5 Things that Can Clog a Garbage Disposal

Article updated by Molly on July 3rd, 2022 / Made some adjustments to article formatting and corrected some of the copy.

Garbage disposals are a convenient and easy way to dispose of food waste, but there are certain things that can clog or damage them.

Here are five things that you should avoid putting down your garbage disposal:

Five things that could potentially clog a garbage disposal

1. Fibrous foods

Foods like celery, corn husks, and artichoke leaves can get tangled in the blades of the disposal and cause a blockage. These types of foods should be thrown in the trash instead.

2. Grease and oil

These substances can solidify and create a clog in the disposal and pipes. It's best to wipe off any excess grease or oil from pots, pans, and dishes before rinsing them off in the sink.

3. Hard shells

Shells from crustaceans like shrimp and lobster, as well as nut shells, can damage the blades of the disposal. These should be disposed of in the trash.

4. Starchy foods

Foods like potato peels and rice can expand when they come into contact with water, leading to a clog in the disposal. It's best to throw these types of foods in the trash as well.

5. Non-food items

Things like paper towels, coffee grinds, and cigarette butts should not be put down the garbage disposal. These can clog the disposal and cause it to break down.

By avoiding these five things, you can help keep your garbage disposal running smoothly and avoid costly repairs. Remember to also run cold water for a few seconds before and after using the disposal to help flush away any remaining food particles.

How to handle a clogged garbage disposal

If your garbage disposal becomes clogged, there are a few steps you can take to try and unclog it yourself:

Step 1

First, turn off the power to the disposal by unplugging it or flipping the switch on the wall. This will prevent the blades from turning while you are working on the disposal.

Step 2

If the clog is visible, use a pair of tongs or pliers to try and remove it. Be sure to use caution and be mindful of the sharp blades in the disposal.

Step 3

If the clog is not visible, you can try using a plunger to loosen it. Place the plunger over the drain and pump it up and down several times to try and loosen the clog.

Step 4

If the plunger does not work, you can try using a drain snake or auger. These tools are designed to reach down into the pipes and loosen any blockages.

Step 5

If you are unable to unclog the disposal using these methods, you may need to call a professional plumber for assistance.

Remember to always use caution when working on a garbage disposal and to follow the manufacturer's instructions for maintenance and troubleshooting.

Should I just go ahead and call a plumber?

If you have tried using a plunger or a drain snake or auger to unclog your garbage disposal and have been unsuccessful, it may be time to call a plumber. A professional plumber will have the tools and expertise to diagnose the problem and determine the best course of action for fixing the clog.

If you are unable to turn the disposal on or off, or if you notice any leaks or damage to the disposal, it is also a good idea to call a plumber. These issues can be caused by a variety of problems and may require specialized tools or knowledge to fix properly.

In some cases, a clogged garbage disposal may be a sign of a larger problem with your plumbing system. A plumber will be able to identify and address any underlying issues to help prevent future clogs and ensure that your plumbing is functioning properly.

Overall, it is generally a good idea to call a plumber if you are unable to unclog your garbage disposal or if you notice any other issues with your plumbing. They will be able to assess the problem and provide the necessary repairs to get your disposal working properly again.

Can I use Draino for a garbage disposal clog?

Drain cleaners, like Drano, can be effective at clearing clogs in drains and pipes, but they are not intended for use in garbage disposals. The chemicals in drain cleaners can be harmful to the blades of the disposal and can cause damage to the unit.

Can a clogged garbage disposal damage my dishwasher?

A clogged garbage disposal can potentially damage a dishwasher if the clog causes water to back up into the dishwasher. This can happen if the clog is located in the drain line that connects the dishwasher to the disposal or if the clog is in the main sewer line that both the dishwasher and disposal drain into.

If water backs up into the dishwasher, it can cause the dishwasher to overflow or flood, potentially leading to water damage. Additionally, the dishwasher may not function properly if the water cannot drain out properly.

To prevent this, it is important to regularly maintain and clean your garbage disposal to help prevent clogs. If you do experience a clog, it is important to address it as soon as possible to avoid potential damage to your dishwasher and other plumbing fixtures. If you are unable to unclog the disposal on your own, it is a good idea to call a professional plumber for assistance.

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