit from its socket. 

However, if the axle won’t turn and you don’t see any clogging, there are only two options left – it’s either you disassemble the unit to check its internal parts or call a plumber. 

Using a Garbage Disposal Foaming Cleanser

We have discussed above how to unclog a garbage disposal with baking soda plus vinegar to create foam. But if you want a quick-release foamer with cleansing action, try using a foaming cleanser. To use it, the unit must be in its OFF position. Then run a slow stream of hot water so that the water will only flow onto the side of the drain. 

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

After one minute, reduce the flow of hot water and add a few drops of the foaming cleanser. With hot water and the cleanser, the foam will form and the lodged dirt should be cleaned out. This method can also deodorize your unit. Now run your garbage disposal as you let cold water flow in for 3 minutes.    

Avoid grinding unnecessary foods

Any food that can expand with water can result in clogging issues. If you’ve ever scooped out a pumpkin for Halloween, you must realize how those long strands of fiber can get caught by the impellers. So avoid such stuff for your garbage disposal.  

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

But in case there’s still such kind of food that get stuck and cause clogging, by now you should know how to unclog a garbage disposal with a plunger.  

How to Clean a Stinky Garbage Disposal

Now that you know how to unclog a garbage disposal with standing water and you tried but didn’t work, try the ice cube trick and add a handful of kosher salt. The ice will help clean the dirt off of the blades while the kosher salt will help scrub down the sides of the grinding wall inside the unit. Then apply the citrus peelings for deodorizing results.  

Some people believe that dropping coffee grounds into the garbage disposal can reduce odors. However, this method can cause more serious problems than solving the odor issue. Coffee grounds can form into thick packed pasty and can cause clogging. Yes, it can eliminate bad odor temporarily but the possible consequence can be more serious.


Best Garbage Disposals

One of the most convenient and hygienic means of getting rid of food waste in the kitchen is using a garbage disposal. These units can dispose of food waste as quickly as flushing them out like water into the drain pipes and there are better units that are more reliable today than in the previous years. Here are some of them.  

Alfi Whirlaway 291

This unit is for small capacity food waste disposing of only but very efficient in its work as a food grinder. With its small, compact design, it won’t take much space under your sink so it’s an ideal choice for small apartments.  

Moen GX50C

This Moen product has a modern multicolored design that should fit into your kitchen’s under-sink cabinet. With a silent motor, it can do heavy-duty applications. 

Whirlpool GC2000XE

You want a garbage disposal with a very quiet motor but very efficient, this brand and model has sound insulation right on its grinding chamber and this is perfect for homes that are modern and requires a quiet environment. 


Now that you know the ways on how to unclog garbage disposal using only simple hacks, you don’t need to rush calling for a plumber service but better try our tips first and these can save you some money. These tips have been proven very effective and safe. However, if the problem continues to occur despite applying your troubleshooting skills, then better think about replacing your unit with a new one.   

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