How to unclog a garbage disposal
Before you tackle this problem, you should understand how to use your disposer so you'll probably never have to deal with a clog again. You can easily use put a sinkfull of waste down your disposer without a hitch. It's all about controlling the amount of water mixed in with the waste. Your disposer is designed to break waste down to pieces a little smaller than a BB. This is efficient but without much water, the pieces will clump together right where the disposer connects to the drain line, and will cause a clog. Never turn on the disposer without a full flow of cold water. Cold water not only helps to cool the motor, but keeps any fat solidified so that it doesn't build up on the walls of the pipes. The full flow of water will allow the disposer to mix the waste in and it'll go right down the drain. The second thing you must control is the amount of waste that goes in the disposer. It's really a bad idea to put more than like half a cup of waste in the disposer without it running. Ideally you'd turn on the water first, then start the disposer, then feed the waste in. Listen to the disposer running with waste in it. It sounds different when the waste inside is gone. Use this to get yourself used to keeping up with its pace. The problem with any disposer is that they work so fast, they can grind the waste faster than the water can carry it away.
Whatever you do, don't use a chemical unclogging product. Over time, this can damage the metal components of the disposer, and if you have to call a plumber, they will charge you extra because these chemicals make their equipment wear prematurely and can burn the skin.
If water doesn't drain, make sure the problem isn't fixed by simply turning the disposal on. If the water just swirls around, you'll probably need a plunger. When you want to use a plunger to unclog your disposal, the easiest way is to use suction more than pressure. When you push down on the plunger, the pressure from it will cause the backed-up waste to compress even further and make it impossible to push water down. You want to push the plunger down so that it "leaks" water out, and, when the plunger can be pushed down no farther, make sure it then has a good seal on the disposal's opening, and yank the plunger up pretty hard. This will pull the backed up waste back, mixing it with the water and will probably unclog the unit in only a couple strokes. Be careful not to soak yourself when pulling up on the plunger. In a pinch, a full soda can will actually form a seal and can be used in place of a plunger for disposals that have a splash guard made of one piece. If water is backed up into the other sink bowl, that means the clog is in the trap and not in the disposer itself. One way to fix this is to make sure the other bowl(s) of the sink are firmly stopped up. If you use a stopper you'll most likely have to push down hard on the stopper while plunging the disposer to form a good seal. If none of this helps, you may need to take apart the sink trap. This can be done by loosening the two nuts on the part of the drain pipe assembly shaped like a "U". You then may be able to clean the clog directly out of the u-bend or you may need to snake the pipes. If you take the pipes apart, have a bucket under there to catch the large amount of that will gush out.
on Dec 07, 2009 | Plumbing