How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal With A Plunger

Plumber's drain cleaner tool. Rubber suction cup with wooden handle

The short answer to the question of how to unclog a disposal with a plunger is “you’re using the wrong end”. When a garbage disposal is clogged it likely has lost it’s ability to properly spin and unclog itself. Either something tough like a bone or a large amount of thick food waste like potato skins has jammed the disposal. Using a plunger likely will not unjam the disposal. It will end up sloshing water around your sink and not really remove the clog. You may eventually need to use a plunger if you’ve removed everything from within the disposal, ensured the disposal is working properly, and it still won’t drain. Continue reading to learn how to use a plunger when trying to unclog a garbage disposal.

How do you unclog a garbage disposal drain?

  • Try freeing the clog by toggling on and off the disposal
  • If the disposal is jammed or not spinning you’ll need to manually spin the disposal to try to dislodge the blockage or you may need to reset it
  • Press the reset button on the disposal (Usually located on the bottom) to see if it had simply overheated and triggered the internal breaker
  • If this isn’t the problem you’ll need to try to dislodge the blockage manually
  • Always turn off the power at the circuit breaker prior to working on a garbage disposal
  • The bottom of the disposal usually has a spot for inserting an Allen wrench that likely came with, and is attached to your disposal
  • Use the Allen wrench to move the disposal grinder back and forth to attempt to dislodge the blockage
  • Alternatively, you can use the handle end of your plunger or a wooden spoon to attempt to move the disposal grinder back and forth if you can’t find or don’t have an Allen wrench available
  • You may also need to manually remove any unground food that is sitting within the disposal with tongs or your hands
  • If all the other methods have failed, the clog may be on the other side of the disposal and this is when you’ll want to use the proper end of the plunger
Learn More About Garbage Disposals:

Best Garbage Disposal For Septic Systems

Can you use a plunger on a clogged garbage disposal?

Sure, but there are other things that need to be tried first before resorting to a plunger. Scroll back up and read through the bulleted list. There are several things to try first!

Why is my garbage disposal humming?

It most likely has some food lodged in the grinding wheel that is throwing it off balance. Another reason could be that some food has caused it to jam and it is refusing to spin. 

Can you use Drano to unclog a garbage disposal?

You can but there are a lot more effective ways to address the problem first and a drain cleaner probably isn’t going to be the answer to the problem.

How do you unjam a garbage disposal?

A jammed garbage disposal is unfortunately a common problem. Either too much food has been shoved down the disposal at once or a particularly tough bit of food has jammed the grinding wheel. Sometimes toggling on and off the disposal can unjam it but likely you’ll need to manually move the grinding wheel back and forth. You can do this by either inserting an Allen key into the bottom center of the disposal and rotating it back and forth or by inserting the handle end of your plunger or a wooden spoon into the disposal and moving the grinding wheel back and forth. You’ll also want to check try pressing the reset button to make sure the internal circuit breaker didn’t trip and disable the disposal. The reset button is usually located on the bottom of the disposal.

How long does a typical garbage disposal last?

The typical lifespan of a garbage disposal is anywhere from 8 to 15 years. The most common way you’ll know it’s time to replace your disposal is when water begins to leak out of the bottom of it. This is because it has rusted through.

Which way to turn garbage disposal wrench?

When you insert an Allen wrench into the bottom of your disposal you don’t want to just turn it one way if you’re trying to dislodge food so that it will spin freely again. You’ll want to spin in back and forth. Your disposal only spins one way so spinning it back and forth will allow the food to more easily become free.

How much does it cost to replace a garbage disposal?

Contractor grade garbage disposals, which are usually acceptable for most applications, should cost less than one hundred dollars. It should take a competent plumber less than one hour to install a disposal. Your total bill should be the cost of the disposal, one hour of billable work time, and any fee the plumber may charge for disposal of the old unit.

Do garbage disposals leak?

A garbage disposal will only leak under two circumstances. The disposal was not installed correctly, or the disposal has rusted through due to age and needs to be replaced.

Where is the reset button on a garbage disposal?

The reset button is usually located on the bottom of the disposal but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes they are mounted on the side of the disposal and if the disposal installer was paying attention they installed it so that it is easy to see and reach.

How long does it take to install a garbage disposal?

It should take less than one hour to install a garbage disposal. If you’re attempting to do the job yourself it probably wouldn’t take much longer as it is a very straight forward job.

How do you replace a garbage disposal?

  • Remove the current mount and drain
  • Unscrew the mounting ring
  • Push the drain flange up and through the drain hole
  • Scrape off the old plumber’s putty
  • Remove the old disposal
  • Attach the new disposal
  • Screw in the mounting ring
  • Install the mount and drain

What horsepower garbage disposal should I get?

One half horsepower is plenty for the average home but if you heavily use your disposal you may want to step up to a three quarter or one full horsepower disposal.

How do you clean your garbage disposal?

  • Sprinkle half a cup of baking soda inside
  • Pour a cup of vinegar on top
  • Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Rinse it down with very hot water with the garbage disposal running
  • Rinse with bleach

Other Resources:

Helpful Links

Wrapping Up:

Unclogging A Disposal With A Plunger

Unclogging a garbage disposal really isn’t a job primarily for a plunger. You may need it in the end but there are many other things to address prior to resorting to a plunger. It will usually just slosh water around. If you’ve tried everything else then you may then need to resort to a plunger. This is likely only when the clog is in the pipes beyond the disposal itself.

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