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a sink with clogged garbage disposal

How To Unclog a Garbage Disposal With Standing Water

A sink filled with standing water is never a welcome sight. When your trusty garbage disposal experiences a jam with standing water, it can be tempting to panic.

The good news is that a clogged garbage disposal isn’t always a disaster. In some cases, a few simple steps can tackle the clog and get your sink draining smoothly again. Of course, if you’re unable to get the clog cleared or don’t have the tools, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact a professional plumbing company.

Understanding Your Garbage Disposal

The primary function of a garbage disposal is to chop up food waste into small pieces, typically less than 2 mm in size.

The disposal is installed under your kitchen sink and is connected to the drain. When you run the disposal with water, it helps convert the food waste into tiny particles that can easily be washed down the drain. This slurry is then forced out of the disposal by the centrifugal force created by the spinning flywheel. The drain pipe connected to the disposal leads to either the city sewer system or a septic tank.

It’s important to keep the water running while you’re using the disposal and for a bit afterward to ensure the food waste is flushed out of the pipes.

A garbage disposal not only helps in keeping your kitchen clean and odor-free but also contributes to minimizing the amount of household waste that ends up in landfills. (Remember, though, not all food scraps are suitable for the garbage disposal; hard, fibrous, or starchy items can cause clogs or damage the mechanism.)

garbage disposal working properly

Understanding the Clog

Before attempting to unclog a garbage disposal, it’s essential to understand the potential culprit. Standing water in your sink after using the disposal typically indicates one of three main issues:

Food Overload

Overstuffing the disposal with too much food scraps at once can overwhelm its grinding mechanism, leading to a jam and water backup.

Clogged Drain Lines

Even if the disposal itself is clear, grease or debris buildup in the drain lines can impede water flow and cause standing water.

Object Stuck in the Blades

Accidental utensil drops or other non-food items can become lodged in the disposal blades, creating a physical barrier that prevents proper grinding and drainage.

Clearing the Clog

Once you have a general idea of the cause, you can choose the appropriate method to clear the clog.

Safety First

Always prioritize safety when dealing with any plumbing issue. Here are some essential precautions to remember when dealing with a garbage disposal with standing water:

  • Never reach into the disposal. Even when turned off, residual electric current or sharp blades can cause serious injury.
  • Unplug a garbage disposal. Disconnect the power cord from the outlet before attempting any manual unclogging techniques.
  • Wear protective gloves. Protect your hands from potential hazards like sharp edges or chemical drain cleaners.
  • Clear the surrounding area. Move any cleaning supplies or dishware away from the sink to avoid creating additional clutter during the process.

DIY Unclog a Garbage Disposal Solutions

hand with gloves holds the sewer lid of a kitchen waste shredder close up

These DIY methods might be able to clear the clog and get your disposal back in action

Reset Button

Most modern garbage disposals have a reset button located under the unit. Press and hold the button for a few seconds, and listen for a clicking sound that indicates the motor has reset. This simple trick can sometimes dislodge minor jams.

Hot Water Flush

Sometimes, a bit of heat can be all it takes to loosen hardened grease or food debris. Boil a pot of water and carefully pour it down the drain. The hot water can melt grease and help push the clog through the blades.

Ice and Salt Treatment

Fill a cup with ice cubes and a generous handful of rock salt. Drop the mixture into the disposal and turn it on for a few seconds. The ice will break up the clog, while the salt acts as a mild abrasive.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

This classic combination can work wonders. Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar. The effervescent reaction will loosen food particles and break down minor clogs.

Plunger

A trusty plunger can be a lifesaver for unclog a garbage disposal. Specialized sink plungers are smaller and more suited to the task than toilet plungers. Instead of an extended flange, they have a flat bottom, making it easier to create a vacuum seal over the drain. However, ensure you plug the overflow drain before using the plunger. This makes the plunging action more effective by focusing the force directly on the clog.

Fill the sink with enough water to cover the plunger cup, and vigorously plunge for several seconds. This can create suction and pressure to dislodge the clog.

unclog a garbage disposal

The Allen Wrench Maneuver

Some garbage disposals have a small hex wrench access port underneath. Insert the wrench and turn it slowly in both directions to try and turn the blades manually and break up the clog. Consult your disposal’s manual for specific instructions.

Remember that patience is key. Don’t get discouraged if these methods don’t work immediately. Sometimes, it may take a combination of approaches or repeated attempts to clear a stubborn clog.

When to Call a Professional Plumber

If your DIY efforts fail to yield results, or if you encounter any electrical issues or suspect a more serious problem, it’s time to call a professional plumber. Don’t hesitate to seek help if:

  • The clog is extensive or severe. Persistent standing water or foul odors could indicate a deeper blockage requiring professional equipment to clear.
  • You suspect a leak. Leaks around the disposal base or under the sink can signify damage requiring immediate attention.
  • Electrical problems arise. Sparks, buzzing noises, or burning smells are indicators of potential electrical issues and should be addressed by a qualified professional.

Preventing Future Clogs

Of course, the best way to avoid having a sink full of water caused by a clogged garbage disposal is prevention. Once your disposal is back in working order, take these preventive measures to avoid future clogs:

  • Run cold water for 15-20 seconds after using the disposal to flush away food particles and prevent grease buildup.
  • Avoid grinding fibrous or tough items like celery stalks, coffee grounds, or egg shells, which can tangle and clog the blades.
  • Sharpen the blades periodically by grinding a handful of ice cubes every few weeks.
  • Use disposal-safe cleaners to break down grease and prevent odor build-up.

By following these tips and prioritizing safety, you can confidently tackle a clogged garbage disposal and keep your kitchen sink clear for years to come. Remember, when in doubt, it’s always best to seek professional help to avoid causing further damage. With proper care and maintenance, your garbage disposal can continue to serve as a reliable appliance in your kitchen.

Stronghold Plumbing & Septic

If your clogged garbage disposal has left you with standing water that you aren’t able to clear, don’t just search for “plumbers near me.” Contact the best plumbing company in Florida – Stronghold. Our team of experienced plumbers has the expertise to clear clogs and offer any other plumbing services you need.

FAQ’s – Standing Water Caused by Clogged Garbage Disposal

Is it possible to clear a clogged garbage disposal myself?

It is possible to clear a clogged garbage disposal yourself using DIY methods such as resetting the unit, using hot water or ice and salt treatments, plunging, or manually turning the blades with an Allen wrench. However, if these methods do not work or you encounter any electrical issues, it’s best to call a professional plumber.

How can I prevent future clogs in my garbage disposal?

To prevent future clogs, it’s important to regularly flush the disposal with cold water after use, avoid grinding fibrous or tough items, periodically sharpen the blades with ice cubes, and use disposal-safe cleaners to break down grease and prevent odor buildup.

Is it safe to use chemical drain cleaners on a clogged garbage disposal?

It is not safe to use chemical drain cleaners on a clogged garbage disposal. These chemicals can damage the blades and other components of the disposal, leading to costly repairs or replacements. It’s best to use natural methods or seek professional help.

What should I do if my garbage disposal is leaking?

If you notice leakage from your garbage disposal, turn off the unit immediately and contact a professional plumber. Leaks can indicate damage to the unit or plumbing system and should be addressed promptly to prevent further issues.

Can I use my garbage disposal for all types of food waste?

While garbage disposals can handle most food waste, it’s important to avoid grinding fibrous or tough items such as celery stalks, coffee grounds, or egg shells. These items can tangle and clog the blades, causing issues with your disposal. When in doubt, it’s best to dispose of these items in the trash.

Do I need to unplug my garbage disposal before attempting any DIY methods?

Yes, it is important to unplug your garbage disposal or turn off the power at the circuit breaker before attempting any DIY methods. This can prevent electrical accidents or damage to the unit.

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