A slow-draining disposal is an inconvenience, but there are easy ways to fix it. You don’t need to call a professional every time it clogs. We’ll look at how you can safely unclog a slow-draining disposal system without calling a professional for garbage disposal repair.
Your garbage disposal grinds up food scraps and drains them away. This avoids throwing them in the trash, thereby avoiding odors and reducing the amount of waste your household produces. But a disposal can get clogged by the materials it’s supposed to grind up. Your next steps can avoid damage to the unit or requiring a plumber.
Find Out What Is Causing the Clog
Your disposal can start to drain slowly because one item is causing a clog. Several items at once or a few over time can also cause a blockage. The location is also significant as a clog can originate in the blades, other parts of the disposal assembly, or from the sink drain.
If the garbage disposal drains slowly and makes a humming noise, it is overwhelmed. Putting less food in at a time can avoid exceeding its capacity. Now it’s time to try to fix the problem. Look inside the unit and see if you can identify what’s causing the unit to drain slowly. If it appears blocked or the cause isn’t apparent, proceed with the following steps.
Fixing a Slow-Draining Disposal System
Here are a few ways you can attempt to resolve the matter:
- Run the Garbage Disposal: Turn on the water faucet and let it flow into the garbage disposal. Then turn the unit on and off several times. The spinning blades, combined with the action of water, can dislodge whatever is clogging the drain. If the unit is draining normally again, there’s nothing else you need to do.
However, don’t panic if this doesn’t fix the problem. These are other steps you can try:
- Turn the System Off: Turn off the disposal and the breaker switch that controls it. If the disposal turns on while you’re working on it, this can cause a serious injury.
- Determine What’s Clogging the Unit: Using a flashlight, peek into the disposal and look for any objects blocking the mechanism or drain. Solid items can be removed with long-handled tongs or pliers. If you’ve removed them, great; now you can restore power, run the water, and turn on the disposal (if necessary, press the reset button on the bottom of the unit).
- Plunge the Drain: If you can’t unclog the disposal manually, turn it off again and use a plunger to loosen any remaining food items or debris. Start by covering the drain with the plunger. Then run the water until the edges are covered, creating a watertight seal. Move the plunger up and down quickly a few times. Then inspect the drain and sink and remove any loose items. Turn on the unit and see if it drains easily.
- Force the Blades to Move: If the disposal isn’t draining and the blades aren’t spinning, find a hex wrench (one may have been included with the unit) and locate the hexagon hole on the outside of the device. Insert the tool and move it clockwise and counterclockwise a few times. The blade should spin freely now and you should be able to remove the clog with tongs or pliers.
Another option is to use a wooden handle. If the slow-draining disposal doesn’t have a hexagon hole, place the wooden handle through the sink drain and into the garbage disposal, and on top of or between the blades. Move it back and forth until the blades move in both directions; then use tongs or pliers to remove any debris.
- Use Baking Soda and Vinegar: This combination provides another effective way to unclog a disposal. First, turn the unit and breaker off. Then pour ¼ cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal, followed by a ½ cup of white vinegar. After about 5 to 10 minutes of fizzing and foaming, run hot water for a couple of minutes.
If your efforts to fix a slow-draining disposal system have been unsuccessful, it’s time to call a plumber. A licensed professional has additional tools they can use. Or, if the job requires it, they can uninstall and disassemble the disposal and attached pipes to clean or repair the system.
What Should I Not Put in a Garbage Disposal?
Although garbage disposals are designed to chop up food items, they aren’t built to handle everything. Avoid putting in things like:
- Hard Food: Including bones, seeds, corncobs, and even ice cubes.
- Stringy Food: Pasta, celery, lettuce, banana peels, and asparagus should not be put in a disposal.
- Items That Can Become Pasty: Avoid grease, fat, and oil that can harden, or coffee grounds, eggshells, potato peels, or beans.
How Do I Prevent a Clogged Disposal?
Aside from avoiding the above, don’t overwhelm the unit. A garbage disposal cannot handle a lot of food at once. When using it, add only a little food at a time. Non-food items can also cause problems; silverware, paper, foil, plastic, fabric, sponges, and other items can cause a jam.
Other tips for preventing clogs include:
- Cover the drain with a sink strainer to catch unwanted items.
- Grind up lemon wedges or orange rinds to clear out food scraps and leave a fresh smell.
- Run the disposal for at least a minute after grinding up food.
What Is the Best Water Temperature When Running the Disposal?
Despite the misconception, hot water is not best for your disposal. It will spread grease, fats, and oils around, which harden as they cool and form clogs. Run cold water when the disposal is on and keep the faucet running to clear any remaining scraps.
Can I Use a Liquid Drain Cleaner?
Avoid using harsh chemical drain cleaners. They can damage the plastic parts inside your garbage disposal.
How Often Should I Run My Disposal?
A garbage disposal should be used every day. Regular use keeps it running smoothly and can prevent corrosion from forming on internal parts. Run the disposal even if there’s no food to dispose of.
Call a Plumber to Fix Your Slow-Draining Disposal System
At Jay’s Heating, Air & Plumbing, our licensed plumbers specialize in garbage disposal repair, installation, and maintenance. They can fix any disposal that’s draining slowly or otherwise isn’t working properly. No matter the issue, our team can quickly inspect the unit, diagnose the problem, and correct it. When you need garbage disposal repair or other plumbing services in Mount Airy, NC, call (336) 663-0496.