Avoid Using Chemical Drain Cleaner
Before looking at some of the options you can use to unclog your garbage disposal, it’s first necessary to mention what you shouldn’t do. Specifically, you should try to avoid using any type of chemical drain cleaner. Many people turn to foaming cleaners, gels or other chemical drain cleaning products as a last resort to tackle clogged drains and toilets. These products can be fairly effective on more minor clogs. However, most professional plumbers and home experts recommend that you avoid using them if possible.
The chemicals in drain cleaners are incredibly strong and corrosive. While this allows them to eat away and dissolve whatever is clogging the drain or pipe, it can also cause serious damage to your home’s plumbing system. Using a drain cleaner once or twice usually isn’t an issue if your plumbing is still in good shape. Nevertheless, they can still corrode your pipes and lead to leaks and numerous other issues. They can also damage the components inside the garbage disposal. For these reasons, drain cleaner isn’t something you should ever really use as there are other methods that can be equally or more effective without potentially damaging your garbage disposal or plumbing.
Eliminating Minor Clogs and Blockages
If your garbage disposal and sink are draining slowly or won’t drain at all, you have a number of possible options for fixing the issue. The best place to start is by using a sink plunger to see if you can dislodge the clog. A toilet plunger could potentially work as well. However, a sink plunger will generally be far more effective and also not cause any of the potential hygiene issues from using a toilet plunger in your kitchen. A sink plunger is usually the best option if there is standing water in the sink.
You will also want to look inside the garbage disposal to make sure there isn’t anything visibly blocking it. For safety reasons, you should always unplug the garbage disposal first. Then, you can use a flashlight to shine down inside the disposal to inspect it for clogs or blockages. If you notice something inside it, you can usually remove whatever it is using a pair of long-handled tongs, but again, only after making sure the unit is unplugged. Generally, this method only works if something is obstructing the disposal from working properly and not if the sink won’t drain.
Another option for eliminating minor clogs is to use vinegar and baking soda. This method is especially effective on clogs caused by fat, grease or oil, and it has the added benefit of also freshening up the drain and eliminating odors caused by food decaying inside the unit. All you need to do is pour a cup or so of baking soda down the drain followed by around two cups of white vinegar and then let it sit and foam for 20 to 30 minutes before running water down the drain.
If your garbage disposal is blocked or clogged and won’t turn, you can also attempt to free up the mechanism manually. Most garbage disposals have a hexagonal-shaped hole on the bottom underside of the unit that is designed to free up the mechanism if it gets jammed. All you need to do is use a hex or Allen wrench and turn it back and forth several times until the mechanism moves freely in both directions.
Options for Taking Care of Serious Clogs
If none of the above methods worked to clear the clog, you’re only remaining options are to either use a pipe snake or to enlist the help of a professional plumber. Pipe snakes can usually easily clear any blockage or clog, but they can also potentially damage your disposal or your plumbing if you’re not careful. Therefore, it is usually best to call a professional plumber unless you’re sure that you know what you’re doing.
If you own a pipe snake and want to attempt it yourself, the first thing to do is unplug the garbage disposal and remove the bottom from the unit. It also helps to use pliers or tongs to clear out any debris that could interfere and make it more difficult to get the snake to go down inside the unit. With the bottom removed, gently turn the snake to slowly feed it down into the disposal drain and out the bottom of the unit. If the clog is in the disposal itself and not the drain or plumbing it connects to, this should fully remove whatever is causing the blockage.
Professional Plumbing and Drain Cleaning Services
If you’re experiencing issues with a clogged garbage disposal or any other plumbing issue, let the team at Twin Peaks Plumbing, Heating & Gas help. We specialize in drain cleaning and repair, rooter services, water heaters, backflow prevention and a range of other plumbing services. Our team also includes experienced HVAC technicians that can make sure your home’s heating and cooling systems are working properly. We are located in Nanaimo, BC, and serve customers throughout the surrounding areas. Contact us today if you need drain cleaning or any other type of plumbing or HVAC services.