Clogged disposal

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal With Standing Water

The garbage disposal is used often in most homes to dispose of left over food from plates or dishes. Many people use it as well when they have large gatherings in the home. But what if you try to use it at the end of your party and there is a clog and standing water? How do you unclog a garbage disposal with standing water? Don’t put your hands in as it is sharp! Instead, spin the rotor from underneath the sink and use a wrench or pliers. We will explain the steps below!

What a Garbage Disposal Is Used For

Your standard garbage disposal is for slicing up food particles into smaller pieces so that they do not clog the P-traps in the sink plumbing. The P-trap is under the sink and keeps sewer gases from getting into the home.

In addition, running water over the disposal while turning the disposal on will allow the food to circulate and slice into a variety of smaller pieces, which allows it to flush out of the drain pipes effectively.

Use a wrench or pliers not your hand to fix the disposal.

Use a Wrench or Pliers- Not Your Hand

In order to clear the clog in your disposal, it is best to use a broom handle and a wrench to loosen the rotor underneath the sink. Using a broom handle will effectively jam up the hardware inside the disposal and allow you to twist the rotor from underneath the sink. It is not recommended that you use your hand to loosen the debris, it is sharp so you can cause severe injuries to your hand if your hand slips on the blades.

Sink plunger will unclog the sink.

Using a Sink Plunger to Unclog a Garbage Disposal With Standing Water

Another way is to use a sink plunger. In order to use a sink plunger successfully, you should follow the steps below.

  1. Take the sink plunger and place it over the garbage disposal drain.
  2. Begin using the sink plunger by pushing it up and down. Be sure not to lift the plunger off the drain, this will release the seal that you have created and will not allow the suction required to loosen any debris.
  3. Push the plunger up and down at least 6 to 8 times before you lift it. If the water in the sink drains, it is likely that you have successfully dislodged any food particles. However, if you still have standing water, you will repeat the steps several more times.
  4. Once this is complete and the water has subsided, it is recommended that you run your hot water into the disposal for up to three minutes, in order to push the remaining debris clear of the drain.

Here is a video about unclogging the sink:

There is a Clog in the Sink- What’s Causing It

Most disposal units have two impellers and a canister with serrated sides, much like a cheese grater. The two impellers rotate and push the food particles up against the canister. The serrated portions of the canister then slice the remaining debris into small pieces and mix it with water for a clean flush through the pipes. When the food particles begin to collect into the serrated sides and are unable to be rinse thoroughly through the grating system, the water in the sink will begin to back up, thus causing a clog in your sink.

Some ways that home owners contribute to clogs in the garbage disposal are:

  • Lack of water – You need to use enough water when the disposal is grinding. If not, it will clog.
  • Eggshells or coffee grounds: When ground up by a disposal, egg shells and coffee grounds can make very tiny granulars and they will stick everywhere, including the pipes. A build-up of these will become a clog. It is okay to run the coffee grounds in the disposal here and there but not all the time.
  • Potato peels: These should always go in the garbage can and not the disposal. This is because when they are ground up, they make a starchy paste and clog the drain.
  • Banana peels: These are like the potato peels and add stringy fibers that can clog.

Clearing the Clog

Insinkerator Models

Let’s take a look at the Insinkerator models first.

If you have an insinkerator model disposal you’ll need to utilize a hex wrench. There will be a location underneath the garbage disposal for the hex wrench to be placed in the middle of the rotor. Once you have done this, insert a jam buster wrench that came with the disposal and use it to spin the rotor back and forth. This should loosen any debris still lodged in between the rotors.

If the debris is lodged too tightly for the rotors to spin, the internal breaker will trip and not allow the disposal to operate. This is because it saves the motor from burning out. Once you are able to forcefully loosen the rotors again, you will press the red reset button, turn the water on, and then turn on the disposal. Your problem should be fixed.

Regular Disposals

Let’s take a look at the regular disposal models now.

If you have a regular garbage disposal the entire process will consist of the same steps, with the exception of a tool. You will not need a hex wrench. Instead, you will notice that a regular wrench will suffice in gripping the rotors so that they may move around to loosen any jammed debris.

sink auger to unclog the sink.
Sink Auger

Sink is Still Clogged – Clear the Drain

Is the sink still clogged? It may be the drain. Let’s look at the steps to clear this.

  1. Disassemble the P-trap at the point where the curved section straightens out and heads into the wall.
  2. Loosen the nut with a pair of slip-lock pliers
  3. Remove the nuts and turn the curved section away from you.
  4. Loosen the other nut so you can remove the curved section and empty it.
  5. If you don’t find the clog inside this section of pipe, it must be in the horizontal waste arm. You will clear it with a sink auger. Auger’s are expensive so look into renting one from a home improvement store or borrowing from a friend.

Maintenance to Prevent Future Clogs

It is highly suggested that using ice and kosher salt in your disposal will help remove any loose debris from the serrated walls of the canister. Filling the disposal with ice and Kosher Salt for 10 minutes will allow the debris (such as grease and starch) to solidify due to the cold ice. Once you start the disposal up, the ice and salt will remove the hardened debris from the canister serrations and be rinsed into and out of the pipes.

A garbage disposal lasts about 10-15 years if taken care of properly. This means using cold water, keeping foods bad for the garbage disposal out, and cleaning it with citrus. The citrus is great as an air freshner.

Maintain or Replace the Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal that is close to 10 years old and makes noises and clogs frequently may be due for replacement. The good news is a new disposal does not cost very much, depending on the size. They range from $50-$250 or more.

power surges can also happen from electric appliances.

Other Maintenance Near the Garbage Disposal

While you are trying to fix your garbage disposal, take a look at a few other areas.

Sink trap – look under the sink. Do you see water coming out of the sink trap? If yes, then you have a repair to make. It can be as simple as tightening the connection. Doesn’t work? Then you might need to disassemble the sink trap.

Pest Control when you look under the sink, see if there is any evidence of pests. If there is, find out what the pest is and call a company to take a look.

Power Surges – are you having power surges in addition to the garbage disposal clogged? Sometimes the power surges happen because of appliances that are plugged in and not in use, or animals that trip the power. Additionally, the circuit breakers may trip or be faulty. You may need to call a professional to take a look.

Water in the Walls – do you see a spot on the wall that makes you think there may be a leak? Hopefully, it is water that was splashed on it. However, it can be a broken pipe. Order an inspection in which thermal imaging is used.

When to Call a Professional

If you hear it making noises, a bad smell, or the switch isn’t working, or water is coming out, you need to contact a professional. Taking care of any issues right away can often help save you money. The garbage disposal can be difficult for the average homeowner to fix so calling a professional is the safest thing to do.


Garbage disposals do clog sometimes and often can be easily fixed. Keeping an eye on what is put into the sink is a good idea. There are many components to the garbage disposal and may be out of your comfort zone. If yours is clogged and you need help, Colorado Inspection Team can check your garbage disposal during a home inspection in Castle Rock, CO.

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