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As if the act of washing dirty dishes wasn’t unpleasant enough, the last thing you need is your sink filling up because the garbage disposal won’t drain.

If the standing water does not go down even when you turn the disposal on, you probably have a clog that needs to be cleared out manually. Before you call a plumber, consider clearing it yourself with these easy steps.

What you’ll need:

  • A shop-vac
  • A plunger
  • Channellock pliers
  • Flashlight
  • Longnose pliers 
  • A small bucket
  • Screwdriver or wrench 

Note: Unplug the garbage disposal before working on it.

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Step one: Use the shop-vac to suck up the standing water in the sink.

Be sure to remove the vacuum’s filter and clean off any debris before using it for water. 

An alternative to the shop-vac is to bail any standing water out with a cup and finally sponges or towels.

When the water is gone, use your flashlight to check for any visible obstructions.

If you see something, use the long nose pliers to remove it. Be sure that the garbage disposal is unplugged before you attempt this.

Step two: Insert the shop vac’s nozzle into the cutting chamber to suck up what it can.

If the clog is limited to the cutting chamber, the clog should be fixed by this point. You can plug the disposal back in and run some water to test it. 

Step three: If the clog still hasn’t been resolved, leave a little standing water in the sink and try using the plunger.

Plunge the drain gently several times.

If you plunge too aggressively, you could damage the pipes.

If gentle plunging doesn’t work, unplug the garbage disposal again and use the shop-vac to remove the standing water.

Step four: Place a small bucket underneath the disposal’s plumbing to catch any falling water or sludge.

Locate the discharge pipe–the pipe connecting the disposal to the rest of the plumbing–and use your Channellock pliers to loosen the slip nut.

There will also be a flange piece mounting the discharge pipe to the disposal, which you can remove with either a screwdriver or a wrench, depending on your plumbing. 

Step five: Look for clogs in the discharge pipe and then clean it thoroughly.

Prepare yourself for any nasty smells or visuals, and consider wearing gloves and a mask to be extra mindful of the germs.

Step six: Use your flashlight to look at the discharge port on the garbage disposal and clear it of any debris.

Step seven: Inspect the rubber discharge gasket on the drain pipe.

If it looks worn down or damaged, replace it. They are inexpensive, and a sales associate at your local hardware store will be happy to help you find the right one.

Step eight: Put the discharge pipe back.

Position it where it was before and put the flange piece back on to refasten it to the disposal’s discharge port.

Then use your Channellock pliers to put the slip nut back. Be careful not to overtighten. 

Step nine: Plug the disposal back in and test it.

By now, the clog should be gone, and all you have left to do is clean up your workspace.

We hope that helps you.

If you need professional plumbing help, see our Garbage Disposal Repair & Installation service page or for a free quote, contact us today.

May all your days be leak-free!

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Owner - Operator at RT Olson Plumbing
Bob Olson has over 17 years experience in all aspects of residential and commercial plumbing. He's a 4th generation plumber. With over 300 five-star customer reviews, he runs one of the best-rated plumbing companies in Riverside, CA.
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