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[Video] How to Clean Out a Clogged Garbage Disposal

cleaning a garbage disposal

I flipped the switch on my garbage disposal and it did nothing. It didn’t grind or whine or anything. It seemed like it was simply dead.

That’s because I had been peeling sweet potatoes in preparation for Thanksgiving. And those potato skins had clogged up the garbage disposal and put a halt to my meal prep.

I had to figure out how to clean out a clogged garbage disposal FAST. Luckily for me, there are several methods that work well. Here are a few with video instruction.

What can Clog your Garbage Disposal?

view of garbage disposal drain with fruit peelings in the sink on the edge of the drain.

In order to treat a problem efficiently, you must be aware of its potential causes. There is a long list of materials that can clog garbage disposal.

The following list contains some common foods that should never be put inside your garbage disposal.

  • Pasta and Rice
  • Bones
  • Seeds of different fruits like Avocado and Peach
  • Starchy Vegetables
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Grease and Oil
  • Potato Peels
  • Celery
  • Corn Husks and Silk
  • Asparagus
  • Beans

Different Methods of Unclogging a Garbage Disposal

Baking Soda and Vinegar

A lot of plumbers believe that baking soda is the most effective weapon you have for cleaning. One of the important cleaning jobs it performs is the unclogging of your garbage disposal. Using it in combination with vinegar can remove the blockages as well as bacteria (counters odor).

Materials Needed

  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Boiling water


  1. Pour one kettle of boiling water in your garbage disposal.
  2. Now, put a cup of baking soda in the clogged drain. Leave it for 5-10 minutes.
  3. After that, you need to add a cup of white vinegar down the drain. This will lead to an extreme foaming action. Let it clean the garbage disposal for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Then, pour another kettle of boiling water into the drain.
  5. Lastly, run hot tap water for 5 minutes to ensure that all the blockages are removed.

Wooden Handle Method

If a garbage disposal is not used for a while, its blades may become jammed. They need some external assistance to make them spinning again. You can provide that (at home) in a rather unconventional way by using the wooden handle of a broom/rake. Although it may seem a bit odd to you, it is effective.

Materials Needed

  • Broom/Rake
  • A penetrating oil and water-displacing spray like WD 40


  1. Unplug the garbage disposal before starting the unclogging process.
  2. Make sure that there is nothing hard (stones or utensils) in the disposal.
  3. Use the wooden handle of a broom/rake to turn the blades of your garbage disposal. Make sure that you move all the blades of the appliance. Having said that, never push down on the disposal as it can cause a massive leak.
  4. In extreme cases, you may have to spray WD 40 to loosen the blades. Similarly, you will need some muscle power to get it done.
  5. When you are sure that all the blades are good to go, re-plug the garbage disposal.

Cleaning the P-Trap

under the cabinet view of a garbage disposal with plumbing

The P-Trap is the pipe which is connected to your garbage disposal and is responsible for carrying the waste to the drain. It is quite possible that a clog develops in this pipe due to the sludge it receives. In this case, you will need to remove and clean the P-Trap to resume normal working of your disposal.

Materials Needed

  • A bucket
  • Towel(s)
  • Allen Key


  1. Ensure that your garbage disposal is perfectly fine by rotating its blades with an Allen key. This will confirm that the issue is with your trap.  
  2. Unscrew both the nuts that are connecting the P-Trap with pipes on either side.
  3. Once you have done that, remove the trap from the pipes.
  4. Now, clean all the debris from the P-Trap. You can do it either with your hand or use a coat hanger for this purpose.
  5. After pulling out all the blockages, rinse the trap with warm water. While doing so, make sure that you have a bucket under the trap. Otherwise, it can get really messy.
  6. Now that the trap is clean, screw it again to the drain pipes. Tight the screws carefully as the plastic can crack quite easily.

Sink Plunger

A sink plunger is an extremely useful tool to clean the drain-pipe of your garbage disposal. This type of plunger is a little different from toilet plungers because it has a soft rubber that folds out from inside the cup. It is ideal for sinks because it can create the necessary vacuum on flat surfaces.

Materials Needed

  • Plunger


  1. Turn off the garbage disposal to avoid any mishap.
  2. If you have a double bowl sink (quite common these days), place a rubber stopper in the other bowl (unclogged one).
  3. Now, fill the garbage disposal side of the sink about half-full with water.
  4. Position your sink plunger over the drain opening of the disposal and push down on it.
  5. Pull it back up shortly after pushing down. Keep repeating this process until the water starts to drain smoothly from the clogged drain.
  6. Set the plunger aside and turn on the garbage disposal.
  7. In the end, let some water (for about 1-2 minutes) run into this side of the drain to clear any remaining waste.

Allen Key

It is a common observation that hard objects (that are often difficult to break down) clog the garbage disposal of your sink. A lot of people panic in this situation and call their plumber right away. However, you can unclog the disposal yourself and can save some hard-earned money by following the instructions below.

Materials Needed

  • A Flashlight
  • Allen Key
  • An Extraction Tool like Tweezers


  1. Press the ‘Reset’ button of the disposal to shut down the overloaded unit.
  2. Disconnect the electrical power to the garbage disposal.
  3. Examine the disposal to locate the blocking object.
  4. Remove the object from the unit with the help of an extraction tool.
  5. Use the Allen key of the garbage disposal to spin its blades. You can find the slot for the key in the base of the appliance.
  6. Once you have loosened the blades, remove any loose materials in the disposal by using the extraction tool. Never insert your hand into the unit.
  7. Turn the power back on and run the disposal with running water to complete the cleaning process.

The Bottom Line on Cleaning a Clogged Garbage Disposal

Hand with a pipe wrench tightening garbage disposal plumbing under a cabinet.

You can clean your clogged garbage disposal with different household items. It less expensive than calling a plumber and helps you to save some valuable cash. The technique that is most suitable for you is determined by condition of your garbage disposal.

In order to enjoy the smooth functioning of your appliance, you should always ensure regular maintenance of your garbage disposal.

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