Garbage disposal units work in a very straightforward way. When you put food waste inside and turn it on, the appliance will grind it down and send it through the drain. But what happens when the unit doesn’t drain and water backs up to the sink?
Your garbage disposal fails to drain when there’s a clog inside the unit or the pipe it connects to. That clog forms because there’s not enough water to flush it clean or if you’ve been putting the wrong food items into the disposal, including fat, oil, and grease (FOG). The unit will also fail to drain when clogged with non-food items like paper products.
In this quick guide, you’ll learn why your garbage disposal unit clogs and fails to drain. Then, you’ll discover a few short steps on how to remove those clogs and prevent them from happening again.
Why Does My Garbage Disposal Keep Clogging?
A garbage disposal should have no problems draining unless there’s a clog. The most likely reasons for one of those clogs are a lack of flushing water, grinding the wrong food items, non-food items getting stuck inside, or a buildup of fat, oil, and grease (FOG).
Let’s look deeper at each of those causes and how they stop your garbage disposal from draining.
#1 Not Enough Water To Flush
Your garbage disposal keeps forming clogs because there isn’t enough water to flush all of the food waste that you throw into it.
Your garbage disposal effectively grinds food waste down to small particles that won’t clog your pipes. As water flows through the garbage disposal, it will carry those particles through your pipes and into your household’s drain system.
When there’s a lack of flowing water, those tiny particles will build up inside the disposal unit and its pipes until they form a solid clog. Any water that comes after that will fail to drain, resulting in standing water in your garbage disposal and sink.
You can prevent this by running the tap whenever you use the garbage disposal. That will ensure that all food waste particles will immediately wash away through your pipes.
As a result, there’s no chance of a clog forming in your garbage disposal unit.
#2 Grinding Wrong Food Items
The second reason clogs form in your garbage disposal unit is that you’re grinding the wrong food items. Unfortunately, doing so will also lead to your unit failing to drain as it should.
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Manufacturers design garbage disposal units to grind many different types of food waste. Still, some items won’t grind very well. Instead, they’ll get stuck inside the appliance and cause clogs that prevent it from draining.
Some of the food items you should never put into your garbage disposal unit are:
- Corn husks.
- Potato skins.
- Animal bones.
- Rice and pasta.
- Coffee grounds.
- And other high-fiber food waste.
When these kinds of items go into your garbage disposal, they’ll get stuck and form buildups inside the unit. That will eventually lead to clogs that prevent the appliance from draining normally.
You can do two things to prevent this problem from happening. Firstly, check the user manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations of what can and can’t go into the garbage disposal unit.
Then, be sure to dispose of any inappropriate items in the trash instead of putting them in the garbage disposal.
#3 Non-Food Items
Clogs can also form due to putting non-food items into the garbage disposal. Some common examples of these include:
- Paper towels.
- Egg cartons.
- Cardboard or any similar items.
- Food wrappers or any other packaging.
Remember: your garbage disposal unit is excellent at grinding food waste into small particles. However, the manufacturers do not design these units for disposing of non-food materials like paper, cardboard, plastic, or anything else.
The blades inside the garbage disposal unit can’t break those materials down into smaller particles. So, they’ll get stuck and form clogs inside the unit and the pipe it connects to.
Here’s how to prevent that from happening. Firstly, never put non-food items inside your garbage disposal unit. Secondly, always refer to the user manual to understand what things can and can’t go into the unit.
#4 Fat, Oil, Grease (FOG)
One of the biggest culprits behind garbage disposal and kitchen clogs, in general, is an accumulation of fat, oil, and grease (FOG).
When you dispose of these items incorrectly by putting them in the garbage disposal, they’ll stick to the unit’s insides as well as the inside of your pipes. That will cause solid clogs very quickly, which will prevent water from draining from your garbage disposal unit.
You can prevent this by never pouring FOG into your garbage disposal or any part of your household plumbing at all. Instead, here’s what you should do with your kitchen grease:
- Let the grease cool after cooking.
- Pour the grease into a metal can for storage.
- When the metal can is full, seal and dispose of it along with your regular trash.
Also, be sure to use only cold water in the garbage disposal when you use it and never hot water. Hot water will cause any FOG to stick to the walls inside the unit and your plumbing. Cold water will help the FOG solidify enough for the garbage disposal to grind it down to smaller particles.
By following these steps, you’ll prevent any fat, oil, or grease from entering and clogging your household plumbing. That will also protect your garbage disposal unit and allow it to continue draining water like usual.
How Do You Fix A Clogged Garbage Disposal?
Here are the steps you can take to clear a clog in your garbage disposal:
- Unplug: Start by shutting off and unplugging your garbage disposal unit. Do this to keep yourself safe while cleaning in or around the garbage disposal unit.
- Plunge: You can try to loosen a clog with a plunger. Turn on running water and plunge the opening a few times to see if the water drains normally again.
- Turn: You can manually turn the garbage disposal unit’s grinding plate to shake loose clogs inside. To do that, you’ll need to insert a tool or the correctly sized Allen key into the hole at the bottom of the appliance. Then, turn it in both directions to shake clogs loose.
- Clear plumbing: Quite often, the clog isn’t in the garbage disposal unit but in the pipes it connects to. So, you’ll have to remove the plumbing trap underneath the disposal to remove the clog and restore water flow.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some additional answers you’ll find helpful when troubleshooting your garbage disposal unit.
How Do Garbage Disposals Drain?
Your garbage disposal unit shares the same plumbing as your kitchen sink. So, the unit will grind down any food waste you put in it and drain it through the same pipes underneath your sink.
Can You Use Drain Cleaner To Clear A Garbage Disposal?
You can only do so in some cases. Different brands of drain cleaners will use all sorts of chemicals that can damage your garbage disposal unit or the pipes it connects to. Some claim to be safe for garbage disposal units, but you must always read the instructions to be sure. If you’re unsure, avoid using drain cleaners entirely.
What Wrong With Putting Fats, Oils, And Grease In Garbage Disposals?
The problem with FOG (fats, oils, and grease) is that it sticks to the insides of garbage disposals and the pipes they connect to. As that continues to happen, the fat will trap other particles and form a solid clog. At that point, the garbage disposal won’t drain at all.
How Do You Remove Something From Inside The Garbage Disposal?
Start by turning the garbage disposal off and disconnect its power source from the wall socket. Don’t reach into the unit with your hand. Instead, use a long tool to try and fish the item out. Alternatively, you can remove the disposal unit and turn it over, so any foreign objects inside fall out.
Is It Better To Run The Garbage Disposal With Hot Or Cold Water?
You should run the garbage disposal with cold water only. Cold water will help make FOG (fats, oils, and grease) solid so that the disposal unit can grind it down into small particles. Hot water will cause those substances to stick to the unit or its pipes and cause a clog.